Venue – Lord’s, London
Date: Wednesday, August 17 – Sunday, August 21
The South African team will be going into the first Test here having just been given a hiding by the England Lions in their one warm-up match on this tour. The Lions – basically an England B side made up of younger and fringe players – were able to defeat the Proteas by an innings and 56 runs.
The key to the Lions’ success was the “Bazball” style of cricket that the England Test team is currently set up to play. This is basically an ultra-aggressive, high-scoring approach that is supposed to put pressure on the opposition in two ways. It means that opposition batters feel the need to be aggressive themselves (forcing mistakes and allowing for wickets to fall) while the opposing bowlers have to be perfect with their deliveries as the England batsmen have been given the green light to attack anything they think they can take runs from.
The fire has been stoked here too as South African captain Dean Elgar has said in the lead-up to this Test that the England style has “no longevity”. The methods that are being used by captain ben Stokes and head coach Brendan McCollum seek to use the strengths of the England T20I and ODI outfits in the red ball game. Given how much white ball cricket is being played around the world in 2022, it is a strategy that has plenty of buzz as opposing teams try to work out how best to attack the England batsmen.
South Africa may have to change their strategy given how the warm-up match went. England scored 672 runs in their sole innings at a rate of over 5.5 runs per over.
“Bazball” has already been successful for England as they were able to beat both India and New Zealand by running down big targets that seemed to have been enough to secure victories for the visiting teams. The battle between bowlers Ollie Robinson and Matthew Potts is worth watching, with Robinsons continuing to take wickets no matter what level of the game he plays at but with taking Potts out of a winning side risking the chemistry of that unit.
South Africa has been hit with an injury blow after it was announced that seamer Duanne Olivier has been ruled out with a hip injury. The injury is serious enough that the 30-year-old hasn’t just been ruled out of the first Test, but he has also been put on ice for the entire series. Olivier tore a hip muscle in the warm-up match against the England Lions.
Olivier was expected to be one of the marquee bowlers from the Proteas as he has taken 59 wickets over his 15 Tests to date. If Kagiso Rabada is out – or even if he isn’t at 100% – then the attacking Egland approach will cause the remaining Proteas bowlers major problems.
South Africa has been in great form since Elgar was appointed captain in Match 2021. They are currently on top of the World Test Championship log, with the team having won seven of the nine matches in which Elgar has been in charge. This, however, is a different proposition. The England strategy may or may not be effective long-term, but in the short term, it certainly seems to be doing the job. I would take the home side at 17/20 here in what should be an entertaining Test.