England v South Africa, 1st NatWest ODI, Cardiff August 23, 2012

Another No.1 battle commences

Match Facts

August 24, Cardiff
Start time 10.15am (0915GMT)

The Big Picture

International cricket does not stand still. Four days after the Test mace changed hands the contest now turns to 50-over cricket and, again, the top prize is on offer. England are now ranked No. 1 in ODIs, but will lose that ranking after just one match if they are defeated in this opening game in Cardiff. Top in any format is like a hot potato at the moment.

England have been on a fantastic run in one-dayers this year, beginning with a 4-0 whitewash against Pakistan before beating West Indies 2-0 and another 4-0 against Australia. Alastair Cook is moulding the side under his style, and further pushing his claim to be England's Test captain sooner rather than later, and his leadership is gaining in confidence all the time.

As a batsman, too, he is leading from the front which is where Andrew Strauss has struggled in Tests. Back-to-back hundreds against Pakistan were followed by another against West Indies and useful contributions elsewhere. Ian Bell, meanwhile, has proven a more-than-able replacement for Kevin Pietersen.

It is often quite hard to know how the post-Test series one-dayers will develop, especially when one side, in this case South Africa, have achieved something so momentous. The Test players would have dearly liked more time to soak in their success and it would be understandable if minds were elsewhere. However, AB de Villiers, who captains the limited-overs team, will be keen that his squad sees this as a new challenge.

Form guide

(Most recent first, completed matches)

England WWWWW
South Africa WWWLL

Watch out for...

Matt Prior could not have done much more to stake his claim for a limited-overs recall with his recent performances for England and Sussex but, for now, Craig Kieswetter retains his place as the gloveman and middle-order batsman. Kieswetter has done nothing wrong since the one-dayers against Australia, so it would have been mighty tough to drop him, and he scored a hundred for England Lions against Australia A. But, despite a couple of handy innings, he is still to fully convince in his new role although his keeping is much more consistent.

He spent quite a bit of the Test series prowling the covers but now we will get a chance to see all the sides of Faf du Plessis. He is a dynamic cricketer, whether with the bat or in the field, while his rolling legspin can be a useful addition if de Villiers needs to fill in some overs. He had a successful IPL opening the batting, but will probably be used in the middle order in the longer format. Those who have watched him in county cricket for Lancashire will know how destructive he can be.

Team news

Ravi Bopara is back in the England set-up after his personal problems and is likely to retain the No. 4 slot after his successful series against Australia despite his lack of recent time in the middle. His bowling brings added value. Earlier in the summer Cook was keen to play frontline bowlers wherever possible, but the absence of Stuart Broad may lead to a rethink and a role for Samit Patel.

England (possible) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

Jacques Kallis has been rested for this series ahead of the World Twenty20, while there is no Vernon Philander in 50-over cricket, and a number of one-day specialists have been drafted into the squad, after preparing with South Africa A in Ireland, although the core group of players remains the same. Albie Morkel suffered a recurrence of his ankle injury against Gloucestershire although did bat later in the game.

South Africa (possible) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Dean Elgar, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Robin Petersen, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Pitch and conditions

Pitches in Cardiff tend to be on the slow side and can help the spinners, but the short straight boundaries also encourage big hitting as Virat Kohli and Jonny Bairstow showed last year. The weather forecast is not great, with the chance of some rain during the day.

Stats and trivia

  • In 2008, after South Africa won the Test series 2-1, England took the one-day leg of the tour 4-0. The final match, at Cardiff, was washed out after three overs.

  • If South Africa win this match they will become the first team to hold the No. 1 position in all three formats

  • Graeme Swann needs four wickets to reach 100 in ODIs

  • South Africa have not played an ODI since March 3 when they completed a 3-0 series win against New Zealand


"For me personally it's obviously a sad situation but as a side we need to put it to one side. We played some really good cricket at Lord's even though we didn't get the result; and to be fair he hasn't been around the one-day squad for a while."
Alastair Cook does not what to be distracted by the ongoing off-field issues

"We want to play attacking, good cricket. I'd like to think of us as a team that has done fairly well under pressure so when we are put under pressure this series we will be looking to attack that's for sure."
AB de Villiers says that South Africa will play bold cricket

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo