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New Eras Dawn for Proteas vs England 1st Test

The countdown is nearly over for the start of the Proteas 6th Test series in England and the South Africans will be thrilled that the series starts at Lord’s – Since South Africa’s return from isolation no team from the Rainbow Nation has ever lost at the home of cricket, winning four matches and drawing one.

Of those victories, three have been dominant: by 356 runs in July 1994; by 10 wickets almost four years later; by and innings and 92 runs in July 2003. On the last visit in August 2012, Vernon Philander scored 96 runs and took 7 for 78 in the match including 5 for 30 in the second innings that confirmed him as man of the match in the contest.

The Cape Cobras all-rounder is set to play a starring role once again after being declared fit from his various niggles that blighted his tour preparations in his short stint with Sussex.

One man who won’t be there is Faf du Plessis. As everyone knows, the team’s captain has been with his family for the birth of his and wife Imari’s first child. While all is now well with Mrs du Plessis and baby, CSA confirmed on Monday that Faf will not make it back to the United Kingdom in time to take the field on Thursday.

This means that Dean Elgar will become South Africa’s 12th post-isolation test captain and one of 2014 Under-19 World Cup winning captain Aiden Markram or once-test-capped Theunis de Bruyn will get the chance to add their name to the Lord’s honours boards.

If the England Lions draw on the weekend is anything to go by, de Bruyn should be the man to fill in. Despite not setting the world alight in Worcester, making a duck, he is the man in possession and the selectors and Russell Domingo have certainly favoured hierarchy and the next-in-line principle in when picking the team. Whomever plays they are likely to come in at number five/six in the batting order (a much more appropriate position for de Bruyn than his trial by opening debut in New Zealand earlier this year).

The bowlers got some useful overs in their legs as they were tested by a determined Lions outfit. Four wickets in that innings is not great but nothing beats match practice. Kagiso Rabada’s nine no-balls though, are likely to concern bowling Coach Charl Langeveldt and he would do well to make sure KG eradicates the error from his game before he is faced with the famed Lord’s slope.

The best thing to come out of the warm-up draw was runs – pleasingly for Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock but especially from opener-in-waiting – Heino Kuhn. Having been considered alongside Stephen Cook for the slot before the later got the nod, Kuhn has piled on the runs and forced his way into the reckoning with the help of some poor form from Cook.

Kuhn has now scored 400 first class runs in England, at an average a tick over 133, since arriving with the SA A side. Such a rich vein of form from someone who knows their game so well also bodes well for the South African opening combination which has struggled since the days of Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen.

With new captains, some new and inexperienced bowling line-ups, strong batting line-ups and pedigrees in the five-day format, this mouth-watering opening salvo of the series is shaping up well.

Bring on the opening delivery!

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