T20 series preview: South Africa v England
England have been in South Africa for two months now, and with two T20s to be played this weekend, you'd probably forgive both teams if they take it easy, but they cannot, in light of the World Twenty20 on the horizon.
These two matches are important preparation games for both sides, to see who their best players will be come India in March, and fatigue and homesickness can play no part for these professionals.
The sides last faced each other in a T20 two years ago, at the World T20 event in Bangladesh, and the Proteas won that game by a thrilling three runs. Overall, honours are fairly even, with the Proteas winning five, England three, and two no results.
The Proteas won the recent ODI series, coming from two nil down to win three two. As such, the momentum is firmly with the hosts, especially as the first game on Friday will be played in Cape Town, where SA won the fifth ODI.
Faf du Plessis takes over the captaincy, making it three leaders for the hosts during this tour, leaving AB de Villiers to focus on his batting. This is bad news for England, given how well he played in the final ODI, saving the game almost on his own.
The middle order remains a question for the hosts, as they struggle to find room for David Miller AND Rilee Rossouw AND JP Duminy AND Farhaan Behardien. Miller missed out in the ODIs. but could find game time here, as his T20 experience in India is more than most, thanks to his IPL exploits.
England will look to opener Alex Hales for the early runs, after he ended the ODI series as the top run scorer. He bagged four half tons and a century in those five games, earning him the Man of the Series award. Can he add to the lone T20 ton to his, and indeed England's, name?
Both sides have a conundrum at the top though, with Hales set to partner either Jason Roy, who had a poor ODI series, or James Vince. The Proteas, meanwhile, must decide of De Villiers or Amla will partner Quinton de Kock.
As it's T20 cricket, you'd not want to be a bowler. South Africa will look to young Kagiso Rabada for the wickets, as he's been their best paceman for most of the tour. Adil Rashid, on the back of his sterling Big Bash League, will be the key bowler for England.
Last five head-to-head results
2014 WT20: South Africa won by three runs in Chittagong
2012 Third T20: England won by 28 runs in Birmingham
2012 Second T20: No result in Manchester
2012 First T20: South Africa won by seven wickets in Durham
2010 WT20: England won by 39 runs in Barbados
South Africa: Faf du Plessis, Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese
England: Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, James Vince, David Willey, Chris Woakes
1st T20: 19 February in Cape Town
2nd T20: 21 February in Johannesburg
Tom Westley proud after Essex come through challenging time to win another title
The Chelmsford side have dominated county cricket recently.
Essex continue county cricket domination with Bob Willis Trophy success
The Chelmsford side now have a third title in four years.
Nat Sciver hoping her England heroics put cricket on the map for young females
England’s T20 against West Indies took centre stage on Saturday afternoon.
Essex still have the advantage heading into final day despite Tom Lammonby ton
Essex will win the competition if the match is drawn after surpassing Somerset’s first-innings score.
Tom Lammonby leads Somerset charge after Essex earn first-innings lead at Lord’s
Lammonby was 94 not out at tea with Somerset on 159 for two – an advantage of 123 – in the Bob Willis Trophy final.
Essex have the edge in Bob Willis Trophy final clash against Somerset
The Chelmsford-based team made the best score in their first innings at Lord’s.
Sir Alastair Cook’s brilliant 172 drags Essex towards Somerset total at Lord’s
The rest of Cook’s team-mates provided 99 further runs to Essex’s total, with six wickets down.
Dubai lighting gives Indian Premier League fielders a challenge
Shreyas Iyer was prepared to give his fielders some leeway after the Delhi Capitals spilt catches but MS Dhoni was having none of it.
Dhoni concedes that CSK have got their balance wrong
Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni says the team have missed Ambati Rayudu and haven’t got the balance of their XI correct.