England v South Africa Test Series Preview

England take on South Africa in a four-match series which many see as the beginning of the build-up to the Ashes series later this year.

There is also the West Indies to come later in the summer, but first it is the Proteas – and it is one of the most historic meetings in world cricket, dating back more than 100 years with South Africa’s first visit to play England dating back to 1907.

More recently the battles between the two have been fiercely contested affairs with the sides playing for the Basil D’Oliviera Trophy – which is currently held by England after their victory in South Africa last year, although that was their first win over them in a decade.

South Africa have a very good recent record on British soil, with victories in their last two series in 2008 and 2012.

But coming into this series, despite South Africa out ranking England in the ICC classification – second and fourth respectively – it is the English who are fancied to ease to a series win, mainly due to the squad that has been selected by the visitors.

South Africa have brought a squad with a real mixture of experience and youth, having seen a number of ruled out including Dale Steyn, who has not recovered from a shoulder injury, and former captain AB de Villiers, who is taking a break from Test cricket.

Their captain for the tour is Faf du Plessis but he will miss the opening Test due to the birth of his child, so Dan Elgar will take charge at Lord’s.

South Africa’s bowling attack still looks a very good one with the highly impressive pace duo of Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel backed up by Vernon Philander and orthodox left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

England to begin with have made no unexpected decisions with Joe Root enjoying his first taste of captaincy after succeeding Alistair Cook – who remains in the side and still looks a key cog in the Three Lions engine room.

Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance earns a recall after showing brilliant domestic form – whilst Keaton Jennings and Liam Dawson will retain their places after promises Test debuts in India over the winter.

Mark Wood is back in the side after proving his fitness and will give an extra dimension after the main-line seam attack of Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson.

Former England test star and TheGamblingTimes.com columnist Steve Harmison gives us his thoughts on the series ahead with South Africa

“They are rebuilding a bit – but they are a good team, they have got Dean Elgar leading them for the first with Faf Du Plessis missing due to the birth of his first child, and they have got some good players, very good players.

“In Kagiso Rabada, they probably have a bowler as good as any in the world at the moment. I think this will be a very good summer for England – they will blow Windies away and maybe South Africa too.

“England should be beating South Africa on home soil, no matter what team they put out and if they had all their big names available.

“I would, and do, back England to win this on home soil.”

We spoke with BetFred’s cricket trader Phil Crawford for his reaction on the series

“England are pretty strong favourites – although they have a few new faces in the team they are still a very well balanced team. Possibly more important is that South Africa are without AB de Villiers now in Test matches and Faf du Plessis also misses the 1st Test at Lords.

“At this stage there has been no interest in South Africa or the drawn Series.

“3-0 and 3-1 to England are the shortest prices in the Series Correct Score market – there has been little money so far in this market – probably due to the vagaries of the English weather.

“And even though Joe Root has the added responsibility of the England captaincy he looks to have the right temperament to deal with this and rates a solid bet at 9/4 to score most runs for England in the Series.”

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