It may have came as a surprise to some (but not to this writer if you care to revisit our predictions) but England humbled South Africa by more than 200 runs in the first test of the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy series, and given the relative form and injury worries of the two sides they look well primed to do the same again in Cape Town during the first few days of 2016.
Let’s take a moment to evaluate this South African side. Their key bowler, Dale Steyn, looks likely to miss the second test with a shoulder injury, while deputy Kyle Abbot is also struggling with a hamstring injury.
There are doubts over AB De Villiers’ requirements with the bat and the gloves, so previously unheralded wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock has been added to the squad. With the blade, opener Stiaan Van Zyl has scored 33, 0, 15, 21, 0 and 5 in his last six test innings, Faf Du Plessis who’s top score in his last eight test innings is 39, and then there’s under-fire skipper Hashim Amla, who averages less than 15 in his last eight tests. Add into the mix a poor middle order duo in JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma and make no mistake: this is a South Africa side in the doldrums.
The contrast couldn’t be any sweeter for England, who will be even stronger in Cape Town given that Jimmy Anderson has seemingly recovered from a calf injury and will return to the side in place of Chris Woakes. With some of the ‘lesser lights’, such as Nick Compton, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow, all firing in the first test, the Three Lions couldn’t be in better shape.
In Shape for Cape
England’s price of 13/10 is particularly generous then, even on a Cape Town surface where the Proteas tend to excel. The last time they entertained England they notched 738 runs in the test; although 435 of those were scored by the now retired triumvirate of Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher. The Three Lions held on for a thrilling draw courtesy of their last wicket pair, Graemes Swann and Onions, and with the Proteas lacking the batting firepower required at this level it should be England’s willow wielders that d the bulk of the damage.
Alistair Cook was the side’s top scorer in that test five years ago, and despite a barren first rubber in this series he should be well-placed to go big again given the likely absence of Steyn and Abbott. Back him at 7/2 to be England’s top run scorer.
It was Jimmy Anderson who did the damage with the ball last time England visited Cape Town – bagging eight wickets and shaping the ball around nicely. It has been reported that his preparation is going well for the second test, so take him at 11/4 to do the necessary for his side.
Given the lack of form that South Africa are showing at the moment it is difficult to bet on them with any certainty, but one market that looks likely is Morne Morkel to be his country’s leading wicket taker in the second test. He bowled well in Durban mostly without reward, and with Steyn and Abbot absent – or playing despite being injured – the lanky paceman is a safe bet.
You will never get a better price on England to win this four match series, so take the 8/13 on offer now before it tumbles in around a week’s time.