The key word ahead of this Series is transition. In the case of South Africa, they’ve joined the old gang together with Mark Boucher now Head Coach, Jacques Kallis a batting consultant and former skipper Graeme Smith the new Managing Director, tasked with heading up the sporting, commercial and operational side of all things to do with South African cricket.
The ODI World Cup was a disaster for South Africa and it says a lot about how hurt their pride is that those three huge names made themselves available to try and save their national side. Faf du Plessis has stayed on as captain and he has a lot of work on his hands over the next few months.
A fair few things said about the Proteas are also relevant to England. They also have a new coach in Chris Silverwood, while captain Joe Root is balancing some old warhorses like James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes with some exciting youngsters like Jofra Archer, Ollie Pope and Sam Curran. They’re fresh from losing 1-0 in New Zealand so need to get back to winning ways here.
Team News: South Africa
Middle-order batter Temba Bavuma is out injured. Aiden Markram’s fitness is as yet unknown. If Markram doesn’t play, then Rassie van der Dussen certainly will but then again, he may play anyway with South Africa short of options at numbers three and five; du Plessis will probably bat at four.
There should be a place in the side for all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo while the sole spinner’s slot will go to Keshav Maharaj.
Vernon Philander has already announced that he’s retiring from international cricket at the end of this Series with injuries starting to take their toll on his body. But he’ll be one of their main men in this last Series of his.
Team News: England
England have had to wait a long time to have James Anderson back. He missed both the Ashes and that New Zealand series with injury and it says a lot about his importance to the side that England are so delighted to have a 37-year old back in the team.
The English players have been suffering from illness over the past few days and it’s a bug that bizarrely seems to have affected the bowlers more than the batters with Broad, Archer and Jack Leach all suffering worst from it. We’ll have to wait and see if all three recover in time.
Elsewhere, Ollie Pope should keep his place. It will also be interesting to see if Jonny Bairstow returns to the side after being dropped for the New Zealand series. If he does, it’s anyone’s guess as to where he might bat.
Venue for South Africa v England 1st Test: Centurion
Centurion is one of the more iconic venues of South African cricket and it’s one where the hosts love playing at. They’ve won eight of the last nine Tests played there, the exception being a defeat to Australia back in 2014. The last time they played at Centurion was in a win over Pakistan but the bad news is that their man-of-the-match in that game, Duanne Olivier, is no longer available to South Africa because he’s now a Kolpak player. He took 11 wickets in the game.
Part of the reason why South Africa have been so successful there is that the support they get from the crowd tends to be among the most vocal of any ground.
Match Odds for South Africa v England
Let’s talk some cricket betting tips.
It’s hard to see why the hosts are outsiders here. Most of their key men- du Plessis, Philander, de Kock, Kasigo Rabada- are all available and are all better performers on home soil than away. And yes, they’ll have to bring in some inexperienced players but at least it’s on South African wickets that they’ll know well.
It’s England who are sweating over the fitness of their three key bowlers and who are low on morale after losing in New Zealand.
The key here however is the ground. As mentioned already, the Proteas’ record at Centurion is exceptional. They’ll be delighted that this is where the First Test will be played given it can allow them to win and carry the momentum on to the rest of the Series.
2.3 with Bet365 is a fine price about the hosts with England shorter at 2.2 and the draw out at 6.0. It’s probably the best satta of the game.
England First Innings Top Batsman
Ben Stokes has been a regular winner on this market in recent times and often at good odds but he’s not the satta this time round.
Rory Burns has a strange technique but has taken well to Test cricket, scored some runs in New Zealand and may take a liking to the wicket here. He’s the final of our cricket betting free tips for this match.
Recommended bets for South Africa v England
Back South Africa to win @ 2.3 with Bet365
Back Rory Burns to be Top England First Innings batsman @ 5.0 with Betway