Cricket South Africa might have been on the wrong side of the headlines in recent times but will want to prove their worth against an eager England. The four-match Test series will get started at SuperSport Park, in Centurion on December 26.
The head-to-head record between the two sides is firmly stacked in favour of the visitors. Out of the 149 encounters between them, England have been victorious on 61 occasions in comparison to South Africa’s 33. 55 matches have ended in a draw.
In the last five Tests too, England have a 3-2 lead over South Africa.
Ground Details and Team Combination:
It is fair to say that bowlers, seamers in particular, have had the upper hand in Test matches played at Centurion. In Tests since the start of 2016, pacers have picked 124 of the 138 wickets to fall here, striking every 48 deliveries. Spinners, on the other hand have managed just 14 wickets at a strike rate of 103.7.
A wicket has fallen here every 51.4 balls which although a middling number when compared to grounds in South Africa, is still fairly low.
So, a pace heavy side should be the way to go for this Test.
Amongst all bowler types, right-arm pacers have done the most damage here. Since January 2016, they have picked up wickets every 46.4 balls at this venue. Second on this list are left-arm pacers who have returned a wicket every 56.8 deliveries.
Both teams have a rich variety of fast bowlers in their armoury. Jofra Archer, Kagiso Rabada, Stuart Broad and James Anderson – these four bowlers can trouble the best of the batsmen in the world and are likely to shine in Centurion too.
A combination of five frontline batsmen including the wicket-keeper, two pace bowling all-rounders, and four fast bowlers could be the way to go for this Test.
It has been a grim year for South Africa as far as their batting is concerned but Quinton de Kock has remained the one shining light for them all through. He is South Africa’s highest run-scorer in 2019, with 584 runs to his name in 13 innings, at an average of 44.92. What should further convince you to make de Kock the captain of your side is his impeccable record in Centurion. In eight innings here, the left-hander has smashed 345 runs which includes two half-centuries and a century. His wicket-keeping might also come in handy and help you score important points.
The blue-eyed boy of England cricket this year, Ben Stokes has truly come of age across format. A key reason behind England winning the 2019 World Cup, Stokes has been equally good in the longest format of the game too. In 10 tests this year, Stokes has scored 772 runs at an average of 48.25 and also picked 20 wickets. He averages 47.33 in tests against South Africa and his career-best score of 258 has also come against the same country. However, there are chances that Stokes might not play the Test as his father in admitted in the hospital in Johannesburg. In case, Stokes doesn’t play, you could go for Joe Root in your team.
Our second X-factor is Stuart Broad. The third-highest wicket-taker amongst pacers this year, Broad has been excellent for England all season. In 19 innings this year, Broad has returned 38 wickets striking every 53.4 balls. He has a good record against South Africa having returned 61 wickets in 33 innings against them. Broad is coming into the Centurion test in good form and could be a key element in the side.
2019 might not have been the best for Kagiso Rabada, but one can’t deny that he is one of the best pacers in world cricket. Moreover, Rabada’s record in Centurion is second to none. In eight innings at this venue, the pacer has picked up 28 wickets striking every 29 balls. The surface this time around is bound to aid Rabada and he will be itching to get his form back. He is one bowler who can help you score crucial fantasy points.
Rain could play spoilsport on at least two of the five days of the Test and the weather is expected to be cloudy all through. The temperature is likely to hover around the higher 20-degree range on average across the five days.
Rory Burns, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Joe Denly, Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Ben Stokes, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada (vc), Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Anrich Nortje.