England can Test top-ranked but shaken South Africa in series
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | December 22, 2015
South Africa v England winter Test series
- First Test begins: Saturday, December 26th, at Kingsmead, Durban
- Second Test begins: Saturday, January 2nd, at Newlands, Cape Town
- Third Test begins: Thursday, January 14th, at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
- Fourth Test begins: Friday, January 22nd, at SuperSport Park, Centurion
- Play scheduled to begin: 08:30 GMT
- Live on Sky Sports 2
England hoping to capitalise on rattled Proteas
When this tour was first announced, no doubt England would have felt worried having to travel to number one-ranked Test team South Africa for a four-match series.
However, the Proteas come into this clash still on top of the world but on the back of being thrashed 3-0 by India in South Asia.
Therefore, the tourists, who only narrowly lost most recently against Pakistan on the road in this form of the game, are tempting 9/4 chances with Coral to claim the series.
To make that bet all the more enticing, England are undefeated in their last two series’ in South Africa, having beaten them 2-1 for the inaugural Basil D’Oliveira Trophy in 2004/05 and tied 1-1 in 2009/10.
The Proteas are still holders of that award, having won on both occasions in England either side of that stalemate, and are the odds-on 8/11 favourites to win on home soil for the first time against them since 1999/2000 or 4/1 to take another draw.
Alastair Cook and co have plenty to feel confident about ahead of the series, though, after beating Pakistan in both one-day events and claiming the Ashes against Australia in the summer.
On top of that, the England captain has been in fine form in the warm-ups, recently hitting 126 against South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg, with his deputy Joe Root managing 117.
England stars in-form
The duo are respective 5/2 and 9/4 chances to be top series batsman for their team. While, for the opening Test in Durban on Boxing Day, Yorkshireman Root is the subject of a Coral enhanced wincast, with odds of 11/1 to get the highest first innings score for England and the visitors win.
Cook, however, hit a hundred at the upcoming Kingsmead ground back in 2009 on his side’s way to a victory, and is 11/1 in the normal wincast market.
It remains to be seen who will be Cook’s latest opening partner, with Moeen Ali failing in the land of his heritage Pakistan – though the spinning all-rounder will most likely regain his place down the order especially after taking 6-77 in the tour match.
Alex Hales is the man who looks set to step up to the plate, after finally recording a decent score in the warm-ups (56), with former top order flop and South African-born Nick Compton hoping to impress at number three, with Ian Bell dropped.
Gary Ballance and James Taylor will also be battling it out for places in the XI, but may get their chance as the series progresses.
In terms of bowling, pacemen Steven Finn, back from injury, and Ben Stokes have also highly impressed taking many wickets, though James Anderson and Stuart Broad will still be the main men.
Broad got six wickets in 2009 at Kingsmead, Durban, so is 5/2 to be best England bowler again in the opening Test, and 15/8 favourite for the whole series.
Hosts hoping to rely on all-round talent
For the hosts, meanwhile, they will be skippered by brilliant batsman Hashim Amla, who is just five behind counterpart Cook’s total Test centuries of 28.
Amla is 5/2 to be best South Africa batsman overall, with perhaps the most talented and explosive current cricketer in the world AB de Villiers topping that market at 2/1.
England must also be aware of world class bowlers Morne Morkel (11/4 to be best Protea with the ball this series) and the returning Dale Steyn (9/4) in attack, though will be happy that Vernon Philander misses out.
England love playing in Durban
One thing for sure is that this clash lasting a month will produce highly-competitive battles, with both sides having plenty to prove.
South Africa are the 5/4 home favourites to win the first Test, but England are undefeated in Durban in their last 11 against the Proteas (since way back in 1928) so are 2/1 chances.
Three of the last four, meanwhile, were draws, so that outcome once more is priced at 5/2.
Check out more from our cricket archive.
Coral’s top tip: With England in confidence and South Africa having just been thrashed by India, back the visitors to win the Test series at 9/4.