England not sure of best team, says skipper Alastair Cook
Cook says there are a lot of things up for grabs.
England captain Alastair Cook said on Saturday he expected strong competition for places as his team prepares for a four-Test series against South Africa.
"We don`t know our best XI quite yet," said Cook at the team`s first press conference following their arrival in South Africa on Friday.
The team travelled directly to Potchefstroom, just over an hour`s drive away, to prepare for their first match, a three-day encounter against a South African invitation side starting on Tuesday.
They will meet South Africa A in a second three-day game in Pietermaritzburg from December 20 before the first Test starts in Durban on December 26.
"There are a lot of things up for grabs," said Cook.
"There are players who can make a name for themselves. We`re trying to find our best combination, people who can nail down their place in the side.
"There`s a lot to play for internally so I expect our nets in the next few days will be fairly intense."
Coach Trevor Bayliss said England did not attach great significance to South Africa`s 3-0 defeat in a Test series in India recently.
"I don`t think that really matters," he said. "Everyone knows it`s very hard to win away from home.
"We`re playing the best team (in the world rankings) and they`re playing at home. We`re under no illusions that it`s going to be difficult."
Bayliss said the two three-day matches would be an important guide to selection but dropped a strong hint that Alex Hales, who has previously only been capped in limited overs matches, was a front-runner to be Cook`s opening batting partner.
"He has been with the squad for a while and deserves an opportunity to make that spot his own," said Bayliss.
That would leave Nick Compton and Gary Ballance to fight out the number three position.
"I`ve got an idea who should play but we`ve got two very important practice matches before the first Test which could go a long way to finalising that position."
Bayliss also said Jonny Bairstow was the leading contender to keep wicket in the Tests. "He`s the incumbent and he hasn`t done a lot wrong. I envisage he will be starting."