Dale Steyn, Proteas to Provide the Real Test
So after a comfortable test series win over New Zealand, England's Ashes credentials will be sternly tested by South Africa.
The tourists may be without the retired Shaun Pollock, but their seam attack is arguably now the best in the world, with Dale Steyn as the spearhead.
The Kiwi seam attack, led by Chris Martin and Kyle Mills, may have caused England (Collingwood and Bell apart) few problems, but things will be different against the Proteas.
Steyn possesses real pace—upwards of 90 mph on a regular basis—and with the developing Morne Morkel and the dangerous Makhaya Ntini supporting him, they will fancy their chances of causing more than a few problems for England's batsmen.
It promises to be an intriguing clash between the seamers with Ryan Sidebottom, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad providing the ammunition for the home side.
There seems little to choose between the pace attacks, but Steyn's raw pace could tip the scales in the visitor's favour.
So it seems England may be more reliant on crowd favourite Monty Panesar, who goes up against fellow left-arm spinner Paul Harris in this series, having already performed well against Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori earlier in the summer.
Vettori and Panesar are without doubt both world-class, but Harris is a relative newcomer to the test arena, and will have his work cut out to be as dangerous as Monty on the wearing English wickets.
So it would seem that the bowling attacks are very evenly matched and therefore the performance of the batsmen of both sides will be key.
Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood need runs in the first test and will be under pressure to perform. But Andrew Strauss was in a similar position earlier in the year in New Zealand and it brought the best out of him.
For South Africa, the fitness of skipper Graeme Smith is a major concern, as without him their top order looks fragile. Neil McKenzie is being used as a make-shift opener and although he got runs against the West Indies, Sidebottom and Anderson should provide a sterner test with the new ball.
Jacques Kallis is Mr. Reliable for the Proteas in the middle order and England will need to get him early on if they are to gain the upper hand, and edge what appears to be a very tight series.
If England come through this, then it may only be another 12 months until the Ashes are brought home.
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