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1st Test preview: South Africa and England will square off in the first Test of the four-match series at the Supersport Park in Centurion on Thursday.
The visitors will be looking to bring a heady year to a successful close but must be wary of a home side eager to revive their fortunes.
English cricket has been basking in the glory of dramatic World Cup success in 2019 but the Test arena did not offer any subsequent triumphs as they failed to regain the Ashes and lost last month in New Zealand.
Yet they are favourites to beat their hosts, who have had a year of turmoil both on and off the field.
South Africa will aim to put an improved show, especially after the overhaul of their coaching structure. Former Test captain Graeme Smith was appointed director of cricket while Mark Boucher took charge as the coach. The Proteas also roped in Jacques Kallis as the batting consultant in the weeks leading up to the series after the side lost their last five Tests.
But captain Faf du Plessis will take charge of a relatively inexperienced team after a series of retirements from the Test arena, including Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.
Joe Root leads an England side that has James Anderson and Johnny Bairstow back, and excitedly awaits to see if Ben Stokes can repeat the bludgeoning he handed South Africa in the 2015-16 series and what Jofra Archer might be able to extract from seamer-friendly wickets.
A bout of illness in the England camp on the eve of the first Test, however, means Archer and Stuart Broad are both scrambling to be fit in time to make Thursday’s team line-up.
With inputs from Reuters
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