ODI series preview: England v South Africa
This series has taken on the air of a Champions Trophy tune-up for both the English and the Proteas who are among the early favourites for the tournament.
One thing has to change for at least one of these outfits with both brimming with confidence at the present moment. Somebody will be taken down a peg.
England have enjoyed an ODI revival built on a new aggressive playing style with no team posting 400 scores more often since the end of the 2015 World Cup.
South Africa however will pose a different threat than England’s recent opponents on home soil Sri Lanka and Pakistan coming off a season where they registered a clean sweep of ODI series wins including a win in New Zealand and a whitewash over Australia.
Unlike subcontinental teams the Proteas are accustomed to seam-friendly conditions and like England boast an aggressive high-quality top order.
Alex Hales and Jason Roy up top for England have to try to outdo the Proteas fire and ice pairing of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla.
Joe Root may not have the 360 degree hitting down just yet but you wouldn’t readily put money on him being outdone by AB de Villiers who is yet to hit his straps since returning from injury against Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Faf du Plessis and Eoin Morgan are often men who swoop in and rescue their sides when they find themselves in trouble.
Potent left-handers follow for both teams in the shape of David Miller and England’s on fire allrounder Ben Stokes fresh off a seering hot IPL that saw him named the most valuable player.
Bowling and the lower-order could be the difference between the two sides with South Africa’s allrounder brigade of Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wayne Parnell supplementing specialist bowlers Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir with no room for all to play in the same XI.
The rise to prominence of veteran Tahir is likely to mean that South Africa won’t play without a spinner no matter the conditions and they can also call on uncapped left-arm orthodox exponent Keshav Maharaj who has impressed in the longest format of the game.
England have the flexibility afforded them by the batting ability of Stokes and Moeen Ali who can bat higher than any of the South African allrounders unless the Proteas repeat the experiment of opening with Parnell.
England’s specialist bowlers and lower order allrounders have a decent balance with Adil Rashid’s leg-spin and David Willey’s left-arm seam offering something different to the right-arm quicks Chris Woakes, Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood.
Root has become the bedrock of the England order and while his wicket won’t normally trigger widespread panic he is England’s most likely to succeed.
Woakes has emerged from the shadow of Stokes to prove that he is an altogether different type of player and bowler and has been consistently among England’s top performers with the ball generating pace and movement even in tough conditions.
De Kock firing on all cylinders is something England don’t want to find themselves on the wrong end of the wicketkeeper batsman has a taste for big hundreds and he gets them in a a hurry.
He may be young but Rabada has emerged as the de facto leader of the Proteas pack in the absence of regular quicks Dale Steyn (injury) and Kyle Abbott (Kolpak) and has performed the role with aplomb. He has spent time in England before with a spell at Kent last season sure to help him adjust quickly.
ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
SOUTH AFRICA: AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir.
Wed May 24 1st ODI – England v South Africa Headingley, Leeds D/N 14:00 local time
Sat May 27 2nd ODI – England v South Africa The Rose Bowl, Southampton 11:00 local time
Mon May 29 3rd ODI – England v South Africa Lord’s, London 11:00 local time
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