Eyes firmly on Test series vs England, Proteas set to take on Lions in warm-up

The Proteas will formally begin their preparations for the first Test against England next week when they play a four-day tour match against the Lions starting here later on Tuesday.

The players travelled from Bristol to Canterbury over the weekend to begin their red-ball preparations following a highly successful trip thus far.

They drew their rain-affected ODI series 1-1 against the hosts, who they then beat 2-1 in a three-match T20I fixture. That was followed by a 2-0 win over Ireland in their two-game T20I series.

Speaking ahead of the warm-up match, Test captain Dean Elgar said that having players join the squad that were part of those limited-overs games was a big positive for the team.

“They’ve got a lot of confidence coming into the set-up and it’s almost like a breath of fresh air with these guys coming,” he told the media on Monday. “Knowing they’ve done so well in the last month playing here, that’s great for us. It gives us good resources, many options and info we can use to best prepare going into the series.”

Many of the players in the Test squad also have strong experience playing county cricket in England. Elgar believes this too will benefit South Africa immensely.

“I think those options are brilliant for us,” he said. “I think we’re ticking the boxes in the right nature, having guys play country cricket here now and doing pretty well in those games they’ve played. It’s a massive asset for us going into this Test series just from an experience of the conditions point of view.”

Elgar also provided an injury update regarding Kagiso Rabada, who did not feature in their most recent white-ball matches due to an ankle problem.

“He (Rabada) has bowled since we started our camp in Canterbury. Obviously with regard to the workload, I think that’s the biggest concern whether he can carry himself through a Test match with the intensity and the volume of overs in a day’s play.

“For now he’s doing all the right things. I can’t say yes or no as yet, but there still are eight or nine days before the first Test and he’s high on our list to get him fit and giving us more options for the series.”

While Rabada is on the mend, the Proteas have been significantly bolstered by the return to the Test squad of Anrich Nortje. The paceman played the last of his 12 Tests against West Indies more than a year ago.

“It’s great to have Ana (Nortje) back,” Elgar added. “He’s gone amiss a bit with his injuries over the last year. The way he’s bowling in the nets and the way he’s bowled in the white-ball game now is big for us.

“He brings a whole different aspect of pace to the table and in the UK if you have those kinds of assets, you need to use them.”

The three-match Test series against England begins at Lord’s on August 17.

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