LOOKING back, you have to say 2009 has been a pretty successful year for the England cricket team.
Bar the disastrous one-day series against Australia, which England lost 6-1, captain Andrew Strauss has seen his side reclaim the Ashes, perform well in the Champions Trophy and now beat South Africa in a one-day series in their own back yard.
With that in mind, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to this first Test match at Centurion more than I have for a long, long time. England suddenly look a confident, assured unit, and I can see them taking the series here and starting 2010 in much the same vain.
The South Africans look pretty beatable to me. Like England, they look most dangerous with the bat, but with the main strike bowler, Dale Steyn, not fully recovered from a hamstring injury and the talismanic all-rounder Jacques Kallis not due to bowl at all, a question mark remains as to whether they can take 20 wickets?
As for England, I expect them to go toe-to-toe with the Proteas and opt for the five-bowler option, although fitness and the Centurion wicket will naturally play a part.
Bringing in Ian Bell as a sixth batsman is an option, but the selectors obviously have concerns over Graeme Swann, who is crucial to England, while James Anderson is also not at 100 per cent.
If you’re going to carry a bowler then it must be with another bowler, so the left-arm option of Ryan Sidebottom creating rough for Anderson and Graham Onions to exploit, may well probably be too tempting to dismiss.
ENGLAND | ANDY’S XI
Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Graham Onions