England v South Africa, 3rd NatWest ODI, The Oval August 30, 2012

South Africa aim to back up top billing


Match facts

August 31, The Oval
Start time 1300 (1200 GMT)

Big Picture

South Africa are tempted to smirk at England's captaincy predicament, with Andrew Strauss' resignation after the defeat in the Test series still fresh in the mind, and gossip sounding about how much damage Kevin Pietersen's stand-off with the powers-that-be is causing English cricket. The England dressing room was a sad place in Southampton when Strauss stood down and if the opposition are not at their best it all helps South Africa implant their status as the best side in world cricket.

Delve too deeply, however, and before too long they will have issues of their own. Nobody is sure quite how long Graeme Smith will want to continue as Test captain and whether South Africa's rise to No. 1 in the Test rankings has silenced for the time being his occasional musings that he would like to finish his international career as a respected senior player with no leadership responsibilities.

The odds are that Smith is a leader in Test cricket until the day he retires, but that all puts the spotlight on his replacement in the one-day side, AB de Villiers. He has recently taken on the triple role of batsman, wicketkeeper and captain in one-day cricket, but surely to do that at Test level, after Mark Boucher's tragic accident, would be unthinkable. Comparisons with MS Dhoni, who fulfils all three roles but bats at No. 7, are not entirely valid.

This is de Villiers' third series in charge and in Southampton it all went swimmingly. Already he seems to be confirmed to keep wicket in the Test series in Australia before the New Year. Ranked No. 1 in all three formats or not, those youthful looks could soon be coming under pressure.

Form guide

(Most recent first, completed matches)
South Africa WWWWL
England LWWWW

Players to watch ...

Ravi Bopara's place seems assured in England's top six because of his ability to share a bowling spot with Samit Patel so that makes it hard to include the new kid on the block, Jonny Bairstow. One way to balance things up would be for England to play five specialist bowlers. The lack of Graeme Swann at No. 9 - he is rested for the last three ODIs - as a dangerous tail-ender makes this less likely, if not out of the question.

Robin Peterson, once forced into a stock bowler's role, now regards himself as South Africa's attack dog in one-day cricket. When he conceded runs, captains and coaches used to question his ability. Then two years ago, he was given more licence to attack, finished the World Cup as South Africa's leading wicket-taker and is now established in the side.

Pitch and conditions

It has rained in England seemingly since time began. It is not going to be quick.

Team news

Swann's withdrawal from the rest of the series means a probable return for James Tredwell, while Chris Woakes could oust Tim Bresnan after the latter's expensive showing at West End.

England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Ian Bell, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ravi Bopara, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 7 Samit Patel, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 James Tredwell, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Finn.

South Africa have not taken their media commitments very seriously since the end of their victorious Test series. They were an hour late for the media conference for The Oval by which time pretty much everyone had lost interest so it is hard to know what they will do. Albie Morkel is ruled out, though Dale Steyn could be closer to a return.

South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 JP Duminy, 4 Dean Elgar, 5 AB de Villiers (capt, wk), 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Ryan McLaren, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Stats and trivia

  • England's appointment of Alastair Cook as Test captain in succession to Andrew Strauss ends their unique reliance on different captains for all three formats of the game.

  • Paul Collingwood first suspected that Strauss was planning to retire when he told him he had bought a dog.

  • South Africa last won an ODI at The Oval against England in 1999.


"I jagged one down to him, he ducked under it and fell over. I remember the coach shouting from the back of the net, 'You just got put on your arse by a 14-year-old!'"
Steven Finn, the England fast bowler, recalls the first time he encountered outgoing Test captain Andrew Strauss

"I like to take wickets instead of containing people. It's probably the way one-day cricket has gone these days: the only way to control the run rate is by taking wickets all the time."
Robin Petersen expresses delight over South Africa's greater willingness to allow their spin bowlers to be more than just run-savers

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nicholas on August 31, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    Ouch David, bad mood today? Where's Andrew? "AB de Villiers: captain, wicketkeeper and key batsman in the world's No. 1 ODI side..." and according to the photo there, a keen rugby player too!

  • Jake on August 31, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    Careful with your tragic accidents. Maynard's was a tragic accident, Boucher's a sad one.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    Even bad journalists sometimes hear things, see things, know things? How do you think the text messages were leaked in the first place? Accidentally? As someone with a media studies background, Dave, you should know that only too well. But so many attitudes are clouded with nationalism. Quite why this reference has caused so much irritation is mind-boggling. Clearly smirking is a bigger sin than I thought.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    I totally agree with Dave, Scarlett et al regarding the quality of this piece of codswallop dressed up as journalism. How Mr Hopps arrives at his conclusions that South Africa will have captaincy "issues" is beyond me. Yes, Smith will probably stand down in the next two years and a replacement will have to be found. This is no surpise and is certainly not an issue as one of two men (Hashim Amla or AB) are being touted as more than capable replacements. AB won't keep forever. Simple as that.

    And the jibe about the Proteas not sticking to their press engagements since becoming the world No 1 ranked nation in all formats smacks of sour grapes. They're in demand David. Over the years this team as developed a reputation of utter professionalism, both on and off the pitch, and to suggest that one late press conference is an indiaction that they couldn't care less about the media is typical British tabloid style sensational reporting. "Beat them in the press if we can't do it on the field"

  • Jarrod on August 31, 2012, 10:58 GMT

    I think it's a statement of the bleeding obvious OF COURSE it hurts when great captains step down, just as its a loss when a great bowler or batsman retires! AB is not a great captain - but remember, one day he might be. That is the one of the joys of the game :)

  • Chris on August 31, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    @David Hopps - I agree with other reader's comments. Accusing SA of smirking is a low blow. I also went onto their websites and couldn't find any negative stories or comments. Most of them are praising Strauss even Smith said "Just wanna congratulate Andrew Strauss on a great career as captain and player for England!"

  • Francois on August 31, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Again England is gonna play their kak team. Don't think Bopara is that good

  • ds on August 31, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    Snatching of the number one position from england seems to have become south africas hobby these days.

  • Dummy4 on August 31, 2012, 10:37 GMT

    Sometimes are desperate to fill space with copy.Are you a shrink/mind reader, David? Write facts , not garbage!

  • Venkat on August 31, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    On the smirking comment, the way the way the author dismissed it in his reply ("Well there has been, it is a simple fact") just leaves a bad taste. It further cements the notion that this report was written with negative intent. Though it is an opinion, this is a report not an opinion column.

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