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England, SA face a tricky test

South Africa and England both face tricky decisions ahead of the first Test of a four-match series, starting at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

cricket Updated: Dec 15, 2009 22:29 IST

South Africa and England both face tricky decisions ahead of the first Test of a four-match series, starting at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

South Africa have to decide whether to play star all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who is recovering from a rib injury. If he plays it will almost certainly be as a batsman only, which would probably mean South Africa going into the Test with only four recognised bowlers.

England must also decide whether they can afford to pick only four bowlers, especially as two of the likely attack, James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom, have only bowled in one innings after recovering from injuries.

The preparation of both teams, and the opportunity to provide a workout for players whose places are up for debate, was frustrated by heavy rain on Monday which cut short England's net practice and prevented the South Africans from going outdoors.

Rain has been a major factor in all three Test matches between South Africa and England at Centurion, with two matches drawn, with the only exception coming in 1999/2000 after then-South African captain Hansie Cronje engineered a contrived result in dubious circumstances after three days of play were washed out.

The three matches against England — who won after Cronje's controversial agreement to forego a second innings and set England a generous target — are the only Tests at Centurion not won by South Africa, who have achieved 11 victories at the ground.

But the weather forecast for the days of the coming Test is largely favourable. Pace bowlers usually get some assistance at Centurion, while spin bowlers can rely on reasonable bounce.

England will go into the Tests with confidence high after winning a one-day series and performing well in warm-up matches, while South Africa have been jolted by some sub-standard performances. Both teams have solid top order batting but potentially vulnerable tails.

South African fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are potential match-winners but Steyn has been struggling with a hamstring injury, while Morkel was dropped last season after bowling inconsistently.