Preview: Merciful release for England?
AB de Villiers won the toss and chose to bat on his first opportunity to captain a South Africa Test side that he has so often inspired, as the Johannesburg Test got underway under overcast skies.
His first morning as captain was not without disruption. Dane Vilas was flying to Johannesburg after an emergency call-up as wicketkeeper – the result of a knee injury to Quinton de Kock, suffered when he slipped at home the previous evening.
Batting first at least spared de Villiers from having to take the gloves again until Vilas arrived. “It is a little bit overcast so it wasn’t an easy decision but our batters are in great form and it is a chance to put some pressure on England,” he said. “We turned things around a bit in Cape Town and we have a bit of confidence.”
England’s captain Alastair Cook, looking a little peaky at the toss, conceded that his squad was still reeling from the stomach bug that has raged through the camp since the end of the Cape Town Test. England, for all that, were unchanged and the overcast skies would cheer the pace attack.
“They are trying to climb out of their death beds to play,” said Cook, who was presented with a commemorative cap by Michael Vaughan before play to mark his 125th Test. “It’s not quite as bad as that but they are proud to play for their country and a few are feeling not quite 100 percent. We were going to bat first as well but we have a very good attack in these conditions.”
England, victorious in Durban and slightly shaken on the final day in a draw in Cape Town, would win the series if they prevailed in Johannesburg whereas South Africa, 1-0 down, need back-to-back wins. Hardus Viljoen, who has claimed 20 wickets in his last two matches at the Wanderers, makes his Test debut as part of a four-man pace attack.
South Africa 1 Dean Elgar, 2 Stiaan van Zyl, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 Faf du Plessis, 6 Temba Bavuma, 7 Dane Vilas (wk), 8 Chris Morris, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Hardus Viljoen, 11 Morne Morkel
England 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Nick Compton, 4 Joe Root, 5 James Taylor, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo