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England vs. South Africa: How can Joe Root's side turn the tables?

England vs. South Africa: How can Joe Root's side turn the tables?
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Changes to the batting order are likely but illness amongst the squad remains an issue.

England are licking their wounds after suffering a 107-run defeat in the first Test against South Africa in Centurion.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some key issues ahead of the second match of the series.

Do England finally have a clean bill of health?

Opener Dom Sibley is the latest player to be laid low
Opener Dom Sibley is the latest player to be laid low (Themba Hadebe/AP)

From day one of the tour the running theme of the trip has been illness in the camp. The week of warm-up matches were first to be affected, followed by the practice days in Centurion and finally the Test itself, which saw Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler all suffering various symptoms. It appears the problem has not yet ended, with opening batsman Dom Sibley laid low on Monday. The likes of Rory Burns, James Anderson and Sam Curran have stayed strong so far, but who knows for how long.

Will there be changes to the batting lineup?

England lost seven for 39 in the first innings at SuperSport Park, just the latest example of an underwhelming performance with the bat putting them in a hole. Ollie Pope only missed the series opener due to the bug and looks certain to come back into the side at number six, after an eye-catching century in the tour match against South Africa A. His stand-in, Jonny Bairstow, made just 10 runs in two innings on his return to the side and seems certain to be dropped again. The only other spare batsman on tour is Zak Crawley, whose best chance of a game would appear to be Sibley not being cleared by medics.

Could they play a spinner this time?

Dom Bess could play his first Test for 18 months if England elect to field a spinner at Newlands
Dom Bess could play his first Test for 18 months if England elect to field a spinner at Newlands (Nigel French/PA)

Having gone in with an all-seam attack for each of the last two Tests, England will give strong consideration to a slow-bowling specialist on a pitch that is expected to require more variety. Left-armer Jack Leach was selected as first-choice spinner but has suffered worst of all with the sickness, restricting him to just a couple of full net sessions since landing, while leg-spinner Matt Parkinson struggled in the warm-ups. All of which means Dom Bess, initially called up as cover but a better batsman and fielder than the other candidates, could find himself in contention for a third cap.

Is it time to split up the Anderson/Broad axis?

Will England call time on Stuart Broad and James Anderson's new-ball partnership?
Will England call time on Stuart Broad and James Anderson's new-ball partnership? (Nick Potts/PA)

The very idea of standing down one of the country's two most prolific bowlers of all time would once have been anathema, but now appears to be a live debate. Both James Anderson and Stuart Broad remain world-class seamers on their day, bringing a wealth of experience to everything they do, but at 37 and 33 respectively is it time to use one at a time rather than both together, as former captain Michael Vaughan once advised? It would be a big call, but with Jofra Archer going nowhere and Sam Curran impressive in the first Test the conversation will at least be broached.

What is South Africa's record in Cape Town?

South Africa have an impressive recent record in Cape Town
South Africa have an impressive recent record in Cape Town (Gareth Copley/PA)

Centurion is well known as a South African stronghold, which is part of the reason they kicked off the series there. The record is more mixed at the picturesque Newlands ground, with the Proteas winning only 26 of their 57 Tests in the shadow of Table Mountain. England have won nine and drawn six of their 20 visits but the most recent history favours the hosts. Since Ben Stokes scored a double century in a drawn match four years ago, South Africa have beaten Sri Lanka, India, Australia and Pakistan by handsome margins.

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Joe Root in action for England on December 2, 2019
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