The Proteas batsmen’s failings ahead of the first Test against England should not be too much of a concern.
Temba Bavuma was the only player who did anything of note in the first round of the Sunfoil Series, scoring 57 in the Lions’ first innings against the Dolphins. It’s a pity guys like Hashim Amla, Stiaan van Zyl, JP Duminy and Dean Elgar struggled to score big runs, but the batsmen will start from square one against England come Boxing Day, regardless of what happened in a four-day game.
I expect an even contest between the two sides over the course of the series. The wicket in Durban should be pretty flat, but I would still pick a specialist spinner instead of four seamers. Dane Piedt has to play. It’s quite rare to go into a Test match over five days without a specialist spinner.
Even is he doesn’t take a lot of wickets, Piedt needs to at least be economical and keep an end tight. That allow the seamers a rest from time to time and give them a chance to build some pressure from the other side.
Kyle Abbott is the likely one to miss out should Piedt play.
Dale Steyn’s fitness and form is massively important to South Africa. He can be a big factor in the series but he needs to take regular wickets like he has in the past. Steyn at his best will be critical to South Africa’s chances.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad are the England quicks to keep an eye on. They are England’s best bowlers and the backbone of their attack. The conditions in Durban should be pretty good for batting and whoever wins the toss will probably bat first, except if there is good cloud cover and the conditions favour bowling more.
Alex Hales has come in for criticism after struggling against a SA Invitational side last week, but I rate him as a batsman and think he can succeed as a Test opener.
Both sides are pretty average, but I think South Africa are the slightly more solid proposition in their own backyard. South Africa can turn their disappointing results in India around in this series, because this is not a great England side.