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South Africa v England Test Series Tips

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
South AfricaSeries Winner4/6Paddy Power
South Africa 3-1Series Correct Score15/2Betfred
AB De VilliersTop South African Batsman11/4888sport
Alastair CookTop England Batsman11/4Paddy Power, Betfred, William Hill

England are 3/1 outsiders (Bet365) as they take on the world’s top-ranked Test team South Africa in a four-match series, which gets under way in Durban on Boxing Day.

Tests follow in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria in the New Year and you can watch all the action on Sky Sports, with play starting at 8.30am UK time each day.

South Africa may sit top of the ICC rankings, but it’s some time since they last won a five-day match and that will offer some hope to the tourists, who defeated Australia 3-2 to win the Ashes over the summer.

Since beating the West Indies 2-0 over three Tests almost a year ago, South Africa have failed to win in six attempts, drawing twice in Bangladesh – where one match was almost entirely washed out – and then losing 3-0 in a four-match series in India which concluded earlier this month.

On that basis, South Africa may look a little short at best odds of 4/6 to win the series, but a glance through their Test record over the medium term shows why they are so highly rated. The Proteas have lost just two of their last 20 series, with the defeat to Australia two years ago ending a five-year unbeaten run on home soil.

Add in England’s record on their travels and it is clearer why the fourth-ranked team could struggle in this series. Since an historic 2-1 victory in India in 2012, they have won only 1 of 14 Test matches overseas, compared to 12 wins in 24 Tests at home.

A 2-1 home win is rated the most likely outcome by the bookmakers at 9/2 with Bet365, with Betfred and William Hill offering 16/1 that they will win all four Tests, while an England whitewash is 60/1 with Paddy Power. The most enticing option looks to be the 15/2 with Betfred for a 3-1 home win (as short as 5/1 elsewhere).

That travel sickness afflicted England once again in their recent series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, which Alastair Cook’s men lost 2-0 having drawn the opening game. The continued good batting form of Cook and Joe Root were the high points, but the bowlers struggled on pitches which offered little help.

South Africa’s batting is a cause for concern for their supporters after a string of poor performances in India, where their biggest total in eight innings was a meagre 214, although India’s batsmen also struggled. Of course the wickets in South Africa will offer completely different conditions, but it’s worth noting that only AB de Villiers made it beyond 50 in those four Tests, making his side’s two biggest scores.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that De Villiers is the favourite at stand-out odds of 11/4 with 888sport to be his side’s leading run scorer against England. Against the West Indies last year, he hit two big centuries in three innings, while he has continued his inspirational form in one-day internationals throughout 2015. Hashim Amla is second in the betting, but the number three’s form has tailed off since a double-hundred in the opening game against the West Indies a year ago.

Not only do 888sport offer the best odds on De Villiers (just 9/4 or 15/8 elsewhere), but new customers also get treble the odds on their first bet (maximum £10) here.

With a superb record stretching back over a prolonged period, Root is the favourite to top score for England at odds of 5/2. The Yorkshireman has totalled three figures in nine of his last 14 Test matches. However, at 11/4 with Paddy Power, Betfred and William Hill, Cook may be a better bet. The captain has been at his majestic best since the summer, plundering exactly 600 runs in his last eight visits to the crease.

South Africa’s bowling department remains strong, with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel expected to torment England as they did in the summer of 2012, when both men got into double figures in three Tests. Together they also dismantled the West Indies last year, with 13 wickets apiece in three matches. Both players can be backed at 11/4 with 888sport to take most wickets for the hosts.

After taking 13 wickets against Pakistan, James Anderson is the slight favourite at 7/4 (generally) to be England’s leading wicket-taker, with Stuart Broad at 2/1 with 888sport. The rest of the bowling line-up is uncertain and far more likely to rotate.

RECOMMENDED BETSMARKETODDSBOOKMAKERS
South AfricaSeries Winner4/6Paddy Power
South Africa 3-1Series Correct Score15/2Betfred
AB De VilliersTop South African Batsman11/4888sport
Alastair CookTop England Batsman11/4Paddy Power, Betfred, William Hill