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Opinion

England versus South Africa: A battle of who's worse off

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Roar Rookie
26th December, 2019
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Tomorrow marks the beginning of one of the more interesting tussles of the World Test Series Championship.

England and South Africa, historically good sides, have not been off to the best of the starts with England drawing a hard fought series against the Aussies at home and South Africa getting walloped by the Indians away. While South Africa seems worse off in terms of points, England not taking maximum advantage of one of their home series means they are not much better either.

This series is set to be a cracker with more at stake than just the points for both teams.

Both England and South Africa have their pros and cons. England has finally found the fast bowler they have been looking for the past few years to complement the seam of Stuart Broad and James Anderson in Jofra Archer, while South Africa is back in familiar conditions with Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander leading a formidable attack alongside the underrated Keshav Maharaj.

But that doesn’t mean problems bowling wise don’t exist, as England are not too confident in the capabilities of their lead spinner Jack Leach while South Africa are not too certain of their third seamer either, though the green Anrich Nortje seems to be the obvious choice having played in the India series.

But compared to the batting department of both teams, the bowling is in a great place. England is unsure of its top three batsmen, with Dom Sibley have just debuted and Rory Burns and Joe Denly being mediocre at best. While Burns has shown promise that he will improve and be better in the long term, England’s insistence on Denly seems to be mysterious given he has never set the domestic scene on fire and is similarly struggling in the international one, and is also towards the back end of his career.

The batting order Joe Root onwards seems to be out of form too, though they are more settled at the very least. But given the stomach illness that has befallen many of the squad, they seem to be forced to make changes there too, with Ollie Pope sitting out and Jonny Bairstow likely back in, despite having done absolutely nothing to earn back his spot.

South Africa similarly are unsure of their best choices too. While the openers are fixed, they need to do some heavy lifting to prove that they are the best men for the job given their inconsistency over the past 18 months. The middle order is where most of the questions lie, given only Faf Du Plessis and Quinton De Kock seem to be the only locks.

South Africa's Quinton de Kock celebrates making 100 runs

(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

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It also looks like a blessing in disguise for the Proteas that Temba Bavuma is out injured, as he has been holding on a spot for the longest time without showing any kind of performance to warrant such confidence placed in him. One century in so many Tests played is a horrible way to pay back the selectors’ faith and surely there are better players in the South African domestic set up.

Given these issues, both teams seem to be stuck in similar holes. Though England has more experience in terms of Tests played, South Africa’s home advantage and new setup in Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith surely nullify it. Hence the series is set to be a promising one, something that has been hard to come by in the recent past.