For cricket fans, Christmas is comes one day late, as the Boxing Day tests always provide marvellous atmospheres and huge anticipation. This year, it’s West Indies at Australia in Melbourne, and England in South Africa at Durban. With both sides losing their latest tests, this is a much anticipated fixture across the cricketing world. England, who are looking rejuvenated due to the appointment of Trevor Bayliss, against the number 1 test team in the world. There will be key individual battles being played during this test, the likes of Steyn v Anderson, Amla v Cook and De Villiers v Root.
South Africa have already won one of these battles, for the first test at least. James Anderson will be out of the first test due to a calf strain. A huge miss for England, as his fitness will become an increasing worry, especially after losing him to a side strain for the last 2 tests in the ashes. Anderson, who currently has 425 Test wickets to his name, will be looking to add to that tally during the series, but for the whole team, It’s most suited for him to be rested for the first test, so he doesn’t aggrevate the injury anymore. Most likely to replace him in the team will be Chris Woakes, after a successful ODI and T20 tour for him in Pakistan, had increased his chances of a return to the test team. However, the 27 year old who plays for Warwickshire, will face stiff competition from Mark Footit, who struggled in the warm up Ames against SA invitational XI AND SA A, but has a chance as the demand for left arm bowlers in international cricket is becoming ever larger.
Nick Compton is also likely to slit in at 3 after the experienced and long term servant of the team Ian Bell was left out of the squad after a long disappointing run of form. Ian Bell was just short of making the record about do appearances for England just 4 shy of Alec Stewarts 129 caps. Gary Ballance is also an option for the selectors, who provides more experience with the modern test game, only making his last appearance 4 months ago, and has a healthy average of just under 48. Ballance was also one of the fastest England players to reach 1000 runs with an amazing run in the side when first introduced, but as bowlers found his game out, problems with his technique arose, and after making a half century in the first test against Australia in the ashes, was dropped for the 3rd test. Compton has a greater chance of playing after impressing in the warm up games at number 3, but Ballance will no doubt be the better option to build upon in the future.
Players like Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor will be wanting to solidify their place in the starting XI, especially Bairstow who faces a huge shadow of Jos Buttler behind him, looking to regain his place in the side. Buttler who is no doubt an expert at the white ball format, was rightly dropped from the team after the defeat against Pakistan, due to looking out of his depth, and having a lot less freedom to play his natural game. Jonny Bairstow will take the gloves, and look to become a more habitual performer in the test arena.
South Africa are attending this test on the back of a 3-0 drobbing against India. South Africa’s low scoring series will be a slight concen for them, also with the Captain Hashim Amla not looking in good touch.
Dale Steyn will retun to the team, after suffering an injury, which will be a huge boost to the hosts attack an chances of winning. Steyn will be looking to outplay his opposite number in James Anderson throughout the test to maintain his number 1 position in the Bowling rankings. With wickets being a little more grassy than other locations on the cricket map, it will provide some lateral movement oppourtunities for the England bowlers, but will no doubt suit the home bowlers more on their natural turf.
South Africa have a new look side, with young players, who are lacking experience will meet the England side on the field in Durban. Players such as Stiaan can Zyl, Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada, will be relishing to play one of the most anticipated sides in the world right now, but will the have the mental game to keep up with their opponents.
AB de Villiers will have to be on song to help this South African team get back to winning ways. The test match begins at 8am GMT on Boxing Day.
But will this test series turn out like every other? Will the home team win the series? Find out starting Boxing Day.