JON CARDINELLI highlights the five big talking points ahead of the ODI series between South Africa and England.
PROTEAS ARE DESPERATE FOR SUCCESS
Did South Africa’s win in the fourth and final Test really mean anything? England were dominant in the first three Tests, and enjoyed an unassailable 2-0 lead going into the final match. The visitors lacked motivation, and were well beaten by the hosts. With that result, South Africa ended a nine-match winless streak in the five-day format.
However, it’s been a long time since the Proteas won any sort of international series. On 25 October 2015, South Africa beat India in the final ODI to clinch the series 3-2. Since then, they’ve lost a Test series to India in India, and a Test series to England at home.
The team is under pressure, as is head coach Russell Domingo. The Test side has struggled recently, but so too has the ODI side. Indeed, less than a year ago, the team battled their way through the World Cup preliminariies and were eventually beaten by New Zealand in the semi-final.
AB NEEDS TO FIRE
How often is AB de Villiers at the centre of a South African ODI success? The Proteas captain scored three centuries in the five-game series against India last year, and was named Man of the Series. Since then, he has struggled with the bat, and ultimately the batting side as a collective has struggled. The Proteas will hope that De Villiers finds form after some indifferent showings in the Test series against England.
REST VS REQUIREMENT
South Africa are in trouble on the bowling front. The injured duo of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander will not be available for the series. Kyle Abbott (hamstring niggle) will miss at least one game. It will be left to Morné Morkel and the younger bowlers to carry South Africa’s hopes.
Domingo believes that the likes of Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will need a break at some point. Both were used extensively over the course of the recent Test series. They need to be managed carefully to ensure they don’t succumb to fatigue-induced injuries.
But with so few experienced options available, Morkel and Rabada may need to soldier on. South Africa need to bounce back after a three-month period of disappointment. If the Proteas win the first three games and take an unassailable lead in the series, there may be an opportunity for Morkel and Rabada to rest. However, one gets the feeling that this series will go to the wire, and that South Africa may need these players in tow if they hope to finish on the right side of the result.
BUTTLER MAY GO BIG
England wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler will be determined to make his mark in the coming ODIs. Jonny Bairstow made the most of his opportunities in the recent Test series, and is the favourite in the five-day format. In the limited-overs formats, however, Buttler is still a key player.
South Africa should be wary of the big-hitting batsman. Buttler will be looking to build some form ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 next month. No doubt he will be looking to impress a few Indian Premier League sides ahead of the auction this weekend. The first ODI in Bloemfontein will provide him with an opportunity to do so.
The Proteas need to get back to winning ways in the short term. They also need to start putting things in place ahead of their World Twenty20 campaign in India.
Several players will be looking to find some form in the lead-up to that tournament. Faf du Plessis had an awful Test series against England. JP Duminy battled to make any meaningful contributions. Both are likely to travel to the global event next month, and so it’s vital that they get some runs against England in the coming ODI series, and the T20s thereafter.