South Africa are finalising preparations to play their first Test series in England since 2008. The tourists have been in reasonable form ahead of the first Test at the Kia Oval, yet have drawn both tour matches ahead of the series due to poor weather.
But while preparations have been relatively smooth for Graeme Smith and his side, the history books suggest a tough start to the three-Test series.
Despite favourable Betfair cricket odds on occasion, South Africa have never won at the Oval in 13 Tests. They have lost all three Oval Tests since readmission in 1992, including a nine-wicket demolition in 2003 after England knocked up 604 in their first innings.
Although the Proteas squad will no doubt be aware of this slightly ridiculous record, they should not be concerned of a hoodoo that surrounds South Africa at the Oval ruining their attempts to claim victory.
Ideas of the South African’s struggling to play off an uncertain Oval wicket have been dismissed by Jacques Kallis, who pinpointed the side’s preparatory tour of England as the perfect method to understanding the moist English wickets. South Africa have been in full control throughout their build-up games, and control is the one thing Kallis knows his side can exhibit.
Smith and fellow top-order batsman Alviro Petersen, who has haunted the Betfair Australian cricket community in the past with some dominant displays, are both in fine form and should control the new ball if South Africa bat first on Thursday. This battle of control between the Proteas top order and England’s furious bowling attack of Stuart Broad, James Andersen and Tim Bresnan will dominate attention at the Oval and will be intriguing to watch.
The one concern for South Africa will be the England seamers’ ability to spring the ball up off a cushy pitch. Should England pick off a couple of South African wickets at the start of their first innings, the tourists will soon find themselves staring at fourteenth consecutive Oval loss.