ENGLAND have proved over recent matches that they’re very, very good in home conditions. We’ve got a team that’s equipped to cope with any eventuality. The players are all playing well and I predict, with some confidence, that they’ll win the Test series against South Africa, which starts tomorrow.
Victory over three matches should underline our position at the head of the world game. Right now, England are the team to beat. We’re the best all-round team in cricket and a series win would reinforce that.
The first Test is arguably the most important in every series, but especially so when there are just three. I’m sure every fan in this country is disappointed there are only three Tests against a side as strong as South Africa. We play a lot of Mickey Mouse one-day cricket, where games have been very dull, even though the English crowd loves the Test game, particularly against a strong nation. But if you lose the first of three then it’s very hard to come back. It’s a very, very important game.
South Africa are, however, capable of being dangerous. Like all great sides, they’ve got matchwinners. In Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis, they’ve got two of the world’s leading players; Kallis is arguably the best all-rounder we’ve seen since Ian Botham, and Steyn’s record is there for all to see. England will have to be at their best.
One reason I’m confident is I think South Africa are a little underdone; they’ve not had a lot of good practice leading up to the match and may regret that.
Ravi Bopara being in at No6 gives us a very, very strong look with the bat. His mind is in the right place and I think he will do very well. There will be Matt Prior at seven, Stuart Broad at eight and Graeme Swann at nine, and I would hope Steven Finn would get a game. His extra pace and bounce would offer England more than Tim Bresnan at The Oval.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who captained, and then later acted as chairman of, Warwickshire.