It's that time of the year again when people around the globe celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year and we cricket fans are glued to the television sets because some of the most exciting Test matches take place this week starting from the Boxing Day Tests on 26th. This year, South Africa take on England while Australia take on New Zealand.
South Africa's political turmoil and rift between the Cricket South Africa Board and players association has seen them overhauling their setup with the likes of Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis returning in key roles. This has headlined the news in South African cricket even as England land for a Test series, with the hosts at the bottom of the World Test Championship.
England have had successful tours to the country recently and despite their poor form in the Ashes and in New Zealand in the Tests, the visitors are favourites given South Africa's obvious shortcomings.
Watch out for:
Kagiso Rabada - A wounded lion is pretty dangerous and South Africa are just that now. Armed with one of the most potent fast bowlers in the world, the Proteas are no pushovers. This premium pace bowler has 96 wickets in 17 Tests at an average of 17.61 and a strike rate of 32.4 in home Tests since 2017. In his last Test in the country, against Sri Lanka, Rabada took four for 38 in the first innings.
New Zealand's away conundrum
New Zealand have become a force in Test cricket of late with their emphatic record in home Test matches. Having last lost a series in early 2017, New Zealand have registered important victories to climb up the ICC Test rankings but are on the verge of losing a series after the thumping they received at Perth last week. At Melbourne in the second Test of the series, New Zealand need to pull things back to maintain their recent run of form and ridicule the notion that they are home track bullies.
Watch out for:
Neil Wagner - Few Test bowlers in World cricket right now have the stamina and endurance of Neil Wagner. The left-arm seamer, known for delivering long spells under scorching heat, was in red hot form at Perth with his hit-the-deck bowling that had Australian batsmen in a tangle. His strike rate of 49.4 in Tests since 2017 is among the best for fast bowlers in this time frame. Wagner has 86 wickets in 18 Test matches at an average of 24.41 with five five-wicket hauls.
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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Money Sharma