With the Protea’s taking on England in just a few days’ time, we take a look a five key battles that could help either side take the series.
- MORKEL vs COOK
This battle is going to be HUGE. Without Philander for the first two Tests, Morne Morkel is almost guaranteed to be thrown the new ball. We know from history that he enjoys bowling to left-handers and getting the English captain out early is going to be crucial. We all know that Alastair Cook has the unique ability to stick around for hours on end, boring opposition and supporters to death. He won’t win England a Test match in a session, but he could bat for a day or two and set up a huge first innings total.
2. STEYN vs ROOT
As a Protea fan, this is the battle that concerns me. Dale Steyn is currently the number one Test bowler in the world, and Joe Root is the second best batsman in the world, only three points behind Kane Williamson. But I think that Steyn was superb a year or so ago and is on a slight decline, while Root is as solid and consistent as he’s ever been. We need The Phalaborwa Express to hit his straps and bowl quickly, aggressively and swing it both ways. We’ll need to get Root out early, otherwise we’re in for a torrid time.
3. ANDERSON vs AMLA
Another one I’m slightly worried about. Jimmy is number three in the ICC rankings, while Hash is in seventh. So on paper it should be a great contest. Amla has been struggling for runs which is concerning for Protea fans and if Anderson gets the ball swinging like we know he can, Amla, and others, could be in trouble. Talks of Anderson being injured do sound positive – if Philander is out for us, Anderson can be out for them.
4. DE VILLIERS vs BUTTLER
As a fan of aggressive Test cricket, this is the contest that excites me most and I can’t wait for it. The Poms have being giving Bairstow the gloves in the warm up games, but I’d like to think they’ll play Buttler against us. Both these men will be considered wicketkeeper/batsman for the series – Buttler is far better with the gloves and De Villiers better with the bat. Which is more important? It’s hard to say. Both players have the ability to win a Test in a session, or at least take it away from the opposition. Buttler recently scored a 46 ball century and AB, well…he’s AB. If the English decide to play Bairstow, I think we’ll have the advantage. The Yorkshireman is a solid batsmen and an aggressive one at that, but not as scary as Jos Buttler.
5. DUMINY v ALI
These two are similar cricketers in every way. Both are left-handed batsmen that are given the roll of batting with the tail. Coming in at number six or seven, they’re expected to have the ability to score centuries, as well help the tail to wag by manipulating the strike. They are both right arm, off-spin bowlers that some people consider part timers and others consider a mainstay in the bowling attack. If JP can average more with the bat and less with the ball than Ali, it will go a long way to winning the series.
We said five, but another battle that will be great to watch is Stuart Broad vs Faf Du Plessis. Personally I wouldn’t select Faf in the Test squad, I think his form has been absolutely woeful for a while now and would rather go with Rilee Russouw, but I doubt the selectors will drop Faf. At number three, we need someone solid, who can consistently pass 50 and score hundreds. Stuart Broad will try his utmost to make sure Faf’s current lack of form continues.