England ready for big Test in South Africa
England start their test match life without Andrew Flintoff tomorrow as their series with South Africa kicks off at Supersport Park, Centurion.
England have so far performed above expectations on this tour, a drawn Twenty20 series was followed by a 2-1 series victory in a rain affected ODI series. Paul Collingwood has excelled with the bat and James Anderson has once again proved to be world class with the ball taking 5 wickets in what turned out to be the deciding ODI game.
However, South Africa wont be taking this lying down and you can rest assured that they will be ready for England at 8.30 UK time when the Test kicks off. The hosts will want to confirm superiority of the test series win in England in 2008 and also banish the demons of their series defeat to Australia earlier this year.
At the current prices though England (3/1) are worth a bet, the top 6 look solid with Jonathan Trott likely to get the nod over Ian Bell for the final place. Trott has not looked out of place in England colours since his test baptism at the Oval in the summer.
He has been well backed as well for Top England Series Batsman and is now 10/3 from an opening 5/1. Personally I like the look of Paul Collingwood to carry on his good form and on pitches where there could be early movement, he could benefit from coming in down the batting order.
South Africa will depend on captain Graeme Smith & Jacques Kallis for the majority of runs, but it would be foolish to rule out the contributions of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers & JP Duminy. All these players have the quality and technique needed for 5 day cricket and up against England's pace attack of Broad, Anderson and Durham's Graham Onions this I believe is where the series battle could be won.
South Africa have had trouble with their bowling attack in recent times, for this series they seem to have settled on a pace foursome of Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell, Morne Morkel and the man making his 100th SA appearance this week in Makhaya Ntini. Add wily off spinner Paul Harris into the mix and this makes for a very close series.
Since South Africa's re-admission, the two sides have gone head-to-head in seven Test series. South Africa have won three, England have won two, and there have been two drawn contests (both on English soil).
Although South Africa's home victories have given them the edge overall, there has never been more than a single result splitting the final scoreline. I cant imagine either side running away with a commanding series win either, my slight preference at the prices is for England.
England Series Outright 3/1
England to win the Series 2-1 - 8/1
Paul Collingwood - England Top Series Batsman - 7/1