Teams seek World Twenty20 edge
September 8, 2012
Start time 2.30pm (1330 GMT)
The Big Picture
We've been here before: England's seemingly-quite-resistible force against South Africa's immovable Hashim Amla. This time the tourists are the No. 1-ranked side going into the series, however, and England are merely the reigning World Twenty20 champions. Both have solid records from sporadic outings in the shortest form this year and both will be looking to nail down their plans for the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, which starts in less than two weeks' time.
For England, it means a change in captain and Stuart Broad will aim to become the first of the now-defunct triumvirate to hand South Africa a series defeat. Andrew Strauss retired from cricket after his side were steamrollered in the Tests, though Alastair Cook did marginally better, clinging on to the one-day top ranking and gaining a promotion into the bargain. Broad will probably settle for a trio of consistent performances from the squad, as well as the avoidance of injury.
There is no respite for AB de Villiers, who had the wicketkeeping gloves thrust upon him at the start of the Test series and now continues to balance his own personal three-for in the T20s as captain, batsman and keeper. After two months away from home and with one eye on the subcontinent, he will need all his powers of multitasking and compartmentalisation to help drag his team towards the finish line.
(Most recent first, completed matches)
South Africa WWWLW
Watch out for
Alex Hales scored 99 in his only international outing of 2012 so far but walked off the pitch at Trent Bridge looking distraught to miss out on a hundred. Still, making the highest T20I score by an Englishman is as good a way as any to start life as Kevin Pietersen's replacement. Hales' coach at Nottingham, Mick Newell, recently suggested his first-class returns had been wanting this season but he is a talented young opener who could offer England options in all formats.
Without Jacques Kallis, rested for the ODI series, South Africa looked an unbalanced side. They will welcome back the ursine allrounder with wide open arms ahead of the World Twenty20, even though his sole T20I appearance in the last two years came during a one-off tribute match against India in March. Experience can count for a lot in T20 cricket and Kallis, an IPL winner with Kolkata earlier this year, is smarter than your average bear
Barring one high-profile exception, England have played the same team in all four of their T20 internationals this year. Graeme Swann should return after being rested for the last three ODIs against South Africa, while Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan are both carrying niggles, which could mean a first T20I appearance in three years for James Anderson. Ravi Bopara has struggled with the bat recently but made fifty in his last 20-over outing against West Indies.
England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wkt), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Ravi Bopara, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad (capt), 10 Steven Finn, 11 Jade Dernbach
South Africa have a similar squad to pick from as for the ODIs, with Kallis, Richard Levi and possibly Johan Botha likely to be the only different faces in the mix for a starting spot. Depending on his fitness, Albie Morkel could come back into the side, while South Africa have also experimented with batting Wayne Parnell up the order in de Villiers' short reign as captain.
South Africa (possible) 1 Richard Levi, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Justin Ontong, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel
Pitch and conditions
The pitch at Chester-le-Street has not been a friendly one to batsmen all season and Australia struggled to 200 for 9 in an ODI there in July. Durham twice made 300 or thereabouts in 40-over games last month, however, and the prospect of sunshine breaking through the fluffy white clouds at some point in the afternoon should boost the chances for a high-scoring affair.
Stats and trivia
- Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann are tied as England's leading T20I wicket-takers, with 41 each.
- Richard Levi struck the fastest-ever T20 international hundred, from 45 balls, in only his second appearance.
- There have been six T20 meetings between the two sides - England have won two, South Africa three, with one abandonment...
- ...which occurred when they were due to play each other at Chester-le-Street in 2008.
"The planning started from Trent Bridge, when Kevin said he wasn't available for the Twenty20 World Cup, and his replacement came in and got the highest score by an England batsman."
England captain, Stuart Broad, prefers to discuss Alex Hales' promise ahead of the World Twenty20
"Twenty20s fly by. You can almost see the finish line now."
South Africa captain, AB de Villiers, contemplates the end of the tour and the chance to then fly straight off to Sri Lanka
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo