Five weeks on from that ridiculous chase against India at Edgbaston, Ben Stokes and the England Test team prepare to do battle again with South Africa in their sights this time.
The two sides shared the spoils in the ODI series and the tourists came out on top in the T20s but, let’s be honest, Test cricket is the format that matters most.
The first of three Tests gets underway at Lord’s tomorrow (17/08 – 21/08) while Emirates Old Trafford will host the second match (25/08 – 29/08) before the series concludes at the Oval (08/09 – 12/09) early next month.
It promises to be an entertaining series and one that should allow this new England to show the world more of what they’re about.
A war of words
There’s been plenty of talk from both camps ahead of the start of the series, with England’s new approach to Test cricket and the excitement around it clearly not sitting well with the South Africans.
The Proteas insist they’ve no interest in BazBall but it seems to be all they can talk about. Indeed, captain Dean Elgar had some strong words after his side were heavily beaten by the England Lions in a tour match last week.
He said: “I think it can go one of two ways for them and it can go south very quickly. [Talking about it] is a waste of energy. Their own coach doesn’t even like the slogan they’ve come up with. I’d like to see them do it against our seamers.”
In response, England Lions skipper Sam Billings suggested that Elgar and his team would be “pretty stupid to ignore” the innings and 56-run defeat they handed them and the 672 they made at a remarkable 5.74 an over.
And now, Stokesy has weighed in as well. He said: “The opposition seem to be doing a lot of the talking at the moment about it.
“We just concentrate on what we do.
“We’ve got a style of play, they’ve got a style of play. At the end of the day, it’s bat against ball and whoever plays best over a Test match is most likely to win.
“I’m happy for Dean and the South African team to keep saying they’re not interested but also keep talking about it.”
If the war of words is anything to go by, it’s going to be a tasty series.
It’s played four, won four for England under Stokes and Brendon McCullum but it’s the manner of the team’s new positive, attack-minded approach that has got everyone so excited.
The significant team news is the return of some injured players with Ollie Robinson, who was all over a number of the South African batters in the England Lions game, and Ben Foakes both named in the 14-strong squad.
Harry Brook has been knocking on the door after a dazzling century against the South Africans last week in Canterbury and Craig Overton impressed as well but it was confirmed today that, bar the return of Foakes, England have gone with the same XI that beat India at the start of July – a call that Stokes described as “quite an easy decision based on our previous four performances”.
Alex Lees and Zak Crawley will be high in confidence after their highest partnership proved the foundation for the record fourth innings chase at Edgbaston five weeks ago while Ollie Pope joins the skipper and two of the world’s in-form red-ball batters, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, in the middle order.
Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Matty Potts join Stokesy in the seam bowling attack while Jack Leach as the spin option once again.
Confirmed XI: Zak Crawley, Alex Lees, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes, Jack Leach, Matt Potts, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson
There’s been plenty of talk about England’s new era but we shouldn’t underestimate the Proteas, who are after all top of the World Test Championship table.
They’ll be keen to prove that last week’s defeat in Canterbury was nothing more than a blip but they could be without their gun seamer as Kagiso Rabada is an injury concern ahead of the game.
Simon Hamer, who has devastated County Championship batting lineups with regularity in recent years, is part of the squad after returning to South African consideration after seven years away earlier in 2022, but the experienced Keshav Maharaj may be preferred at Lord’s.
With the bat, the skipper will be key at the top of the order while Rassie van der Dussen found form in the white-ball games and will be looking to take that into the Test arena.
Predicted XI: Dean Elgar, Sarel Erwee, Keegan Petersen, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Keshav Maharaj, Marco Jansen, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje
South Africa are not to be underestimated but can they really stop this new England?
With rain expected at Lord’s, we’re going for a 2-0 home win.