South Africa: two Test debuts, Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock, Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philnder, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortie.
England: Bairstow back, Stokes plays
England: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, James Anderson, Stuart Broad.
Mike Atherton on the toss. “All the chat is that this pitch deteriorates at the back end of the game, fine to bowl first but you better damn well make sure you get a first-innings lead.”
And a straight-talkin Christmas to you too Mike!
Ah, brilliant! We have an expert. Thanks Adrian Goldman.
”As a biological scientist, no, flu jabs are not country specific. They are manufactured against what scientists believe is the most likely collection of H (haemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase) antigens present on the influenza virus of that season. These two proteins are the most abundant on the surface of an influenza virus. Most of the time we get it pretty correct; and I agree with Gary: once you’ve had a flu jab, you never, ever, go without. Especially if you’ve had the flu in an earlier season. But having the flu jab doesn’t provide 100% protection, especially if the variants are slightly unusual. So the party may have had them, but people may nonetheless get a little sick – and obviously that isn’t OK for a professional athlete, whereas it would be OK for an office job.”
England win the toss – field first
Joe Root has won the toss and will bowl. “It is quite a tricky decision to make but we think it is a great opportunity on this track.”
Jack Leach isn’t fit, Ben Stokes is playing, they go in with a five-man attack.
Faf du Plessis says he’d have batted first anyway, “On day one the wicket is generally quite slow here, on days two and three it is decent, and then the cracks start to open.”
In the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, Australia are on top, thanks to fifties from Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, despite Trent Boult dispatching Joe Burns’s stumps with the first ball of the game. As it happened, here.
Gary Naylor is up bright and early. Happy Christmas!
That’s a good question. Though I don’t think the jab protects you from every strain of flu – perhaps it is country specific?! Any expertise welcome.
Something to digest with your Boxing Day coffee. Since 2010 Vernon Philander has been the best bowler with the Kookobura ball. The second? Kagiso Rabada
A couple of stats as Sky warms up – in the last decade, Centurion has been the worst Test ground for spin bowlers. And, this morning, Jimmy Anderson becomes the first bowler to play 150 Tests. Ever. He and Stuart Broad are playing darts with Ian Ward. They talk about bowling with the kookaburra ball. “The balls are different here,” says Anderson. “They’ve got a slightly different seam, it feels harder, you might get ten overs of decent swing. The atmospheric conditions here are good, so are the pitches, you get carry. We’re thinking it is going to be different to how it was in New Zealand.”
Hello and Happy Christmas!
I hope yesterday was full of good cheer and good people. To those who were unhappy, a virtual hug: come, there’s plenty of space on the OBO sofa. The chocolate orange is on me.
Over in Centurion, they’re preparing for the big one – the face off between the bottom and sixth placed sides in the World Test Championship, the first of four Tests between South Africa and England.
England gather together their walking wounded after a bout of flu has rampaged through the camp – we wait to see what team they cobble together for the seam friendly Centurion pitch. Early sufferers Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad trained yesterday, but Ollie Pope and Chris Woakes were both missing and showing signs of the lurgy. James Anderson, who missed both the summer’s Ashes series and the tour of New Zealand with a calf injury, is raring to go.
Thankfully, Ben Stokes’s father Ged has showed signs of improvement in intensive care and his condition has stabilised, Stokes trained on Christmas Day and was due to make a decision on whether to play overnight.
England have lost five of their last six away series, but their last Test series defeat in South Africa was under Nasser Hussain in 1999-2000.
South Africa are not in the greatest health. They’ve have a tumultuous six months – off-field boardroom shenanigans, disputes with players, loss of a sponsor, revoking of journalists accreditation, whitewashed in a Test series in India – but now sit with a formidable new top table team: (interim) director of cricket Graeme Smith, coach Mark Boucher and batting coach Jacques Kallis. Team-wise, Temba Bavuma is out with injury, and South Africa are likely to play two Test newbies, batsman Rassie van der Dussen, South Africa’s second-highest run-scorer in the World Cup, and allrounder Dwaine Pretorius. Meanwhile, all-rounder Vernon Philander has announced his retirement at the end of the series
Hope that’s wet your whistle. See you here soon, play starts at 8am GMT.