Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The race for No.1

I am now counting down the hours to go before England and South Africa lock horns in what is surely the most widely anticipated test series in recent times. Put it down to the history between the two sides: out of the eight series since readmission, three have been tied and the remaining five have all seen a solitary win seperating the two sides. The 2008 series apart, the outcome of every other rubber was wide open going into the final test.

What makes the upcoming series an even more appetising prospect is the fact that the two best attacks in the world will be up against one another. Imagine Steyn-Morkel-Philander bowling at Cook-Pietersen-Bell or Anderson-Broad-Swann having a go at Smith-Amla-Kallis- De Villiers. Not since the 2005 Ashes has there been a clash between two sides of such extraordinary quality. Whereas Australia went into that series the favourites, not even the most die-hard supporters can make any such claims for either side.

It's virtually impossible to make any predictions on the outcome of this series and it would be either a very brave man or a very foolish one who would bet a huge amount on it. Nonetheless, I am attempting to do the impossible, mindful of the fact my previous predictions on this blog have both proved wrong (only in terms of the margin, admittedly).

Strauss and Smith

As I see it, South Africa clearly hold the edge in the pace department. Man for man, there's nothing to seperate the two attacks, but for Dale Steyn. In him, South Africa have a bowler who could make the difference between two well matched sides. None of the English bowlers can genuinely claim to be of his class. Besides, in Kallis South Africa also have the services of one of the greatest all rounder of all times.

Given the fact that the current summer is one of the wettest on record, its most likely the performance of the quicker bowlers which will decide the outcome of the series. Under the circumstances, the visitors clearly have the upper hand. Besides, their batsmen- Smith, Kallis, Amla and De Villiers- are all experienced hands with considerable exposure to English conditions. Its going to take something extraordinary from Anderson & Co to put that lot under the cosh.

The man with the golden arm

The only factor that could work againt the visitors could be the demons in their minds. While they have consistently been one of the best teams in the world, for some reason the South Africans have never managed the climb to the top baring a brief six-month period in 2008-09. Should they overcome those demons, there's little stopping the Proteas from toppling their hosts. Belief, on the other hand, is surely not a problem for the side that smashed the Australians in their own patch and walked all over the then No.1 side a year ago.

Nevertheless, my prediction for the series is 2-1 to South Africa.

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