Published on July 6th, 2017 | by Suraj Choudhari0
South Africa’s big challenge at Lord’s
One of the most-awaited Test series of the season – South Africa in England (Basil D’Oilveira Trophy) gets underway from July 6th, with the first Test being played at Lords. England host South Africa for a four-match Test series and one can expect the series to be filled with action. England have had a mixed run in the Test format in the recent times. Since 2015, England have played nine Test series, out of which, they have won three and lost two with the rest four ending in a draw. England did extremely well in winning the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy in South Africa in 2015/16 and the Proteas will be looking forward to settle the score.
South Africa have been a force to reckon in whites. They have been unstoppable in this format and have fared well in the recent times. They have won seven out of last 10 Test series and lost just two along with a solitary one ending in a draw. They have been on a roll, registering four back-to-back series win against New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand again in their latest encounters. However, England will be a different ball game altogether. English conditions assist the seam bowlers and help them swing the red leather. Batting is relatively difficult in England against the red ball.
South Africa will be going into the contest with the series of their skipper Faf du Plessis. The South African Test skipper will miss the Lords Test due to family reasons and the Proteas certainly have big shoes to fill. This is also the first time South Africa will be playing a Test match without both the established players together – AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis since the latter’s debut. Both the players have been a vital cog int he line-up and bring solid stability in the line-up. They have been the pillars of strength for South Africa across formats. Dale Steyn is ruled out of the series as he is still recovering from the shoulder injury.
South Africa have found a way to deal with De Villiers and Dale Steyn’s absence and have made some fine adjustments in the line-up. They have played four Test series without De Villiers in the recent times and won them all. But not having Du Plessis for the inaugural game will be a litmus Test for South Africa against England, who have been impressive at home.
South Africa have named Dean Elgar as the skipper for the series opener and one can expect Theunis de Bruyn to replace Faf du Plessis. Talking about South Africa’s batting, Heino Kuhn played well for his unbeaten 80 in the Tour Match against England Lions and is expected to open the batting with Dean Elgar. Theunis de Bruyn was given a chance in the Tour game but bagged a duck. Bruyn has played a solitary Test for South Africa against New Zealand earlier this year but didn’t manage to make an impact.
Bruyn has a healthy First-Class record and can bowl as well. He bagged two wickets in the Tour match and one can expect him to get an opportunity at Lords in the absence of Du Plessis. Bruyn will certainly bat in the middle-order if given a chance. South Africa’s batting looks a bit on the weaker side without the presence of Du Plessis and De Villiers along with Hashim Amla’s poor form in away games. Since 2015, Amla has not managed to score a ton in this format away from home. He averages 21.22 in 12 away Tests since 2015. But, Amla’s record in England is awe-inspiring as he boasts an incredible average of 75.70. A lot of South Africa’s success will depend on how Amla fares as he bats at three.
Dean Elgar has been prolific with the bat at the top and this time he will have an added responsibility to shoulder. South Africa will want him to get big runs at the top and lay a solid foundation in the series opener. JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma have done a decent job in the middle whereas Quinton de Kock has been a force to reckon. And in the absence of Du Plessis, South Africa’s established batsmen will have to step up and provide a cushion for the inexperienced batsmen int he high-voltage Lords Test. Their batting lacks experience but looks promising with a lot of potentials.
South Africa have a formidable bowling attack with the likes of Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris. Morkel had a good run in New Zealand while Philander has been inspiring confidence with the ball in this format. Rabada has done a commendable job, in last 10 Tests, he has scalped 47 wickets at 23.17, which speaks volumes of his effectiveness with the red ball. Keshav Maharaj has looked good with every outing and bowled extremely well in New Zealand. South Africa will probably opt for the pace troika of Morkel, Rabada and Morkel with Keshav Maharaj being the only spinner. Bruyn will fill in the shoes of a fourth seamer while JP Duminy will be handy as the part-time spinner.
South Africa have their bowling department well covered but the only worries lie in batting. It is often said, pressure get the best out of many players and teams. South Africa are certainly under pressure without an established batsman and skipper, it will be interesting to see if they manage to absorb the pressure and put up a fight at Lords. England, on the other hand, will also be witnessing a new skipper as Joe Root will play his first game as Test captain. With home advantage playing a massive role in the recent times, England start as favourites.