England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval
South Africa's Eyes Top Spot19-Jul-2012 02:47:00 GMT
London: South Africa will need to win the 3 match series to become the no 1 Test side in the world while England will go all-out to stop the Proteas.
Graeme Smith warned England on Wednesday that his South Africa team was determined to take the hosts' number one ranking in Test cricket away from them.
If the Proteas win the upcoming three-match series, they will replace England at the summit of the International Cricket Council's standings.
South Africa captain Smith, speaking on the eve of the first Test, which starts at the Oval on Thursday, said his side's strong away record made them genuine contenders.
England captain Andrew Strauss acknowledged the home team faced "a very strong challenge".
He said: "South Africa are a very fine side. They've proved that over the last couple of years and they'll be determined to knock us off our perch.
Smith insisted he believed South Africa were well prepared despite only playing one two-day game and a three-day match before the Test series, both of which were rain-affected.
Both Strauss and Smith said the controversy over Kevin Pietersen's England future, which rumbled on Wednesday when the South Africa-born batsman was omitted from the initial World Twenty20 squad, had no bearing on either side's preparations.
AB de Villiers is one of South Africa's most accomplished batsmen but he will have to perform both in front of and behind the stumps, in the wake of Boucher's enforced retirement.
On otherhand, England's No. 6 is just about the only area of long-standing uncertainty in the side and, after Jonny Bairstow's difficult introduction to Test cricket against West Indies, Ravi Bopara has been given another chance to establish himself in the middle order.
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wk), Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Graham Onions
South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), AB de Villiers (wk), Hashim Amla, Jean-Paul Duminy, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Alviro Petersen, Vernon Philander, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile (wk), Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Marchant de Lange
Pitch and conditions
This will be the first Test pitch produced by The Oval's new head groundsman, Lee Fortis. Spinners have often prospered here, though more often at the back end of the season. The forecast is grey and rain-spattered, which will probably have both sets of bowlers sniffing around the toss.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have not won in 13 visits to The Oval, losing their last three game.
- Andrew Strauss needs 70 runs to reach 7,000 in Tests and one century to equal the England record of 22, jointly held by Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott
- Graeme Smith is set to play his 100th Test but it will only be his 99th for South Africa, as he captained the ICC World XI against Australia in 2005.
July 19-23, 2012
Start time 11am local (10:00 GMT)