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South Africa’s Lord’s legacy greets Root era

July 5th, 2017 | by admin
South Africa’s Lord’s legacy greets Root era
England
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Match Facts

July 6-10, 2017
Start time 11am local (1000 GMT)

Big Picture

 

Here we are, then. Three months into the English season: a Lord’s Test. The Champions Trophy has been played out, with England still reliably pot-less in 50-over cricket; the Championship is more than halfway through, Essex sitting atop the pile thanks in part to the efforts of a certain AN Cook (not to mention SR Harmer, although that’s a different story); a one-day final has already been contested at HQ. Now, after a break of almost seven months, England are about to get their Test on.

Good things come to those who wait. Since February, Joe Root has known that when he next walked out at Thomas Lord’s grand old ground in whites, he would do so as England’s 80th Test captain. Not since South Africa last visited St John’s Wood for the final Test of the 2012 series has a man other the aforementioned Alastair Cook handled the toss and teams. Andrew Strauss, like a couple of his predecessors, was finished off by the arrival of South Africa – for Root, it is just the beginning.

Anticipation is further sharpened by a schedule that bends ever more accommodatingly towards the white-ball formats. The last time England had to wait until July for the Test match summer to begin was in 1983, when the World Cup (still a red-ball business back then) occupied the first part of the season. As if bombarding the format with affection after recent neglect, England will now cram seven Tests into the next nine-or-so weeks.

South Africa have tended to enjoy their visits to Lord’s, winning four of their last five Tests here. They are unbeaten in Test series in England in almost 20 years, though relinquished the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy at home 18 months ago. That was Cook’s last great moment as captain, with victory over a feeble Sri Lanka England’s only success in four series thereafter. Five defeats in seven Tests in India and Bangladesh was enough for Cook to finally release his stubborn grip on the job.

Plenty has changed for the tourists in that time, too. AB de Villiers, who assumed the captaincy from Hashim Amla halfway through the 2015-16 series, is not currently involved – he is managing an elbow problem – and may not play Tests again. His successor, Faf du Plessis, has led South Africa to four series victories in a row but misses this Test due to complications at the birth of his first child; Dean Elgar will step in, becoming South Africa’s fourth Test captain in a little over 18 months.

They may be depleted by the absence of de Villiers and Dale Steyn (who has only played three Tests since the England series due to injury), as well as du Plessis at Lord’s, but South Africa are still able to call on a number of high-quality operators: the veterans of 2012, Amla – who became the first South African to score a Test triple-century – Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel; plus young talent like Quinton de Kock and, perhaps most excitingly, Kagiso Rabada, the gifted quick who claimed a 13-wicket haul against England in Centurion last year, not to mention the Man of the Match award on his first appearance at Lord’s during May’s ODI.

This may feel like the night before Christmas for Root, who joins Steven Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson as the last of the Big Four to take on a captaincy role. There won’t be too many surprises to unwrap in the morning, however, with Liam Dawson confirmed to come in at No. 8 and share the spinning duties, rather than Toby Roland-Jones adding a couple more barrels to the seam attack. It seems a tad cautious for a brave new era. Root was supposed to be captain cavalier but his new England look more like allrounder-heads.

Whatever, the Root regime is about to begin. Two years ago, New Zealand came to Lord’s and England began their rejuvenation with a barnstorming win, with Root and Ben Stokes (now Test vice-captain) to the fore. Following the trails of a winter on the subcontinent, the Test XI could do with another dose of that magic. South Africa, particularly on tour, have the reputation of being an immovable object. Can England bring the irresistible force?

Form guide

 

England LLLLD (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa DWDWW

In the spotlight

 

In 2016, Joe Root scored 1477 Test runs, narrowly missing out on breaking Michael Vaughan’s England record for a calendar year. Nevertheless, with only three hundreds to go with 10 fifties, there was a sense that his stellar abilities were not quite being fulfilled; only his masterful 110 in Johannesburg and 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford indelibly shaped England wins. Will the captaincy elevate his game, as it has appeared to do for Smith, Kohli and Williamson? We are about to find out.

Dale Steyn may not be here but the reason South Africa aren’t so perturbed by his absence is down to a winsome 22-year-old. Kagiso Rabada has pace to burn and an old head on young shoulders, as England know from their recent encounters; in the fourth Test at Centurion in January 2016, he took match figures of 13 for 144, the second-best by a South African in Tests. The fact Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel have also had injury problems in recent times only increases the weight of expectation on Rabada.

Team news

 

Gary Ballance, Root’s former Yorkshire flatmate, returns after averaging more than 100 for Yorkshire in the Championship this season. Root has confirmed he will bat at No. 3, reversing their roles at county level. There was no room for Haseeb Hameed, who shone in India last year, with Keaton Jennings retaining his spot as Cook’s opening partner. James Anderson and Stuart Broad have both recovered from recent injuries sustained while playing for their counties.

England 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Keaton Jennings, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Liam Dawson, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Mark Wood, 11 James Anderson

South Africa will have a debutant at the top of the order, with Heino Kuhn coming in for his first Test at the age of 33. Theunis de Bruyn filled in at opener in South Africa’s last Test, in Hamilton in March, but will likely drop down and cover du Plessis’ spot in the middler order – although Elgar suggested there was a debate about “whether to go in with four seamers or three seamers and an extra batter”. That could mean Chris Morris being considered to bat at No. 7 and bulk up the attack.

South Africa (probable) 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Heino Kuhn, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Temba Bavuma, 6 Theunis de Bruyn, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Morne Morkel

Pitch and conditions

 

Lord’s has tended towards the slow and the low, both in Tests and for Championship fixtures, but the pitches have shown signs of life this season – Middlesex beat Yorkshire in three days here last month. The strip for this Test was being covered the day before, most likely to retain moisture, and was fairly green when briefly glimpsed, although it will be cut again in the morning. There is a chance of thunderstorms interrupting play on Thursday but the rest of the weekend is forecast to be clear, with cooler temperatures.

Stats and trivia

 

  • South Africa have not lost a Test at Lord’s since 1960. Since readmission, they have won four and drawn two at the ground.
  • England have only won one of their last six Lord’s Test – against New Zealand in 2015. They have lost to India, Australia and Pakistan in that time.
  • England lost eight Tests in 2016, equalling their worst calendar year.
  • Amla goes into the match needing 48 runs to become the third South African to 8000 in Tests.
  • Moeen Ali is two shy of 100 Test wickets; England last played two spinners at Lord’s in 1993.

Quotes

 

“For it finally come around, it’s starting to feel a bit more real now. I’m very excited, I just want to get out there.”
Joe Root soaks up the captaincy feeling

“You can see it in my batting, I’m a little bit tougher and nuggety. So I think the captaincy will be along those lines, a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more of a fighter out there.”
Dean Elgar, also new to the job, reflects on his style

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