Jos Buttler looks set to retain his role as England's first-choice T20I opener, despite his job swap with Ben Stokes during their IPL campaign with Rajasthan Royals, but there's unlikely to be an immediate recall for Joe Root, according to head coach Chris Silverwood, even though he restated his value as a short-form batsman during Monday's intra-squad warm-up in Paarl.
Speaking to PA media in the lead-up to the first of three T20Is against South Africa, Silverwood admitted he had been intrigued by Rajasthan's manoeuvrings in the UAE last month, in which Buttler was shuffled into the finisher's role at No.5 with Stokes promoted to open - an experiment which paid dividends with one spectacular matchwinning performance, a 59-ball hundred against the eventual champions, Mumbai Indians.
However, the pair reverted to more familiar roles while facing off for Team Buttler against Team Morgan at Boland Park, and though neither produced a score of note at 1 and 3 respectively, Silverwood said that the rejig would not "muddy the waters" for England as they continue to build towards the T20 World Cup in just under a year's time.
"It's great that those two guys get experience of doing different things and I don't think it ever hurts them as players to explore different options, but it doesn't muddy the waters at all," Silverwood said.
"We're pretty certain about which way we want to go and we'll do that. We are blessed with the batsmen we've got here, world-class players who are capable of doing a multitude of jobs in that order.
"I know Ben was keen to do it, he's always keen to get up the order and give it a go. I wouldn't say I was surprised, I'd say I was glad to see him do well."
That wealth of options at the top of England's order is one of the reasons why Root has been omitted from each of the last two T20I squads - against Australia in September and for this three-match campaign in South Africa. Given his workload as Test captain, and his integral importance to the ODI side, the selectors have felt it would be counter-productive to keep him in the T20I bubble on a regular basis when he is not currently a first-choice pick.
Nevertheless, Root was England's player of the tournament when they reached the final of the last World T20 in Kolkata four years ago, and he seized a rare chance to restate his T20 credentials at Paarl on Monday, scoring an unbeaten 45 from 26 balls to ease Team Buttler to victory alongside Sam Curran (45 from 18).
Following on from an unbeaten 77 in a 40-over warm-up at the weekend, Root is arguably England's form batsman on the tour, and while Silverwood seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a T20I recall on this trip, he also insisted that the team for the opening fixture at Newlands on Friday would be drawn from the first-choice squad.
"Never say never. Everybody that's here is an option," Silverwood said. "We've got a large group of players here but do have that squad that we'll initially pick from. If guys are here and doing well, you never know, but we picked that squad and we'll start there."
Olly Stone is another player who impressed in the warm-up despite not being an official part of the T20I set-up. He claimed 3 for 12 in a high-class display for Team Buttler, and given that the series is set to be dominated by quick bowlers, with Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje lining up opposite Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, the re-emergence of an extra pace option is timely for the England selectors.
"It's been great to see guys who are not in the squad coming out and saying 'we want to be in there'," Silverwood added.
There may yet be plenty opportunities for Root, Stone, and other fringe candidates in England's set-up, such as the reserve batsman Tom Banton, to make their cases for the T20 World Cup, with Silverwood acknowledging the likelihood of personnel changes within England's bio-secure bubble, with tours of India and Sri Lanka also looming in the new year.
"I am looking at the moment, for players and staff, how do we get them in and out? Where can we make gaps for them?," he said. "There's uncertainty around family visits so it's about how we make the best of what we've got available to us. It's something I'm scribbling away in my notebook to try and find solutions and various options to get people home to see families and keep people mentally fresh."
The build-up to the first T20I has been overshadowed by the news of two positive Covid-19 tests within the South African camp, but all of England's results have so far come back negative, and Silverwood is confident that the measures taken to protect the team environment in their home summer will stand up to scrutiny on tour as well.
"Our main focus is on making sure everything in our camp is in order and that we observe the rules, regulations and protocols in front of us," he said. "Hopefully that keeps us safe. We did pretty well in the summer with it. I'll be led by the doctors but ideal scenario is no-one gets it."