England v South Africa 1st Test Live and Preview
England’s No. 1 ranking in Test cricket is on the line as they host South Africa for a three-match Test series. The first test starts at The Oval from Thursday. South Africa won the test series on their last tour here.
England’s No. 1 test match ranking was confirmed yet again when the ICC Test Rankings went through the annual update last week.
In addition, England have been in emphatic form with a strong summer showing, having won series against West Indies before cleaning up Australia in the ODIs.
Andrew Strauss returns to lead the test match side while Ravi Bopara also stages a comeback after a thigh injury had ruled him out of the West Indies tests.
Jonny Bairstow, who made his debut against West Indies, has been dropped following a dismal series. Kevin Pietersen will also be taking the field for England after opting out of limited-overs cricket due to excessive workload - a move that was widely criticized.
The squad consists of several options in the pace attack, though it is likely that Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn and Graham Onions will be fighting it out for the third seamer spot.
South Africa have a major incentive heading into the series - the No. 1 test ranking is within their reach should they win the series by a good margin.
Graeme Smith has sounded upbeat about his team’s chances despite shoddy build up to the test series.
The warm-up matches were marred by rain while Mark Boucher was forced into announcing an early announcement following an eye injury that forced him to return home.
The mood has been somewhat somber since though AB de Villiers, set to take gloves in the first test, insists that the team wants to win this for Boucher who ended his career with the most dismissals.
The match will be played at The Oval where South Africa lost the test match on the last tour, though after having pocketed the series.
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