The waiting is almost over for Joe Root – after being appointed England’s 80th Test captain in February, he’ll finally lead the Three Lions for the first time as they face South Africa at Lord’s on Thursday.
Root has come in after Alastair Cook stepped aside after a humiliating 4-0 defeat in India – the eight matches England lost in 2016 equalled their worst ever tally for a calendar year.
There are question marks throughout the team, and plenty are scratching their heads at the selections of Gary Ballance and Liam Dawson, who don’t appear cut out for this level.
Root takes charge of a team in transition and struggling for form – a far cry from South Africa, who have won their last four Test series on the spin, and are unbeaten in series in England since 1998.
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South Africa are unbeaten at Lord’s since 1960 too, and will fancy their chances despite the absences of Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.
While those three are missing, they do boast high-class experience in Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, and youth in Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada.
Rabada took a match-winning four wickets in the ODI series on this ground and could blow England away again – the 22-year-old is arguably the most exciting talent currently in world cricket.
His pace was too much in that white-ball match, and he’ll be looking to attack an England batting side with plenty of question marks over their application and ability.
Surprisingly, England are short favourites, which I disagree with.
Instead, I recommend taking a punt on the tourists, who are available at 2.63 with Sportsbet.io.