Batting first also gives England another advantage, Swann will now get to bowl on a wearing pitch late in the game whilst Imran Tahir (South Africa’s only real weakness) will have to contend with a day 1 pitch.
I think England will win this series, the main reason for this is because I think Tahir will struggle. It may seem odd to suggest that the team which imploded over the winter against a mystery spinner will dominate against another one. Well, there are differences. Firstly, England are at home. They know the conditions well and only the very best spinners have got the better of England’s batsmen here in recent years.
Also, Tahir has a tendency to bowl the occasional bad ball. He certainly doesn’t have the accuracy of Swann and this ruthless England side will look to pounce on any loose offerings from the spinner. Granted, he has taken wickets aplenty in the County Championship, he turns the ball and has a very good googly.
South Africa will be looking to Tahir to occupy an end and not leak runs so that their fearsome pace threesome can rotate from the other end. If England are to put South Africa under pressure, they will have to attack Tahir.
If Tahir goes for runs that means Kallis will have to bowl more overs than he might like. That could make a difference. With Kallis now in the twilight of his career, there is no doubt his batting has excelled, his bowling is still effective too. And that might be his undoing. Whilst his bowling is still good, his body is not.
If he is required to get through more than his share of overs, his batting may suffer the consequences. As the lynchpin of South Africa’s batting line-up that could have severe recriminations for the Proteas’ ambitions in this series.
Of course, JP Duminy can lob down some offies to take some of the pressure off Tahir and Kallis, but that prospect certainly won’t have Pietersen and Co. shaking in their boots.
Talking of Pietersen, he is the man who will be most looking to dominate Tahir, as he does with most spinners he encounters. South Africa will be wary of the blistering form he has showed of late, form that Lancashire can certainly testify to as he blasted 234no against them in the recent Championship game.
As I write, Morkel has removed Strauss for 0. So perhaps I am entirely wrong and it will be a battle of seamers vs openers and the spinners will not have much of a role to play. But something tells me I’m not. If Tahir has a bad series, I think South Africa might too.