Hello and welcome to Cricket.com's coverage of England tour of South Africa, 2020. The ODI series will finally commence today after the postponement of the first ODI.
The return to international cricket has not been great for South Africa. While their star players - Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje - put up splendid individual performances during the 2020 IPL, playing as a unit along with an inexperienced core only took them to a 0-3 whitewash in the T20Is against England.
Now, the start of the ODI series was postponed due to a positive COVID test in the South Africa squad, putting the remaining tour in jeopardy. In an occasional good news for the board, the remaining players, plus the management, returned negative results after a round of retesting which was done on Friday. The focus finally shifts to the ODIs.
Though recent form in this format matters little for South Africa since they last played ODIs nine months ago, they will still yield confidence from a 3-0 series result against a competitive Australian side. Moreover, they found different match-winners in that series. Heinrich Klaasen, Jon-Jon Smuts and Janneman Malan were amongst the man-of-the-match award winners. Hence, the Quinton de Kock led side would like to feel that ODI cricket is currently their best format.
They are also emboldened by the inclusion of Rassie van der Dussen, who did not play South Africa’s previous ODI series but showed excellent form in the recently concluded T20Is. On the flip side, they will continue to miss Kagiso Rabada as the leader of their bowling attack.
In the other camp, England have rested three players. Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran were not picked to give them time away from the restrictions of the bio-bubble. However, the visitors are still the favorites for the series. Prior to the T20Is, Sam Billings said, “This (England’s white-ball setup) is the hardest sports team to get into in the world at the moment.”
While England’s batting takes care of itself despite no Stokes, there may be a few holes in their pace attack in the absence of Archer and Sam Curran. Chris Woakes becomes the leader of the attack but others are short of ODI experience of late. Tom Curran has been given a long rope but has been ineffective. Reece Topley, coming from a long injury lay-off has played a solitary ODI this year while Mark Wood has featured in only two of them. Lewis Gregory, yet to earn an ODI cap is the only other option in the squad.
This gives South Africa one area to exploit. De Kock, especially, did not get runs in the T20Is and will be waiting to explode. He has been South Africa’s highest scorer in ODIs since 2018, accruing 1,329 runs. However, in du Plessis’ absence, who is rested from the first ODI, the responsibility will be on him to see the team through with the bat.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s bowling isn’t foolproof itself. Without Rabada, the most experienced bowler in the squad is Andile Phehlukwayo with 27 ODI caps to date. Lungi Ngidi - 26 ODI caps - will be the leader of the bowling attack.
Ngidi’s numbers evoke mixed emotions. He was brilliant in leading the attack earlier this year, also picking his career-best figures of six for 58 against Australia. His overall numbers during the death overs read an impressive average of 10.7 for his 19 wickets while conceding only at 6.3 runs per over. Although, he has gone for runs in recent memory. His form went up and down in the 2020 IPL and he was carted for 51 runs in the second T20I at Paarl. Which Ngidi turns up in the first ODI will be crucial for South Africa. It also sets him up nicely against Jos Buttler.