Durban: South Africa captain Hashim Amla believes England will be considerably weakened by the absence of their pace-bowling talisman Jimmy Anderson, who was ruled out of the Boxing Day Test on Thursday due to a calf strain.
"Obviously Jimmy Anderson is a big bowler for them. It`s a big blow for England. He`s been one of the better bowlers in the world for a few years," Amla told reporters, two days ahead of the series opener.
Amla also played down England`s form in their warm-up matches ahead of the four-test series, saying he was not reading anything into the tourists` positive performances.
England`s top six batsmen have all scored in excess of 50 runs and despite completing a solid innings and 91 run win over a strong South Africa A team on Monday, Amla was not overly impressed.
"Both teams have come from losing previous tours. I think both teams are looking to start a resurgence again," he said.
"The fact that they beat South Africa A, for me, I wouldn`t place too much emphasis on it. We know that test cricket is the ultimate and you can`t replicate the pressures of test cricket," he added.
Amla`s primary concern is his own team, who are coming off a one-sided series defeat in India last month that raised a number of question marks over their form.
"In international cricket there is always somebody under pressure so it`s not a new thing that we are suddenly under pressure, it`s just how it is in international cricket.
"Every game has a lot of consequences to it. At the start of this test series, all it takes is one good batting day to start a resurgence for our test team. The guys are used to it and are able to handle the pressure," Amla said.
South Africa have yet to decide whether to field a four-man attack with two part-time spin options or choose a specialist spinner for what is expected to be a bouncy surface. Amla said he preferred to pick a spinner but the decision was still to be made.
"If the wicket looks like it is going to turn then I think playing a spinner comes into play. I think it gives you good balance, especially in the last innings when there is a bit of turn and it also gives the seam bowlers a bit of rest," he said.
"It seems to have turned a bit here the last few times we have played here towards the latter part of the game, so there is always merit in playing a spinner."