England v South Africa, 3rd NatWest ODI, The Oval

South Africa aim to back up top billing

The Preview by David Hopps

August 30, 2012

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Match facts

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

AB de Villiers tries a different sport during warm-ups, The Oval, August 30, 2012
AB de Villiers: captain, wicketkeeper and key batsman in the world's No. 1 ODI side © PA Photos

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

RSS Feeds: David Hopps

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK 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!

Posted by Dr.Vindaloo on (August 31, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

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

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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"

Posted by JarrodHart 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 :)

Posted by hersheybar 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!"

Posted by wanatawu on (August 31, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

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

Posted by dsnagre on (August 31, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

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

Posted by   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!

Posted by AnotherCricketFan 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.

Posted by ankitagrawal011 on (August 31, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

no doubt,,,,,, southafrica is always better than any side in world cricket,,,,,,,bt sometimes needs more luck

Posted by nck483 on (August 31, 2012, 10:06 GMT)

England(ECB) thinks that Petersen = BELL or = bairstow? is it good to assume also? NO you people are making mistakes. Do not have a proper replacments for retiring players then on top of that this tamasha/natak/drama.

Posted by Thedoc1337 on (August 31, 2012, 9:48 GMT)

Could you point out where the smirking is evident? Most of the South African players have praised Strauss after his departure not smirked at it. Also what does that have to do with a odi which would not have featured Strauss ? Seems your grasping at straws to somehow validate your opinion.

Outplaying England in all three departments helped them win the test series and second O.D.I . Not smirking at England's inadequacies.

Could you focus on the game next time and not try and analyze the South Africans mindsets regarding things they wouldn't worry about on the eve on a O.D.I

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

Is this article about how SA retain their #1 Rankings or that they have captaincy issues of their own? - if it is the latter the title is misleading. With regards to the captaincy/wicket keeping situation, as someone mentioned previously, there is no immediate problem with the test captaincy. In the short term AB is filling in all three roles for the ODI team and Keeping wicket for the Test team. I suspect the SA staff don't feel that a tour to Aus is the place to bring in a new Wicket Keeper such as Tsolokile or Villas. I doubt AB Keeping in all formats is seen as a long term fix, especially in the Test matches.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (August 31, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

@David Hopps: I'm sure that it might be a talking point within the SA camp. However they have settled with AB de Villiers as captain and keeper in the limited overs formats. Whatever Graeme Smith's decision is with test captaincy, it has little bearing on the 3rd ODI of this series. I think that is the issue that people are having with the preview.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (August 31, 2012, 9:36 GMT)

Although I think the unsubstantiated snipes at SA 'smirking' are uncalled for, I appreciate Mr Hopps answering the comments here. Sometimes it helps to counter some of the more extreme comments and we appreciate hearing more of his point of view (even when I disagree, like in this article!)

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Don't understand what's has happened to Eng batsmen - Cook, Bell, Trott, Bopara, Morgan - All excellent ODI batsmen but just not clicking. One of them has to go for three figures score and others can play around him. Could it be Cook today ?

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Re: Many on the captaincy: I think you have to cut through the national pride (as understandable as it is) and look at things dispassionately. If you feel AB's taking on off all three roles - batsman, keeper and captain - is not a source of regular discussion and concern within the SA set-up, I think you are mistaken. It invariably is. The Alec Stewart debate was constant. SA have got to No 1 in all 3 formats by great professionalism as well as great players. That means planning ahead and this topic will be at the forefront of their minds. It seems to me to be an interesting contradiction that the side without the obvious captaincy issues actually did have a few of their own. It is not to somehow undermine SA to point out this out. I've also been accused by email of bias by suggesting there has been smirking in the SA camp at the England/KP debacle. Well there has been, it is a simple fact. It helped them win a Test series. It has nothing to do with nationalism.

Posted by vak1997 on (August 31, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

JP Duminy at no3? it's the place for AB to come and anchor the innings... duminy can finish things off...

