Ed Hawkins previews the action from Newlands from Friday as Joe Root's side search for a way back into the series
"We can pore over the data, read the doctor's reports and debate the team machinations but until Joe Root displays a modicum of common sense at the toss it is all likely to be irrelevant"
South Africa v England
Friday 3 January, 08.30
TV: live on Sky Sports
South Africa juggling team
South Africa are bullish after a convincing victory over England in the first Test at Centurion. It is, so they say, down to the bounce provided by old boys network Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis.
The hard work starts now, though. Surely they're not arrogant enough to reckon that England's sickness bug and a wearing fourth-innings pitch were not huge factors?
Indeed, they have a pack to shuffle with injuries taking their toll. Aiden Markram is out of the series with a fractured finger so Pieter Malan is expected to come in for a debut in the opening berth on his home ground. He is South Africa's eighth new boy in five Tests. Temba Bavuma is still not fit because of a hip problem and pacer Lungi Ngidi is not included because of injury
Probable XI Elgar, Malan, Hamza, Du Plessis, Van der Dussen, De Kock, Pretorius, Philander, Maharaj, Rabada, Nortje
Archer injury doubt
Problems continue to mount for England. Dominic Sibley is the latest casualty of the sick bug sweeping through the squad and management, Jofra Archer is an injury doubt with an elbow problem.
Archer's fitness might solve a conundrum. England are trying to find a way to get a spinner into the XI - Dom Bess is favourite despite Matt Parkinson being the original squad pick - and coach Chris Silverwood, being economical with the truth, said he did not fear dropping Stuart Broad or James Anderson. Now he won't have to.
Ollie Pope should return to bat at No 6 meaning Jonny Bairstow's ill-deserved recall is over. England's middle order looks far more solid with the Surrey man there instead. It's also good news that Joe Denly is beginning to find his feet on the high wire.
Probable XI Burns, Sibley, Denly, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, S Curran, Bess, Broad, Anderson
Newlands has produced some fair wickets down the years, as borne out by the list of first-innings runs in the last six Tests. They read: 177-311-286-392-629-329-494. Over ten years there is no toss bias with a fifty-fifty split with five wins each in 13.
Last January, Pakistan had the chance to bat first and put South Africa under pressure. It never happened with that 177 and South Africa went on to win by nine wickets.
We can pore over the data, read the doctor's reports and debate the team machinations but until Joe Root displays a modicum of common sense at the toss it is all likely to be irrelevant.
Root's decision to bowl first at Centurion - despite the historic bias at the venue and in the modern era for fourth-innings struggles - was inexplicable. Either it was a window into a frazzled mind or Root is so worried about his team's batting that he know their only chance of victory is to bowl out a side for 150 first up.
The series could be gone at the flip. If South Africa bat first they should make England pay for their profligacy. Under the shadow of Table Mountain, England will need a head for heights to scale the summit. Newlands is even more of a fortress than Centurion - they have lost only once in ten years.
South Africa are 2.1011/10 for a 2-0 lead with England 2.3811/8 and the draw 9.08/1. South Africa are value now but if you prefer to wait for the toss then 1.804/5 should be available.
England top bats value
Malan gets a 4/1 quote from Sportsbook to top score for South Africa in the first dig. Dean Elgar and Faf Du Plessis have excellent records at Newlands. Elgar has accumulated 586 in nine and Du Plessis 612 in the same number of games. They are 4/1 and 10/3 respectively.
Root is the 11/4 favourite for top England runscorer in the first innings with Sportsbook. It's a bad price and there is plenty of value elsewhere. Rory Burns, for example, at 7/2. Pope will not be an 8/1 chance on this market for long. Denly's improved stickability at No 3 also means that the 5/1 could be creeping into generous territory.
Back South Africa batting first 1.804/5 or better (2pts)