The Cricket Tier

 

Preview: England vs South Africa ODI Series

With the countdown well and truly on ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, a competition that sees England as one of the big favourites alongside Australia and South Africa, the England and Wales players know that they don't have long to hit their stride.                                              

                    1 year to go #CT17 @ICC pic.twitter.com/AkLiBa4XDe


The upcoming games against Ireland will, of course, allow certain players to get into top form and notch up some time at the crease, but let’s not forget that this is a match against an associate member side that hasn’t even qualified for the ICC Champions Trophy. The extent of the test this will provide is, therefore, debatable.

The real test will come in the run of three ODIs against a South African side that is a serious contender for the Champions Trophy – available at odds of 7/2 when punters bet on Cricket with Paddy Power – and the way those contests pan out will go some way towards showing British cricket fans that their team has both the strength in depth and the mental resilience to challenge for the trophy, as well as showing that – come 2019 and the next cricket World Cup - the host nations can finally win the top title in international ODI cricket.

Getting Back in the ODI Groove

Captain Eoin Morgan has announced that he is returning home from the IPL in time to play in the ODI games against Ireland, so there is certainly a buzz from the top of the team to drive on and use the matches against South Africa to get back in the ODI groove. This sort of dedication, as well as the fact that England thrashed the Windies in their last ODI series, suggests that the team have to go into the South Africa match on home turf as favourites.

That said, let’s not forget that South Africa managed to earn a series victory over New Zealand, a result which saw them secure their status as the top ODI team in the world. This feat was hard earned and, when you take into account the fact that they didn’t see the best of their batsmen despite their win, you can see why they shouldn’t be underestimated.

Again, like with the English team, many South African star players who took part in the IPL sorely need to get back in the ODI groove. One plus, though, is the fact that their top ranked ODI bowler Imran Tahir was only picked up after injuries. Despite his limited time in the IPL, Tahir still managed to show how lethal he can be with the ball in his hand.

South African Strength Tested

Of course, adjusting back into the ODI groove and getting used to the tricky conditions that the English summers can throw at players will be a big challenge for both teams. However, with the South African side top of the ‘big three’ (top of the team ranking, top-ranked batsman, and top-ranked bowler), the series should allow them to showcase their strength in depth.
 


Beating England and keeping the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and even (on a good day) Eoin Morgan from making big scores on their native wickets would prove that they are a serious force and not just a dark horse for the tournament, especially if they can get Joe Root out cheaply at Headingley, where he regularly bats for Yorkshire in all formats of the game.

If South Africa can do this, and their batting line-up (especially the likes of AB de Villiers) can once again show why they are so feared by bowlers, then South Africa can set the scene for a bad summer for English cricket, leaving the host nation’s confidence shattered before the ICC Champions Trophy has even begun.

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