Yesterday many would have never believed the test would start on time. A months worth of rain fell in parts of England Yesterday, the rain didn’t abate until late in the night. However this morning the sun greeted those that woke up early, although there are some clouds about.
England have named an unchanged side, consisting of: 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Andrew Strauss, 3 Michael Vaughan (capt), 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Tim Ambrose (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10 Monty Panesar, 11 James Anderson. This side has set a world record in that it has been unchanged side for the sixth successive match.
South Africa have delayed naming their side until the start, leaving the choice of whether to field Paul Harris or a 4th seamer as a mystery to England. The possible side is: 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Neil McKenzie, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Ashwell Prince, 6 AB de Villiers, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini
The players to watch out for in this series from South Africa are: Morne Morkel and Hashim Amla. South Africa have now got a settled pace attack with Ntini and Steyn being key performers and they are expected to be dangerous, however Morkel is a an unknown entity. Recently back from injury, a solid performance with the ball and possibly the bat could be the extra gear South Africa needs. On the batting side, Smith Mckenzie, Kallis, De Villiers and Prince have all contributed this summer as has Amla, however Amla has shown some fantastic warm up match form, scoring 172 and 161 which has sent out a strong message to the English that he means business. If he can continue this run of form, South Africa will be very difficult to beat. However if he fails, South Africa could be in trouble as McKenzie and Smith could be in trouble early and the last thing SA needs is to be 30/2 in the first test.
England’s players to watch will be James Anderson and Ian Bell. South Africa have come out and said they will be targeting Bell and Collingwood who have had a poor run recently. Bell needs to perform and if Anderson can produce some of the glimpses of form shown this season, he could help rip through the South African batting. I don’t think Sidebottom is good enough to tear apart the South African attack and he might get punished by Smith if he is not accurate.
The match should set off an absolute corker of a series in which South Africa will be looking for their first win on English turf since re-admission in 2002