England begin their four-Test series against South Africa at Centurion on Boxing Day. Both sides will be keen to get back on track after disappointing defeats to New Zealand and India respectively last time. Here is our preview of the first Test.

Record at Centurion not enough to back Proteas

There have been 24 Test matches played at Centurion and South Africa have only failed to win five of them. Make no mistake, it’s a very impressive record and England will need to be at their best, but as discussed in the series preview, this isn’t a good Proteas side. They were hammered by India in their most recent series and with a number of Test newbies potentially likely to feature, they don’t look much of a betting proposition at 5/4.

Also at 5/4, you’d just fancy England, but given how vulnerable Joe Root’s side have also been, it might be wise to back them draw no bet at 10/11.

Burns can start series well

Despite not being the most pleasing on the eye, Roy Burns’ Test career continues to go from strength-to-strength and the Surrey opener now averages over 32. Since his debut 100 in the opening Ashes Test he averages just under 45, so has clearly improved from the slow start he endured in the series against Sri Lanka and West Indies. We all know how much of a problem position the opening spot has been for England, but Burns is beginning to make it his own and he’ll be really keen to cement his position in the upcoming South Africa series.

He is priced at 5/6 to score over 29.5 runs in the first innings and that looks worth backing given he’s scored more than that in six of his last seven opening stands. If you’re looking for a bit of a bigger price, Burns can also be backed at 2/1 to score a first innings 50, a feat he’s achieved in three of his last four matches.

Archer can arrow in on vulnerable South Africa batsmen

It’s been a pretty whirlwind few months for Jofra Archer, having helped England to a World Cup win, before being tasked with leading the attack in the Ashes. Considering it was his first Test series, he bowled beautifully against Australia, averaging just over 20 and taking 22 wickets. He wasn’t really at the races against New Zealand, but the pitches in that series were as flat as a pancake and the majority of bowlers struggled for an impact.

He’s had a bit of time to rest and relax and you can expect him to play a key part in the South Africa series, especially given the vulnerability of the Proteas batting line-up. They only passed 200 twice in six innings against India and the days of having Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers in their playing ranks are long gone. Archer is 4/5 to take over 2.5 first innings wickets, which looks a fair price, while he’s 10/1 to be man of the match.

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