South Africa v England, 3rd ODI, Centurion February 8, 2016

All-round England seek the knock-out blow


Match facts

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Start time 1330 local (1130 GMT)

Big Picture

Two-nil up with a trip to Centurion to come. As in the Test series, so now in the ODIs as England head for the Highveld with a rare double on the cards. Not since Australia's all-conquering tour of 2001-02 has a visiting team beaten South Africa in both the Test and 50-over series, but with confidence coursing through the squad and three opportunities to seal the rubber lined up ahead of them this week, England are in the rare but increasingly familiar situation of being recognised as a one-day force.

Nevertheless, if the Centurion Test is anything to go by - and AB de Villiers wasn't slow to hark back to it during the post-match interviews at Port Elizabeth on Saturday - England cannot and will not be expecting easy access to the spoils. The rarefied atmosphere plays to South Africa's strengths, and with Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott raising exponentially the quality of the hosts' seam attack with their twin recalls for the second match, another full-blooded contest should be on the cards.

Nevertheless, there is a serenity to England's one-day cricket at present that belies the power-packed batting with which it is underpinned. Jos Buttler's ferocious form gives them a match-winning asset that would be the envy of any team in the world, but putting 399 on the board in the opening match at Bloemfontein was arguably the easy bit. Far tougher was the discipline required on a trickier track at Port Elizabeth, the onus being on digging in and batting deep, and treating South Africa's target of 263 with the sort of respect that such mid-range totals rarely receive in this day and age.

Certainly, Eoin Morgan, England's captain, was delighted with the application his players showed, not least Alex Hales whose hard-grafted 99 was the rock on which their run-chase was established. Gone is the mechanical, inhibited attitude that was instilled during Peter Moores' ill-fated second coming as England coach, and instead there is a greater willingness to trust the men in the middle to judge their approaches accordingly. Buttler's uncomplicated 48 not out from 28 balls made the win look pre-ordained in the end, but this was a team run-chase and one that augurs well for the side's development ahead of the Champions Trophy in 2017.

South Africa, however, are down but far from out, as Rabada and Abbott proved with the ball, and de Villiers in particular, showed with the bat. His three-duck aberration at the end of the Test series meant that the only way for such an outstanding player was up, and had it not been for the second astonishing outfield catch in consecutive games, he might well be fully powered-up once again. Ben Stokes' one-handed pluck at Bloemfontein was followed by Chris Jordan's toweringly composed grab in the deep at Port Elizabeth, a dismissal that - with de Villiers already on 73 from 91 balls and with ten overs of carnage in the offing - almost certainly saved England from a chase in the region of 300.

Those dismissals, however, pointed to that extra and potentially decisive attribute of England's current play - their all-round prowess. With the bat, their top ten are beyond competent, with only Reece Topley providing a throwback to more specialised days; with the ball, they have options flooding out of their line-up, with two left-arm seamers to lead the line, Stokes a genuine all-round option, two spinners in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid whom Morgan trusted to bowl their allocation straight through on Saturday, and finally Jordan himself - under-used at present and arguably the weak link in the line-up, but whose impact, as that catch shows, cannot always be expressed by statistics.

South Africa, by contrast, lean too heavily on too few, not least with the ball, where Farhaan Behardien has struggled to fulfil his brief as an out-and-out fifth bowler. Not even Quinton de Kock's brilliance at Bloemfontein could bridge the gulf that had been caused by their bowlers' inability to stem the tide. As in the Tests, so too in the ODIs. England's options appear to give them that crucial edge.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: LLWLW
England: WWWWW

In the spotlight

He picked up a stinker in the second ODI, and could be seen bashing his pad in frustration after Quinton de Kock's failed review had robbed him of any recourse, but JP Duminy's 47 from 66 balls was nevertheless the first stirrings of a return to form for one of South Africa's most frustratingly inconsistent performers. His shortcomings against offspin remain a running joke - Moeen Ali conceded eight singles from 28 deliveries to Duminy, and a further eight to overthrows - but in a side struggling for all-round options, his dual abilities with the ball mean he is still a vital performer.

