Big Picture

After a first last week - when Ireland beat South Africa in an ODI for the first time - there's another coming this week. The two teams will face off in the shortest format for the first time. Both are entering the final stages of preparation for the T20 World Cup later this year, with South Africa gearing up for a group that includes England, Australia and West Indies, and Ireland needing to go through a qualifier against Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Namibia.
The hosts have the more difficult task, having last played T20I cricket over a year ago, in March, against Afghanistan. Since then, they have had series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan cancelled but will play at least eight matches (three against South Africa and five against Zimbabwe) in the lead-up to the global event in October.
South Africa have fewer matches, just six (three against Ireland and three against Sri Lanka, after a series against India has had to be postponed again because of the IPL) and plenty of questions remain over their strategy. Despite beating West Indies 3-2 earlier this month, they have yet to settle on combinations but aim to use the Ireland matches to solidify their plans. Coach Mark Boucher indicated there is a level of fatigue in the camp, made worse by news of unrest at home, but with just a week left on the road, they have promised to give it their all.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
Ireland TLLLW
South Africa WLWWL

In the spotlight

Ireland's headliner Kevin O'Brien will be back to try and find form as he prepares for the T20 World Cup. O'Brien has played five international matches this year - all ODIs - and managed just 27 runs, with three scores in single-figures and a duck. He has also had a tough time in the Irish inter-provincial T20 tournament, with 47 runs in six matches and a top score of 16. His last international milestone came almost two years ago, a century in a T20I against Hong Kong. It is Ireland's only hundred in the format and they will want him to summon the spirit of that knock tomorrow.
The world's top-ranked T20I bowler, Tabraiz Shamsi , has been vocal on social media on topics including the challenges of life in bio-bubbles but has also seen the lighter side of having limited contact with others and will want to combine his frankness and good humour to end the tour on a high note. Shamsi was outstanding in the West Indies, where he was South Africa's joint-leading wicket-taker and maintained the lowest economy rate for any bowler on either side (4.00) and will challenge both the Irish defence and run-scoring ability.

Team news

O'Brien has retired from ODIs but remains available in the shortest format, and is expected to open the batting alongside Paul Stirling. A middle-order of Harry Tector and George Dockrell, who were successful in the ODIs, will precede the power-hitting Shane Getkate and ODI centurion Simi Singh. Ireland are likely to have four seamers at their disposal in Getkate. Barry McCarthy, Josh Little and Craig Young.
Ireland: (possible) 1 Paul Stirling, 2 Kevin O'Brien, 3 Andy Balbirnie (capt), 4 Harry Tector, 5 George Dockrell, 6 Lorcan Tucker (wk), 7 Shane Getkate, 8 Simi Singh, 9 Barry McCarthy, 10 Josh Little, 11 Craig Young
South Africa seem to have settled on Temba Bavuma to partner Quinton de Kock at the top in T20Is with Aiden Markram likely to feature at No.3. David Miller was rested for the final ODI but could make a return in the middle order, which may also include both a seam-bowling (Wiaan Mulder) and spin-bowling (George Linde) allrounder. With bowling a big focus for South Africa, expect them to play their first-choice attack.
South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Aiden Markram, 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 Heinrich Klaasen/David Miller, 6 Wiaan Mulder, 7 George Linde, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Anrich Nortje, 10 Lung Ngidi 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Pitch and conditions

The third ODI on Friday showed that big runs are possible in Malahide and we can expect more of the same in the opening T20I which may bolster the ground's average first-innings score of 152. There have only been three scores over 200 in 13 T20Is played at this ground, all achieved by the teams batting first, and all successfully defended. The highest successful chase at this venue is 182. Monday's weather is set to be fine and warm, with no rain.

Stats and trivia

  • Ireland and South Africa have never met in a T20I
  • Andy Balbirnie needs 55 more to become the fifth Irish player to reach 1,000 T20I runs
  • South Africa have won two out of their last eight T20I series dating back to March 2019

Quotes

Some of the things is making sure we are confident in our death bowling. We have clear plans, it's a matter of executing that over a long period of time. And also by the end of the Sri Lankan tour, that we can trust the formula we have been working on over the last couple of months.
South Africa need to work on their end-of-innings bowling and overall strategy ahead of the T20 World Cup, according to assistant coach Enoch Nkwe

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent