England's Andrew Strauss (left) and South Africa's Graeme Smith pose with the Test trophy at the Oval.

London – England won the toss and elected to bat in the first Test against South Africa at The Oval on Thursday, as the hosts seek to retain their position at the top of the world rankings.

“The wicket looks surprisingly dry given the amount of rain we have had lately,” England captain Andrew Strauss said at the coin flip.

England recalled their two leading fast bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad after they were rested for the third Test against West Indies last month, coming in for Steven Finn and the injured Graham Onions.

Also as expected, South Africa fielded AB de Villiers as wicketkeeper in place of the now retired Mark Boucher.

England have been No 1 in the rankings for a year, while South Africa dropped to third last week but can still go top by winning this three-match series.

England have won their last seven test series at home, while the Proteas are unbeaten in away series for six years.

The toss was delayed by 25 minutes because of a brief shower.

Record levels of rain have fallen in the UK between April and July, but brighter, drier weather is forecast for later in the match.


England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson.

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph, JP Duminy, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir. – Reuters