England in South Africa 2015-16 February 2, 2016

SA and England target short-form gains

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Match facts

February 3, 2016
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)

Big Picture

In an act of typically perverse scheduling, the limited-overs leg of England's tour of South Africa includes five ODIs and just two T20Is, despite the fact that the World Twenty20 is looming in barely a month's time, and both sides would doubtless benefit from a bit more sprint training in the intervening weeks.

Nevertheless, such is the cross-over between the shortened formats in this day and age that the 50-over showdowns, which get underway in Bloemfontein tomorrow, still retain a relevance to both teams. If South Africa's imperative is to cultivate that winning feeling after a chastening Test series, then England want only to carry on where they left off in a riotous finish to their tour of the UAE before Christmas.

Eoin Morgan's England are an unrecognisable outfit from the one-paced shambles that bombed out of the World Cup in Australia almost exactly 12 months ago. They bat without fear, they field like panthers and their bowlers - if still a touch raw in the post-Anderson and Broad era (albeit that the latter has been drafted back into the squad after a glut of injuries) - have shown promise that augurs well for the challenges to come.

No-one would pretend that England are a finished product, but with Andrew Strauss, the ECB's new director of cricket, preaching a more open-minded attitude to white-ball cricket, their squad has a focus that has been lacking in one-day cricket almost since the dawn of the format. Adil Rashid and David Willey even arrive in South Africa with their horizons broadened by successful stints in Australia's Big Bash, which would have been an unthinkably progressive move in England's not-at-all-distant past.

Whether England are yet good enough to beat South Africa on home soil is a moot point, however. South Africa's recent tour of India was a disaster in almost every facet, yet they still proved strong enough to muscle their way to a 3-2 ODI victory. This time last year, AB de Villiers was slamming a 31-ball century to trounce West Indies at Johannesburg, and after ducks in each of his last three Test innings, the only way for South Africa's captain, surely, is up.

Form guide

South Africa: WLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
England: WWWLL

In the spotlight

Alex Hales endured a torrid Test baptism in the recent series against South Africa. His technique and temperament received equally searching examinations and both were found wanting, as he struggled to 136 runs at 17.00 in four matches. However, a return to the shorter formats may be just what his game needs - a chance to see ball, hit ball, and worry rather less about the consequences of the wrong shot at the wrong time. The concern, however, may be the knock-on effect of his struggles on the tour so far. As his opening partner, Jason Roy, told ESPNcricinfo last week, confidence is everything for a one-day opening batsman. Hales hasn't displayed much of that in recent times.

Hashim Amla's stunning return to form in the latter stages of the Test series was a reminder of how quickly a change of scene or circumstances can transform a player's fortunes. Amla's match-saving double century in Cape Town was made possible by the decision he had made earlier in the match, that the time was right to offload the burden of captaincy, and he confirmed the wisdom of that move with twin scores of 109 and 96 to set up a consolation win at Centurion. His task is now to translate that free-spirited strokeplay to the top of the one-day order. But, to judge by the serenity of his cover-driving in recent days, he's perfectly poised to make any start count.

Teams news

Marchant de Lange is a strong bet to add to his tally of three ODI caps as South Africa look to cover the gap in their fast-bowling ranks amid the long-term absences of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott. Although there are concerns about Kagiso Rabada's workload following his Test heroics, he seems likely to be given the chance to start the series, while Imran Tahir - overlooked through the Test series after struggling to make an impression on the tour of India - is back in the frame as the first-choice spinner.

South Africa (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Farhaan Behardien, 8 Chris Morris/David Wiese, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Morne Morkel/Marchant de Lange, 11 Imran Tahir

Roy is a major doubt after suffering a back spasm during training on Monday. His place at the top of the order is likely to be filled by Moeen Ali, which is not the worst rejig imaginable given that Ben Stokes' availability after injury in the UAE would otherwise create a logjam of stroke-makers in the lower-middle order. Adil Rashid, flushed with confidence after a breakthrough winter in the Big Bash, may be given the chance to take that form straight into the 50-over format.

England (probable) 1 Moeen Ali, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 James Taylor, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 David Willey, 11 Reece Topley

Pitch and conditions

A flat deck, a large outfit, and intense heat. It promises to be a sapping day's work for whichever side gets to field first under the afternoon sun.

