T20I series preview: England v SA

England will again contemplate life without Kevin Pietersen, while South Africa have the number one ranking in Tweny20 International cricket to justify.

<b>Brief Overview</b><br>Coming off a two-all ODI series draw, it is safe to say that the sides are going into the T20I matches fairly even, though South Africa are statistically better as the number one-ranked Twnety20 side.

If the one-dayers are anything to go by, we have a lot of cheap wickets to look forward to, and one or two swashbuckling innings that carry whichever side over the line.

England pride themselves on being a superb T20 side, and having won four out of their past five series, and the 2010 World Twenty20, this is a correct emotion.

But, they are without Kevin Pietersen now, and will need their middle order to fire strongly against a good Proteas bowling attack. With the two batsmen that did the best against South Africa recently not in the side (Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott), youngsters like Jonny Bairstow will be eager to step into the breach.

The Proteas have Jacques Kallis back after his rest during the ODIs, when they missed his experience in all areas, and this will boost their confidence and give some balance to their top order.

The last time these two sides met at Chester-le-Street, where the first game will be played, it was rained off and no T20I has been played there since, so we have no idea how it will pan out.

The other two games will be played at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, and both sides are using this series to make sure they have their strategies for the World Twenty20 sorted out before flying to Sri Lanka later in the month.

<b>Recent Form</b><br>South Africa haven't played a T20I since March, when they beat India by 11 runs in Johannesburg. The Proteas have played only four T20s this whole year, not counting the abject unofficial series in Zimbabwe, there they lost twice to the Zimbabweans in one week and to Bangladesh too.

England, meanwhile, played against the West Indies in June, winning by seven wickets, and have not lost a series since early 2011, when they were defeated by Sri Lanka. Stuart Broad's side is a well-oiled machine, though some of their main players are either not around or in poor form.

<b>Dangermen</b><br>England have the world's number one T20 batsman in Eoin Morgan, and while his ODI series against the Proteas wasn't the best, he's still got that match-winning x–dactor England need without Pietersen to call on.

South Africa have Hashim Amla, who is having the tour of his life in England and there's no reason why that can't continue into the T20s. He scored a century and another 97 not out in the ODIs, and has had the measure of all the England bowlers all season.

<b>Benchwarmers</b><br>England played a T20 as recently as June, and that side had no place for Michael Lumb, Danny Briggs or Tim Bresnan. One can't imagine that changing too much now, though, as Alex Hales opened the batting and scored 99 then and should keep his place.

If the Proteas go on current form, Faf du Plessis won't get a game, even though he is an excellent fielder. His form with the bat doesn't warrant it. Justin Ontong will also continue to carry the drinks.

<b>Combination Conundrum</b><br>Ravi Bopara's form since his return from a 'personal reasons' break has been poor with the bat, scoring two ducks and 22 runs in four ODI innings. Luke Wright, on the other hand, does a similar job and has been in good nick for Sussex, scoring two centuries in a row in the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, fast bowler James Anderson has been brought into the side in the place of Steve Finn, who has a back injury, and while he hasn't played a T20 since 2009, he could get a run alongside Jade Dernbach. Bresnan has had a poor summer, but could get ahead of Anderson as he's a better batsman, but we won't hold out breath on that.

The Proteas' top order should be fairly simple to call, with Graeme Smith not in the side and Kallis back in action. Richard Levi will look to show he's not a one-hit wonder, while Albie Morkel will probably get in ahead of his brother Morne as he's a proper all-rounder.

Johan Botha, formerly the skipper of this side, is ranked third on the T20 bowling lists, but Robin Peterson was the top wicket-taker in the ODI series, so if they go with two spinners then it could be Lonwabo Tsotsobe who gets left out.

<b>Last Three Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2010: WT20, Group E: England won by 39 runs in Bridgetown<br>2009: Second T20I: South Africa won by 84 runs in Centurion<br>2009: First T20I: England won by one run in Johannesburg

<b>Prediction</b><br>We're going on a series draw, with the second game rained out in Manchester. But, gun to our heads, we'll give it to England two-one, purely because they've played more games this year.

Online betting firm <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Sky Bet</b></a> have England at 11/10 to win the series, and South Africa at 8/11. Visit Sky Bet for the latest <a href='http://www.skybet.com/betting/cricket/c30.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>cricket betting</b></a>.

<b>Probable Starting XIs</b><br><i>England:</i> Craig Kieswetter (wicketkeeper), Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Luke Wright, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad (captain), Jade Dernbach, James Anderson.

<i>South Africa:</i> Richard Levi, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (captain, wicketkeeper), Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: 8 September: Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street<br>Second T20I: 10 September: Old Trafford, Manchester<br> Third T20I: 12 September: Edgbaston, Birmingham