After an eventful test action which saw a series defeat for the Proteas and their premier fast bowler, Vernon Philander bid adieu to cricket, it is time for some white-ball action between the hosts South Africa and the reigning ODI champions England.
Quinton de Kock will take charge of his first series in the format after being appointed South Africa’s captain on January 21. His squad includes neither Faf du Plessis nor Kagiso Rabada, who have been rested. He also won’t have Anrich Nortje, Chris Morris or Dale Steyn. He will, however, have Lungi Ngidi, back from his umpteenth unfortunate injury (a hamstring one this time) and exciting talents like opener Janneman Malan, wicketkeeper-batsman Kyle Verreynne and fast bowler Lutho Sipamla.
England haven’t played an ODI since July 14 last year, when they managed to be crowned World Cup champions despite neither them nor New Zealand winning the final at Lord’s. England’s only players to cross fifty in that match, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, are missing from the equation for this series.
They will, however, be back for the T20 rubber. That’s what white-ball cricket is all about this year with, semantically, the inaugural T20 World Cup (previously the World T20) set for Australia in October and November. And that’s where the global game’s short-format focus will stay for at least another year: the ICC have canned the Champions Trophy, so another T20 World Cup will be played in 2021.
Even so, decent performances in the ODIs could be banked as credits towards securing places in T20 squads. Verreynne, for example, has ridden a wave of regional support (playing for the Cape Cobras) into South Africa’s squad. Should he prove the hype to be more than home-town hoariness, he would be significantly closer to playing in his first major senior tournament.
Jonny Bairstow faces a different challenge. Having been a spectator since he made one and nine in the first Test at Centurion, he needs to remind the people who matter, why he was picked. It won’t help Bairstow’s cause that he played in the only Test England lost on this tour, but it won’t hurt that he scored a century in a one-day tour match in Paarl on Saturday.
Their far-too-often shambolic showing in the Tests has heaped pressure on the South Africans, whose supporters will gladly accept success in the ODIs as the poor person’s salve for their wounded pride; so they will be heartened by the fact that South Africa have won all five of the games in the format they have played against England at Newlands. Alex Hales, the only player to have scored a century for England at the ground, also isn’t in their squad. Neither are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, their most successful bowlers in Cape Town.
Twenty totals higher than England’s Newlands best of 246/8 have been compiled in the 42 ODIs played there. They feature at joint-fourth on the list of lowest totals at the ground, having been shot out for 107 in 34.2 overs by Zimbabwe in January 2000 to earn South Africa’s northern neighbours victory by 104 runs.
That was one of the five defeats England have suffered batting second in day-nighters at Newlands. It is an accepted truth that trying to score runs effectively under lights in Cape Town is significantly more difficult than making hay while the sun shines.
However, given the trough South Africa stumbled into during the Test series, factors like that aren’t going to matter. Bigger issues will parse the teams: Things like whether the South Africans have remembered how to play cricket of any sort since their 1-3 series drubbing was sealed at the Wanderers last Monday; and whether England remembers what ODI cricket is, considering they have played a dozen Tests and five T20s in the almost six months since the World Cup final.
“It’s always nice to not play against Ben Stokes, but they’ve still got some quality players. A lot of them are still World Cup winners and were part of that squad, and they’ve also got some exciting young players.” – Quinton de Kock talks about his opponents.
“Before the next [50-over] World Cup, we have two T20 World Cups that we are eyeing. This series against South Africa will allow us to build a broader squad so that in three or four years’ time, we have a substantial group to select from, just like we did before this past World Cup.” – Eoin Morgan focuses on the bigger picture.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock(w/c), Reeza Hendricks, JJ Smuts, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Lungi Ngidi, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi, Janneman Malan, Sisanda Magala, Lutho Sipamla, Kyle Verreynne
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow(w), Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Joe Denly, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Matthew Parkinson, Dawid Malan, Saqib Mahmood, Tom Banton
When: February 4, 4:30 PM IST, 1:00 PM Local
Where: Newlands, Cape Town
Broadcast: The match will be broadcasted LIVE and Exclusive on Sony Six and Sony Six HD. The stream will also be broadcasted on SonyLIV.