Alex Hales endured an ignominious maiden Test series, caught invariably between attack and defence as he struggled to translate his free-flowing strokeplay to the intense glare of a five-day contest. Ironic, then, that his 99 from 124 balls in the second ODI was a defensive masterclass of a run-chase, as he set his stall out for the long haul and blinked only when a freebie on his hip offered him the chance to hurtle through to his second 50-over hundred. The manner of his parting perhaps suggested that his confidence isn't yet fully restored, but he's back on track and England are all the better for it.

Team news

South Africa are grappling with how to fit a fifth specialist bowler into the XI without shortening the batting line-up, and may have no choice but to go in without an unchanged team. That would mean no space for either allrounder - Chris Morris or David Wiese - unless they are willing to risk resting Morne Morkel.

South Africa (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Rilee Rossouw, 7 Farhaan Behardien, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Kyle Abbott, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

No overwhelming reasons for England to change a winning formula. Their batting line-up is set in stone, and of the bowlers only Chris Jordan and arguably David Willey have failed to make persuasive cases for their retention. Stuart Broad claims to be content to carry the drinks after his Test exploits, but it would be peculiar to have recalled such an experienced performer without intending to give him a run in the side, with both the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy both looming on the horizon.

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

Pitch and conditions

Centurion will not be as flat as Bloemfontein, nor as slow as Port Elizabeth, so it will be another completely different type of surface: There should be a fair amount of pace and carry for the quicks and plenty of runs. The weather is expected to be warm with chances of an afternoon shower bringing Duckworth-Lewis-Stern into play.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa have won 21 of their 32 completed ODIs at Centurion, including each of the last three positive results.
  • England, however, have won each of their last two ODIs at the venue - they beat South Africa by 22 runs to reach the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy in 2009, then followed up with a seven-wicket win two months later.
  • With scores of 49 not out, 116 not out, 105 and 48 not out, Jos Buttler has scored 318 runs from 208 deliveries for once out in his last four ODIs.


"It would be a blow to lose to the series but we are not thinking about that. If we win this, we get some momentum for the next one and then hopefully win the one in Cape Town. That's how we are visioning our progress from here. Everything starts tomorrow. Tomorrow is basically a decider for us. We've got three finals in a row."
Hashim Amla on the uphill task facing South Africa in the coming week.

"Of all the deliveries you could get on 99, one on your hip is the one you want. But that's the way the game goes, and I'm pleased I contributed - and that now we're two from two."
Alex Hales rues the one that got away after his dismissal at Port Elizabeth.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dineshsoni1999 on February 9, 2016, 11:33 GMT

    Where is David Miller the dashing batsman. Here is promoted as captain of Kings Punjab and there SA has to need him. What is wrong with SA ? There is a big team and very good Batsman and how they losing like this ?

  • JG2704 on February 9, 2016, 11:20 GMT

    @MARTIN ON FEBRUARY 9, 2016, 9:33 - Every team goes through a state of transition when it loses. From the last time the 2 sides met we have lost Strauss,Prior,KP (our choice) and Swann and we've had issues replacing Swann , Strauss and Prior and many say KP is the best player to play for England. Also you guys did beat India in the ODI series last time out and even in tests it was only the India series which showed evidence of a decline and they had beaten SL in SL before that - the Bang series was no yardstick due to the weather. And in India there were plenty who cited the wickets. Anyway , I'd say most regulars on here will agree with me that we have had so many false dawns that we're not taking anything for granted - although it was yer man Donald who said SA's strength in the bowling dept was so much better than ours. Also you'd have to say that AB and Amla (2 long standing players) performed no better than the newbies and Rabada performed as well as VP and maybe DS would have

