England win toss, bowl first in Boxing Day test
PRETORIA (Reuters) – England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bowl in the first test against South Africa at Centurion Park in Pretoria on Boxing Day.
England all-rounder Ben Stokes has been selected to play after having been a doubt when his father Ged fell seriously ill in Johannesburg on Monday, but the latter is out of intensive care and showing signs of improvement.
A flu bug that has swept through the England camp in the build-up to the test has ruled seamer Chris Woakes, middle order batsman Ollie Pope and left-arm spinner Jack Leach out of contention.
But seamers Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad recovered sufficiently from flu to take their place in the side in what is an all-seam attack that also includes the returning James Anderson, who will win his 150th test cap.
South Africa have handed debuts to middle-order batsman Rassie van der Dussen and all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius as they come to terms with the retirements of stalwarts Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn in recent times.
Aiden Markram has recovered sufficiently from a hand injury to open the batting, while number three Zubayr Hamza and fast bowler Anrich Nortje have just two test appearances each in what is a new-look line-up.
The Thursday match is a first in charge for new South Africa head coach Mark Boucher, and a maiden game for the team under director of cricket Graeme Smith.
South Africa – Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis (capt), Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock, Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje.
England – Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root (capt), Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.