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September 9, 2012
September 10, 2012, Old Trafford
Start time 6.30pm (1730GMT)
The Big Picture
It is dangerous to read too much into one match, but there did appear to be a significant gulf between England and South Africa during the first Twenty20. In reality though, not a huge amount new was learned: England struggle against spin, lack experience in the batting but have some good quick bowlers while South Africa, after their blip in the London ODIs, look overall a slick machine.
The way that Johan Botha and Robin Peterson tied down the batsmen on a slow turner - remember, this was Chester-le-Street not Colombo - was a concern but England have shown in the past that they can learn from their mistakes. Earlier this year they came from 1-0 down to beat Pakistan in the UAE (although, yes, Kevin Pietersen played a significant hand) while they also bounced back in the one-day series after a hammering in Southampton.
And the bottom line is that, barring injury-related changes, these are the players going to Sri Lanka so it is a rather fruitless exercise considering alternatives. On the whole, too, these are the best T20 cricketers in the country although, of course, there will always be debate about who else could get a go. As often after defeat, the players left out of the XI start to look better and it would be a surprise if Luke Wright, Michael Lumb and Danny Briggs - there are injury worries over Tim Bresnan - do not get a game in this series.
South Africa have fewer areas of concern but, like England, are not entirely convincing at the top of the order. Richard Levi is a fairly unsubtle batsman (it can sometimes be destructive, but often not) and Faf du Plessis is going through a run of form to match Ravi Bopara's nightmares. Significantly, though, their experienced players are in good touch. Jacques Kallis has slotted back in and Dale Steyn is bowling beautifully.
South Africa WWWWL
Watch out for
Eoin Morgan has the weight of world, or at least England's batting line-up, on his shoulders. He remains cool and calm whenever asked about the pressure, but in the absence of Pietersen he is the one player with both the experience and all-round game to dominate attacks in a variety of conditions. When he dragged on in the opening game an already stuttering innings quickly unravelled.
Johan Botha is an interesting story. After the World Twenty20 he is being released from his Cricket South Africa contract to go and captain South Australia so this next month is his international farewell. He will be key to South Africa's chances in Sri Lanka and bowled with skill and control at Chester-le-Street. His batting, although not needed in the opening game, adds depth to the lower order.
It is difficult to see how England can keep picking Bopara at the moment. Consistent failures are only dragging him down further. Wright has had a terrific season for Sussex and would ensure Stuart Broad still has an extra bowler if needed. They will be tempted to bring in Briggs, the left-arm spinner, but will not want to weaken the lower order so either Steven Finn or Jade Dernbach would need to miss out.
England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Luke Wright, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad (capt), 10 Steven Finn, 11 Danny Briggs
If South Africa are concerned at all about their top order they have a certain Hashim Amla sat on the bench and he has been in some decent form this tour. Elsewhere, the balance looks better than the ODIs with Albie Morkel back in the middle order and the twin frontline spinners.
South Africa (possible) 1 Richard Levi, 2, Jacques Kallis, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Justin Ontong, 7 Albie Morkel, 8 Johan Botha, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pitch and conditions
Old Trafford has turned this year - considerably so on some occasions, with Lancashire almost docked points in one Championship game - although it does not quite have the bounce of the square before it was rotated. The most recent pitch, for the CB40 semi-final, was described as one of the best of the season while the surface for the England Lions-Australia A game was also well received. The forecast suggests a chance of rain although it could hold off until after the game.
Stats and trivia
"I think one thing we have to be very aware of is you win games of Twenty20 cricket with numbers eight, nine, ten and 11 not batting. So we have to take the responsibility of having a batsman there at the end."
Stuart Broad does not want the chance of another career-best innings
"I would have liked not to have lost as many wickets as we did early on. But Jacques came in with his experience and played really well right 'til the end."
AB de Villiers was grateful for the experience of Kallis
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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