Posted by Romanticstud on (August 31, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Keep Bopara in the English side ... throw in Bairstow too ... Woakes must go ... Bresnan must stay ... Kieswetter is not a good keeper ...

Posted by jmcilhinney on (August 31, 2012, 8:52 GMT)

@RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (August 31 2012, 04:11 AM GMT), I think that it's a bit unfair to say that Trott has pathetic technique. For a while it was only Trott's 50 average in ODIs that was making England's ODI performances look respectable. Now that they are improving a bit as a team and can realistically think about winning games consistently, they really need to look at scoring faster. Cook has reinvented himself as an ODI batsman and it's time for Trott to do the same. If he is unable to up his strike rate the way Cook has then I think it might be time to look at replacing him, especially if Pietersen does return to the fold. The England selectors are a conservative bunch though, so I'm not expecting to see Trott go any time soon.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 8:48 GMT)

Ah one of Englands finest writers I see. The same writers who harp on how unlucky England were....

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

Anyone else think this "reporter" has got the hump with South Africa for some reason?

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

I know it's a journo's "job" to try and create a story, even when one does not exist, but to say that there is any issue with the SA captaincy must surely be a stretch of any truth that might exist? And to question AB de Villiers' assumption to that role is another stretch. Have the English forgotten Alec Stewart, who not only was wickie, but also opened the batting while being captain. I believe he managed to overturn a 1-0 deficit to defeat SA 2-1 in his first series as captain. But I also assume that your journo nose has sniffed out the name of Thami Tsolekile? Maybe it was just a slow news day, but to mention Strauss, Pietersen and Smith's Test captaincy in a preview of an upcoming one day international feels a little lazy and tired to me.

Posted by DirkL on (August 31, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

@SurlyCynic, Albie is not being dropped, his ankle is not recovering as fast as was hoped. As a South African, I hope that David Hopps is right about the England XI. Bairstow is the one batsman in the squad apart from Bell that has taken the game to us, and Kieswetter seems to think "keeping" means making sure the batsman stays in.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

plz bring woakes in.....if he doesnt play i will not watch the match

Posted by Deez0 on (August 31, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

What captaincy issues does South Africa have, Mr Hopps?? The only issue of that nature is which English captain Graeme Smith will guillotine next. At least they now have a captain that was born in England for a change!

Posted by Starboomber on (August 31, 2012, 6:49 GMT)

England might win today's match, SA ODI squad is not strong as people think. Will not be surprised if we are 60 for 4....

Posted by the_blue_android on (August 31, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

Another thrashing on the cards!

Posted by tariq_piash on (August 31, 2012, 6:32 GMT)

This is the ODI#3300 :-)

Posted by ian45 on (August 31, 2012, 4:38 GMT)

Please tell us, what captaincy issues are you referring to , the last time i looked it was england who had the issues, and plenty of them and why are you bringing up the test captaincy when the test series is done and dusted, Graham has quite a numberof years and tours to go still, Concentrate on your own stuff england, we will worry about ours

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

2day eon morgan is going 2 place his innings 4 england nd "ll be man of 2days match

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (August 31, 2012, 4:11 GMT)

why is it being said that bairstow cant play becos bopara is already in the xi and is a decent bowler too. In fact bopara should always play even if he cant bowl , he is a good odi batsman.have people forgotten his performances against aus? but bairstow also needs to play, he is an exciting dynamic. what do we do now? drop overhyped jonathan trott. people need to realise that just becos he is slow that doesnt mean he is a solid player.he has a pathetic technique. he is only gonna increase pressure on lower orders. this is the best xi for england in general: Cook(c), Pietersen (or Rory Hamilton-Brown), Bell, Bopara, Morgan, Bairstow(wk), Samit Patel, Bresnan, Swann, Broad, Dernbach

Posted by tausif.khalil on (August 31, 2012, 3:41 GMT)

SA team is at this level only because of their team mate, consistant good peformance and effective coaching of Mr.garry, there is no issue to maintain their level if they are doing same ahead.

