South Africa's cricket team head coach Mark Boucher speaks to the press following a team training session at the Supersport Park Cricket Stadium in Centurion, ahead of a four match Test series against England starting on December 26.
South Africa's cricket team head coach Mark Boucher speaks to the press following a team training session at the Supersport Park Cricket Stadium in Centurion, ahead of a four match Test series against England starting on December 26.
Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP

Centurion: South Africa will seek a happy end to what has been a miserable year for the country's cricket team when they play England in the first match of a World Test Championship series, starting at SuperSport Park on Thursday.

They will be playing at a ground which has been a fortress for the hosts, where they have won 19 of 24 Tests. England, though, have bucked the trend, being involved in four of the five matches at the ground which have not ended in victory for South Africa - a win, albeit in contrived circumstances, and three draws.

Only once have South Africa come out on top against their oldest foes at Centurion, on England's previous tour four years when Kagiso Rabada, then aged 20, had match figures of 13 for 144 in what was a dead rubber game, with England having already won the series.

It is not only at Centurion where England have enjoyed success in South Africa. Cheered on by large groups of travelling supporters, they won series in 2004/05 and 2015/16 and shared the honours in 2009/10.

South Africa have not vanquished England at home since 1999/2000, when they had already secured the series before Hansie Cronje persuaded Nasser Hussain to seek a one-innings result after three full days had been lost to rain. It was later revealed that Cronje, who was eventually banned after a corruption scandal, had been in contact with a bookmaker.

South African cricket has been in upheaval after a turbulent year during which the Proteas lost a home Test series against Sri Lanka - the first team other than England and Australia to win in South Africa - before enduring a miserable Cricket World Cup.

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