  • Martin - on February 9, 2016, 11:19 GMT

    @SIRVIV1973 & SIMPLYTHEBEST...Yes, to a certain degree I agree but my greatest joy was beating Australia when they were at their peak - not after they fell from their dominance. Surely your 2005 Ashes win over a Aussie team at their peak was a better achievement (or at least felt better!!) than beating a now average Aussie team (or a poor current SA team)? I'm not trying to detract from England's performances but surely the quality and current performance of your opposition should bring some perspective. I think any of the top 6 teams touring SA now could probably beat us. England are fortunate to be touring SA now while we are in a shambles - a couple of years ago it wouldn't have been this easy and I'm guessing that in another couple of years time it won't be so easy again. A little bit of perspective is due.

  • himelspurs on February 9, 2016, 10:51 GMT

    People are telling south africa is in transition but they are not seeing england is also in very much transition period. How many odi matches did willey , topley , jordan , rashid , roy , stokes played ?

  • simplythebest... on February 9, 2016, 10:30 GMT

    I would echo what SirViv1973 says. All the things (excuses from some) that have been said about Englands opposition in the last few series could just as well be said about England themselves - they are a side in transition and have a lot of inexperienced players. Roy, Rashid, Willey, Jordan & Topley have all only played approx. 5 or less ODI series, and in the Test series the only players that had played a substantial amount of Test cricket were Cook, Root, Broad & Anderson.

  •   Moos Liem on February 9, 2016, 10:21 GMT

    Why are they forcing behardien to be an all rounder. He must make the team as a batsmen. In the previous game he made 23 off 26 balls and rotated the strike from ball one. If he had to bat with AB instead of Duminy, AB would have received much more of the strike and the run rate would have been much better. Commentators keep saying behardien must improve his average, but how do you do that if you keep getting pigeon holed as a finisher with only a handful of overs to bat. Duminy wasted a lot of balls. Nothing is said of Riley who failed again for the umpteenth time. Drop duminy and bump Behardien up after FAF. Swop Riley with Miller and bring in Chris Morris as an allrounder to bowl 10 overs. He proved he can bat during the tests. Maybe even consider bringing in Themba instead of Riley or Miller. Themba proved to be an attacking player during the tests. It would be easier for him to attack in one days where bowlers are not allowed to bowl wide.

  • Martin - on February 9, 2016, 10:10 GMT

    I heard Amla on the radio this morning saying that the SA team is treating each of the next three games as a final. The problem is that I don't recall us ever having reached a "final" anywhere so it's new territory for us, dear boy, and history doesn't bode well for us. If that's the SA mindset then I predict England being 3-0 up by the end of the day - although we are hoping SA can keep the series alive today.

  • SirViv1973 on February 9, 2016, 10:00 GMT

    @Martin, Yes it is. Everyone accepts that this is a SAF team in a state of transition, however it's still a rarity for any of the top 7 teams in test cricket to win a test series away from home. You should also remember that this is a hardly the most experienced or settled Eng team. Of the 12 players used in the test series 7 had played 20 tests or less going in to the series, a number of which were/are still trying to establish themselves as test match cricketers.

  • thebatsmansHoldingthebowlersWilley on February 9, 2016, 9:38 GMT

    @CREADY I think you can remove 'so-called' from that sentence

  • Martin - on February 9, 2016, 9:33 GMT

    I know I'll cop some stick for this but is England winning the test series (and favourites for the ODI's too) really as big an achievement as many are making it out to be? I heard Nassa Hussein say that this has been a massive achievement and that England should be overjoyed. Really? South Africa are clearly a weak and struggling team currently. Don't get me wrong, England still had to play the cricket to win but aren't they just being a little bit naive in thinking that this was some incredible performance by their team? If they had done this a few years ago then one would say yes, outstanding but beating this current SA team surely needs a little perspective. That being said, the records will show that England beat the # 1 team in the world in their own backyard - it will say nothing about the current SA form.

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