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 2:37 GMT)

@crindo77 a most notable trait of an Englishmen. not surprised. also its IPL which is the reason for England's problems isnt it ??

Posted by   on (August 31, 2012, 2:33 GMT)

HAHAHAHA england missing swann lol is that a joke??? 14 wickets in 10 matches. his most recent record which includes 2 tests and a fc. technically 14 wickets in 13 innings yes your right its the benchmark for no 1 spinner LOLOL

Posted by Patchmaster on (August 31, 2012, 1:28 GMT)

Why is Bopara's place 'assured' - he proven that he is bad at finishing an innings or a run chase and he's not in good form. Compared with Bairstow who is a great keeper, a great fielder and in the form of his life ! Everyone mentions Ravi's bowling, but he rarely bowls more than a couple of overs. Samit is simply not fit enough to play for England, his fielding is terrible and his running between the wickets is equally bad.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (August 30, 2012, 23:32 GMT)

David Hopps comments that "South Africa have not taken their media commitments very seriously since the end of their victorious Test series." Perhaps that may be because it is difficult to take seriously media figures that presume, as Mr. Hopps does, that "South Africa are tempted to smirk at England's captaincy predicament." Smirking, particularly in this circumstance, would be regarded by most Saffers as arrogance and very un-sporting. The cultural characteristics of South Africans should not be confused with those evidenced by many English cricket journalists over the past year. David Hopps has been the most reliably unbiased writer at Cricinfo in recent memory, and his assumption that SA are tempted to smirk is very unlike his usually balanced reporting. Can anyone really picture Hashim Amla smirking? Like crindo77, I too hope that Cricinfo do not censor honest criticism.

Posted by landl47 on (August 30, 2012, 23:29 GMT)

It's a pretty good weather forecast, so hopefully the game will be played out. England simply must improve its fielding if it is to be a competitive match. I saw nothing from Bopara in the last game to indicate why he should be in the side instead of Bairstow. It would be good to see Woakes get a game after sitting on the sidelines and being chosen for games that aren't played. Cook has risen to the occasion since being made captain and he needs to do so again. SA will as always, be a tough team to beat; hopefully it will be an exciting match.

Posted by Yorks1 on (August 30, 2012, 22:14 GMT)

Just an absolute disgrace that Bopara will be playing. He is England's 6th choice as a bowler and his bat does not do much. Bairstow has the guts, talent athleticism and attitude to make a difference and has proven it. Cook and Flower continue to make an error here. What more does Bairstow have to do except play for Essex!

Posted by SurlyCynic on (August 30, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

Have to agree with crindo77, just checked some SA media and there seemed to be sadness and respect from the SA team wrt Strauss, not sure what this 'smirking' allegation is all about.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (August 30, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

I still don't understand why SA need to have 8 bowlers, AB seems to like having so many options. When A Morkel plays in place of McLaren that's fine as he can clear the boundary, but the current team should have another batsman in place of McLaren (spinning track) or Petersen (seamers' conditions). The current selection wastes the advantage of AB keeping wicket and Parnell is not a 7.

Posted by Forgettable on (August 30, 2012, 21:12 GMT)

Goodluck England. Although Bobara can bowl, we expect a lot from his batting. So I would personally suggest that Bairstow be included.

Posted by crindo77 on (August 30, 2012, 21:08 GMT)

Really? SA have no captaincy issues; they DON'T have any intentions of smirking, and they don't really care about what's going on in the other camp. The habit of some English sports writers and media commentators to focus on the other teams weaknesses is a new and disturbing trend, and previously alien to English sports coverage. I have been a great fan of English sportswriting, but some of the current coverage is disappointing. Trying to distract attention from one's own issues by focussing on other's, especially conjectural issues, is fraught with danger and always backfires.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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