Your essential guide to the Proteas’ three-match T20 series against England, which kicks off in Southampton on Wednesday.
This is a series dedicated to the fringe players. With no less than five debutants awaiting an England cap, and the reemergence of the likes of JJ Smuts, Reeza Hendricks, Mangaliso Mosehle and Dane Paterson, this is the chance for some new faces to step up in the wake of failed Champions Trophy campaigns.
The public can be forgiven for not getting psyched up for this. It’s a series that, for reasons only the ICC know, has been caught in between a major tournament and a significant Test series. Not even the impetus of an improved ranking will get the South Africans in front of their TV screens for this one, for the Proteas were cruelly reminded just how insignificant rankings can be.
Alas, it’s time for a bit of fun. With little riding on this, perhaps we’ll see the floodgates open up, and perhaps the best way to get over a disappointing global event is a swift return to international cricket. With the three matches played in the space of five days, let’s just enjoy a bit of calypso cricket while it lasts.
KEEP AN EYE ON
JJ Smuts gets another shot at international cricket, and rightly so. With a high score of 19 from the three matches he played against Sri Lanka, it wasn’t the most blistering of starts, but he was in devastating form in the T20 Challenge and the One Day Cup, scoring 371 runs at an average of 41.22 and 581 runs at an average of 52.81 respectively. He offers an all-round option with his slow left arm as well. If he can get going, he’s got a great chance to show what he’s capable of.
Mason Crane’s selection seems to be a given according to one journalist who interviewed De Villiers after their training session on Tuesday, and England will hope to use him as a secret weapon, of which De Villiers admitted his side hadn’t made plans for. The 20-year-old earned a surprise contract in the Sheffield Shield in Australia, which lifted the England selectors off their feet. He’s only played five T20s in his career and he went wicketless in Hampshire’s four-day match against SA A. This could go either way.
The South Africans are expected to have a similar setup to the players who featured in the 2-1 loss to Sri Lanka earlier in the year. The top six just about picks itself, but it will be interesting to see if Morne Morkel features in his first T20I for almost two years.
England have up to five debutants, with young leg-spinner Mason Crane’s inclusion confirmed by the English media on Tuesday. The English-born, but former Paarl Boys’ student, Dawid Malan is expected to form part of the top order and might well push one of Alex Hales or Jason Roy out of the side, while Liam Livingstone is also expected to be tested at some point in the series, if not in the opener.
ENGLAND 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Liam Dawson, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Mason Crane
PROTEAS 1 JJ Smuts, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 AB de Villiers, 4 David Miller, 5 Farhaan Behardien, 6 Mangaliso Mosehle, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Dwaine Pretorius, 9 Andile Phehlukwayo, 10 Dane Paterson/Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
- The Proteas boast a 7-4 record over England in T20s, but the English won the last encounter in a thrilling two-wicket victory in group stages of the World T20 in Mumbai last year.
- Imran Tahir was the top wicket-taker in the series they won 2-0 at the beginning of last year in SA, with five wickets from two matches at an average of 9.20.
- England could play up to as many as five debutants in the 1st T20, with Dawid Malan, Liam Livingstone, Mason Crane, Tom Curran and Craig Overton all awaiting their first caps.
AB de Villiers on the eve of the series:
‘After going through that phase and hearing some of the criticism, these three matches gives me the opportunity as a player and as a captain to start again.’
‘I Just want to play; I feel like a youngster starting my career again. I’m really full of energy, I love playing, and I just want to score runs again.’
‘I know I’m a good player and I know the team can still achieve amazing things. I feel like I’m playing really well. In the last game it felt like I was going to get 200 off five balls but I was run out.’
‘It’s never been about managing my workload, it’s about prioritising certain things I want to achieve. I’ve never picked and chosen, it’s about prioritising myself for the 2019 World Cup, that’s my goal.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images