South Africa were trounced 3-0 by India recently in their biggest setback since becoming the top-ranked Test team in 2012, while England were beaten 2-0 by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in their most recent series.
    
Both teams will relish a return to more familiar conditions after struggling on slow, spin-friendly pitches during their defeats.
    
The absence of leading bowler James Anderson because of a calf strain is a major blow to England at a ground where swing bowlers often prosper, while the return to action after injury of Dale Steyn is a boost for South Africa.
     
But England have reason for confidence after showing outstanding form in two warm-up games, while South Africa's batsmen, most of whom failed in India, were unable to
rediscover their best form while playing in four-day domestic matches, with only Temba Bavuma making a half-century.
     
AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis opted to rest ahead of the Tests. "We want to start well. After our performance in India which didn't go too well that will be important," said South Africa captain Hashim Amla.

 

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