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England seek answers on South Africa tour

England's cricketers arrive in Johannesburg Friday, with just over two weeks to prepare for a four-Test series against South Africa.

AFP |December 10, 2015, 9:42 AM IST
England seek answers on South Africa tour

England's cricketers arrive in Johannesburg Friday, with just over two weeks to prepare for a four-Test series against South Africa.

Two three-day warm-up games will help the tourists to decide on the make-up of their best eleven for a series in which both teams will seek to return to winning ways.

The first Test starts in Durban on December 26.

England will have two three-day warm-up matches against South African Invitation teams, in Potchefstroom from next Tuesday and in Pietermaritzburg from December 20.

One of the key questions for the tour selectors will be to decide on an opening partner for captain Alastair Cook.

Moeen Ali opened with Cook in a losing series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates recently but is expected to bat lower in the order against South Africa.

Other opening batsmen in the tour party are South Africa-born Nick Compton, who made two centuries in nine Tests before being discarded after a series against New Zealand in May 2013, and Alex Hales, whose only England appearances so far have been in limited overs games.

With long-serving Ian Bell having been dropped after the Pakistan series, the number three position also needs to be filled, with Gary Ballance seeking a recall after being dropped during England’s victorious Ashes series against Australia this year.

Other decisions include whether Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow should keep wicket and the composition of a bowling attack in which James Anderson, Stuart Broad and all-rounder Ben Stokes are the only established players.

South Africa had their lead on the International Cricket Council’s rankings cut to just four points when they were mauled 3-0 in a four-Test series in India which ended on Monday, while England languish in fifth place after being beaten 2-0 by Pakistan in a three-match series in October and November.

Both teams will hope those recent losses in foreign conditions were an aberration.

Before their setback against Pakistan, England defeated Australia, while South Africa’s loss to India was their first on an away tour in nine years.

England will be buoyed by their results on recent tours of South Africa. Michael Vaughan led them to a 2-1 series win in 2004/05, while Andrew Strauss’ team shared the 2009/10 series.

All 16 members of the touring party will be able to play in the opening match in Potchefstroom, which is not a first-class fixture.

The opposition will consist mainly of young players from South Africa’s second-tier, semi-professional provincial competition.

TEST SQUAD

England: Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wkt), Nick Compton, Mark Footitt, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Samit Patel, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Chris Woakes

FIXTURES

Dec

15-17: SA Invitation XI, Potchefstroom

20-22: SA Invitation XI, Pietermaritzburg

26-30: First Test, Durban

Jan

2-6: Second Test, Cape Town

14-18: Third Test, Johannesburg

22-26: Fourth Test, Centurion

Note: Test series will be followed by five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 internationals

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 Australia 4320 108
3 England 5253 105
4 New Zealand 3449 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6967 124
2 India 7939 118
3 New Zealand 5347 116
4 South Africa 5442 111
5 Australia 5854 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8926 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 6095 265
4 India 12141 264
5 South Africa 5248 262
see more