Cricket goes into overdrive when Christmas ends, with the Boxing Day test between Australia and West Indies appearing a total mismatch, while the South Africa v England game looking much more intriguing. We have a South African team coming off the back of an absolute demolition in India, with the wickets prepared only a partial excuse. England, meanwhile, you could be forgiven for thinking are about to carry all before them the way they are constantly talked up, when, in fact we have a team with doubts at opener, number 3, number 5, wicket-keeper, spinner and now, a replacement for Anderson. Add to that, given the ridiculous amount of time since our last test visit to South Africa (2009-10 for heaven’s sake), the only experience we have in these conditions are Alastair Cook at opener, Broad and Anderson. And one of those is injured.
Despite it being Christmas, and the fact that things have been quiet around here, TLG and I are going to do what we can to bring you the views of the play from South Africa. I had the great pleasure of going to Cape Town in 2005, for a test match we lost, but for an experience I will never forget. It’s an amazing city, I stayed in a brilliant guest house which, unbeknown to us when we booked, was owned by the former manager of the South African cricket team (and Gary Kirsten woke me up one morning), and it was the first time I got to use an ultra-zoom camera at a match. So I have a soft spot for this your and will be green with envy at those lucky enough to be there this time.
England are being talked up again, but you can’t escape the fact that on the last two tours this year we’ve lost heavily to Pakistan and drawn against a mediocre West Indies team when we really should have swept the series. This is being largely ignored as we focus on the failings of the home side in India to give us some comfort. I saw some compare it to the 2004-5 tour, but England aren’t the force they were then (off the back of a 3-0 win in the West Indies, and seven straight home test wins) and South Africa still have a formidable bowling attack if and when they are all fit. That series, of course, introduced the world to AB DeVilliers and Dale Steyn…. and was the last tour for Surrey legends Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe. I’m rambling off piste again….
It’s an interesting proposition because both teams look short of true depth. England’s reserve resources may be stronger than South Africa’s. A number of the home team’s players are the wrong side of 30. There are injury question marks about all of the home pace trio, and Philander is probably going to miss most of the series. We have a great record at Durban and a lousy one in opening tests overseas. There are flaws and question marks, ifs and buts, all sorts of intangibles. It should be a decent old series.
TLG and I will do what we can, and look forward to hearing from you over the next few weeks.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all a brilliant Christmas, and health and happiness for the New Year. I’ve a lot more on the stocks….