Your essential guide to the first ODI between England and the Proteas, which gets underway on Wednesday.
There’s no better schedule to prepare for a major tournament than a three-match ODI series against the hosts. The Proteas hold all of the aces going into this series. They came from 2-0 down to beat the English 3-2 early-last year, and with 14 wins from their last 16 ODIs, the Proteas are comfortably the No 1 side in the world. This counts for nothing, of course, at a major tournament, but what they can do is put in a string of good performances against the hosts-to-be, and give themselves some confidence and momentum ahead of their opener against Sri Lanka on 3 June. It’s not going to be easy against an English side that is growing with hunger and confidence with each series they play. While they perhaps lack a strike bowler, they bat all the way down to No 10. The Proteas’ selectors will be looking to nail down their preferred combinations by the time this series is completed, so expect this to be a final audition for the likes of Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo before the starting XI is set in stone.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Chris Morris: As I mentioned in my column, the Proteas go into a major tournament with a clear idea of who their No 7 is going to be for the first time in many years. Morris is that man, whose power hitting is up there with the best, and new-ball bowling and death bowling has improved immensely since returning from injury earlier this year. His 26 not out and 3-36 against Nottinghamshire is hopefully a sign of things to come, and will look to deliver on all fronts in this series as a confidence booster ahead of the Champions Trophy.
Ben Stokes: England’s all-rounder is arguably the best in the world, and he enhanced that notion by being named the MVP of the IPL, despite missing both of his side’s knockout matches. England build their team around Ben Stokes, and it’s not difficult to see why. An IPL tournament that saw him amass 316 runs at a strike rate 143 and 12 wickets at an economy 7.18, he repaid the faith of being the most expensive foreigner in IPL history. On top of being a more than capable seamer, he’ll be England’s No 5 with the bat, and he’s scored five fifties and a century in his last 11 ODIs for his country. He’s a phenomenal fielder too, so it’s going to be a near-impossible task to keep him quiet.
ODI FORM: WLWLW
I would expect the English to be fairly canny with their 1st XI now that the likes of Jason Roy, Stokes, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes have returned from the IPL. The top six picks itself, and Moeen Ali will play if they opt for a second spinner, but he might be overlooked for an extra pace bowler, with Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood and Jake Ball to choose from. Jonny Barstow’s form is difficult to ignore if they want an extra batsman instead.
The big question for the Proteas is whether Morne Morkel will get the nod ahead of an all-rounder. Their starting XI is likely to give us an idea of what their thought of process is ahead of the Champions Trophy. Should Morkel not be selected, then that leaves a No 8 spot open to Andile Phehlukwayo or Wayne Parnell.
ENGLAND: 1 Alex Hales, 2 Jason Roy, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (c), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Moeen Ali/Mark Wood, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 David Willey, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Liam Plunkett
SOUTH AFRICA: 1 Quinton de Kock, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (c), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel/Wayne Parnell, 11 Imran Tahir
– The last ODI series between the sides, in South Africa, saw the Proteas claim a 3-2 series win.
– In 56 matches played between the two sides, the Proteas have won 28, drawn one and lost 24.
– In clashes between the two sides, the top five run-scorers are all from SA. Jacques Kallis leads the way with 1 054 runs, Graeme Smith is second with 849, Amla is third with 811, while De Villiers (738) and Hansie Cronje (667) round off the top five.
– Amla holds the record for the highest score in the clash when he scored 150 in Southampton in 2012. He also holds the second highest average @ 54.06, with Kevin Pietersen edging past him with an average of 64.60. Amla also has six half-centuries, two behind Kallis in first, and two centuries, one behind Pietersen in first.
– Both de Villiers and Amla have 24 career centuries, the most by any South African in ODIs.
– Du Plessis needs 57 runs to become the fourth fastest South African to 4 000 runs, surpassing Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Kallis to the feat.
– Amla needs just 120 more runs to reach 7 000 ODI runs. He has 13 innings in which to get there ahead of India’s Virat Kohli and continue his record of being the fastest batsman to 2 000, 3 000, 4 000, 5 000 and 6 000 runs.
Amla on the ODI series: ‘This ODI series comes at a good time, it’s before the Champions Trophy and it will be great preparation for both teams. England are a good team, very well-balanced, so it will be a good challenge to hone down our skills so we can start the tournament on a good note.’
Russell Domingo on ODIs: ‘Every international game is important. The one-off series is important to give players game time. We will use those three games to give people the chance to get fit and ready for the Champions trophy.’
De Villiers on his IPL form and current: ‘I’m not worried, I hope you’re not worried,’ said De Villiers the media on Tuesday. I’ve a few good knocks, spread throughout the tournament. I started off with a good knock and then four-five matches after had a good knock again. I never got a hundred, but I always felt like I was in good form.’
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