South Africa v England Test Series Preview

Joe Root England PA

England kick-off their latest Test series against South Africa on Boxing Day aiming to bounce back from their recent defeat against New Zealand.

The Black Caps claimed a 1-0 win after romping to an innings and 65-runs victory in the first match of their two Test series.

The two sides fought out a draw in the second meeting and England will be eager to regain the winning thread when they visit South Africa.

For fans who like to bet on cricket, the latest series is a tough one to call with little to choose between the two teams in the betting. Read on as we preview the upcoming Test series.

Returning trio boost England’s hopes

England’s hopes of winning in South Africa have been boosted by the return of James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow to their squad.

Anderson has not played for England since suffering a calf injury during the first Ashes Test back in August and his return undoubtedly improves their bowling attack.

He bowled just four overs against Australia at Edgbaston and his exit was a major blow to England’s hopes of winning the Ashes.

The 37-year-old attempted a comeback for Lancashire’s second XI later the same month, but lasted just two games before being ruled out for the season.

Pace bowler Wood has been on the sidelines since the World Cup final in July through injury, while Bairstow was dropped for the recent trip to New Zealand.

South Africa turns to Boucher

It has been a tough year for South Africa, with five defeats in seven Tests and a poor performance at the World Cup sparking a change in direction on the coaching front.

Mark Boucher has been named as South Africa’s new head coach, replacing Ottis Gibson who was released back in August.

Acting director of cricket, Graeme Smith, is attempting to guide South Africa through a difficult period, with chief executive Thabang Moroe suspended over allegations of misconduct.

Smith has confirmed Faf du Plessis will be South Africa’s Test captain, but the team will be without the services of fast bowler Lungi Ngidi for at least the first two matches due to a hamstring injury.

Ngidi has struggled with injuries over the past two years and his absence is a big blow to South Africa’s hopes of beating England.

History favours England

England’s recent Test record in South Africa is good, with their last away defeat coming way back in 1999/2000.

They have won two and drawn one series since then, most recently securing a hard fought 2-1 victory four years ago.

However, their recent Test record away from home is a cause for concern, with two wins in their last 11 series highlighting their troubles when they travel overseas.

Despite that record England should prove too classy for South Africa, particularly if Anderson stays fit for the entire series.

They look a good bet at odds of 27/20 to win the series, while the 5/1 on offer for a 2-1 scoreline may also be worth an interest.