Stats and trivia

  • AB de Villiers made his ODI debut on February 2, 2005 against England in Bloemfontein. The match was tied. Eleven years and one day later, he will play his 196th ODI at the same venue, and against the same opponents.

  • South Africa have won each of their last six ODIs at Bloemfontein since that tie, most recently by 125 runs against Pakistan in 2013.

  • Quinton de Kock, fresh from his maiden Test hundred at Centurion, needs seven runs to reach 2000 in ODis.

Quotes

"I focus so much on winning the game that before I realise it I've scored a hundred off close to 30 balls. Things like that are always possible when you aim bigger and have a bigger cause."
AB de Villiers admits that superhuman batting feats are just one of those things.

"We are not quite there yet in terms of catching up with the World Cup teams that went out there and scored 300 on a regular basis - but we are making strides towards that."
Eoin Morgan admits that England are still a work in progress in white-ball cricket.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andries Bester on February 3, 2016, 22:51 GMT

    Well after today's match i can truly say Dr Villiers , Amla , Dumminy are all hasbeens !!

  • D.S.A on February 3, 2016, 16:03 GMT

    @GOWERS_GREAT_TIGER_MOTH_FLYBY: Thank you for using hindsight in proving your point, as you have just proved mine. Any player can be backed, but it is the rationale that matters. You also give no consideration to the flat pitches that were pitches, but there you go, spouting off as if you have knowledge. After he was picked, but before the matches took place, what would have been your justification? Exactly, no valid justification, because you can't know what he will do before it happens, but you use retrospective punditry to its ridiculous best. With those great skills you have (of using the future to justify decisions in the past), do the lottery. Strauss was also a Middlesex player, and now where is he? Btw, I don't just post after an England loss. Tell me if I posted after Pakistan's first win in the ODI series against England. There are many other examples too.

  • andrew-schulz on February 3, 2016, 11:30 GMT

    It's very easy to claim England are a better side than they were at the last world, with the implication that they would do better at an important event now, when there is no World Cup in sight for 3 and a half years.

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on February 3, 2016, 10:25 GMT

    DSA - "Morgan only found himself back in the team due to the Middlesex connection, as the World Cup and county season of 2015 showed that his selection was not based on merit (I would dare someone to disprove that, without your friend, hindsight)."

    Morgan was picked because was backed as captain and with his overall record he'd turn his form around, which he subsequently did with scores of 50, 88, 71, 113, 0, 38, 85, 62, 92, 1, 76, 29, 35, 14 yet you drum up this bull everytime - alternatively prove Morgan was picked due to his Middlesex connection. This is just the usual tripe we see you post, especially when England lose. By the way, why didn't you comment on Englands test wins? Just another subcontinent vulture.

  • anver777 on February 3, 2016, 10:10 GMT

    An interesting tussle on the cards, but I believe SA has a slight edge over ENG because of the home conditions !!! GOOD LUCK to both !!!

  • gimme-a-greentop on February 3, 2016, 9:59 GMT

    @landl47...with all due respect, SA do have economical bowlers. Tahir: 4.49, which is downright miserly these days, and Morkel, Rabada and De Langa are all under 5 runs an over, albeit in only 3 matches in DL's case. Morris or Wiese have been more expensive in their limited number of games.

  • Mandavya on February 3, 2016, 9:48 GMT

    Sounds cliche, but proteas are too far from finding a team balance that is abandoned by the retirement of their ultimate luxury "Kallis". They are still managing with sheer individual brilliance of their top order and the Pace bowling unit. Need to find a permanent solution sooner than later.

  • faghmie murat on February 3, 2016, 9:31 GMT

    my 11 will be amla.de cock.rilee.faf.de viliers.miller.behardien.de lange .rabada.tahir.morris

  • TJP1000 on February 3, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    With Steyn and Abbott unavailable SA might strggl onthebowlig front if Mokel is rested as well. But I guess I will be happy with Tahir, Rabada, Morris and De Lange. Batting line-up is settled and its gonna be a tough choice between Miller/Behardien and Rossouw. Before India I woudve given Rossouw and Miller the nod, but Behardien really impressed me and proved m wrong properly.

  • mlscricfan on February 3, 2016, 7:53 GMT

    Real chance for Eng to win ODI series as well. Good luck Eng team \ud83d\udc4d

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