It's going to be a long summer

By the time you read this the first battle between South Africa and England, in the form of a Twenty20 match, will have been contested, but it’s going to be a long summer.

Since the first English tour to these shores in 1888, when England won both Test matches, the rivalry between the Proteas and their northern opponents has been fierce and recent meetings between the two teams suggest that this series will be no different.

A new-look England side, under the leadership of South African-born Andrew Strauss, are coming off the back of a 2-1 Ashes win over Australia and will be aiming to reaffirm their position as one of the top cricketing nations during the two-and-a-half month tour that includes two Twenty20 internationals, five ODIs, and four Tests.

What makes this contest even more intriguing is the presence of four English players with South African links: besides Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen were all born in South Africa. Pietersen,in particular, has come in for a lot of flack following his unflattering commenents about the Proteas and South African cricket in general, and his position as England’s go-to-guy since the retirement of Freddy Flintoff will ensure that the Pietermaritzburg lad will get more than his fair share of attention.

Add the recent unsportsmanlike behaviour of Strauss during the ICC Champions League match between the two sides, when he denied the injured Graeme Smith the use of a runner, and the series is set to be a cracker.

South Africa are still licking their wounds from yet another early exit from an ICC event and the team—particularly the pace duo of Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell—will want to use this summer to erase any doubts about their status as the world’s leading cricketing nation, in both Tests and one-dayers.

With the talent at their disposal, the Proteas are well placed to do exactly this. Their top five batsmen are arguably the most solid in world cricket at the moment, with the experiment of allowing Jacques Kallis to move up the order in the recent ODI series against Zimbabwe putting a spring in the all-rounder’s step.

But the key men for the Proteas this summer will be the middle-order duo of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy. De Villiers, regarded by many as one of the most technically gifted batsmen to be produced in South Africa, has had an outstanding year thus far, and his record against the tourists is phenomenal.

In six Test matches, he has scored a whopping 746 runs at an average of 49,73 with a high score of 174.

Duminy on the other hand has yet to play a Test against England, but has shown glimpses of his talent since breaking into the Proteas set-up with a match-winning century in Australia last summer, and this series provides him with the opportunity to silence the naysayers and ensure the team makes it back-to-back Test series victories over the old rivals.