Ireland and South Africa played out an entertaining ODI series last week but this week is the really importance stuff when they play out three T20 matches, the first of which comes from Dublin on a roasting hot Monday afternoon.
The ODI series ended all square which shows that both are in decent touch heading into this T20 series, although the overriding priority for both teams for these three matches is to continue their preparation for the World T20 later in the year.
You would have to say Ireland are up against it here. They are not just playing a very good side but this is their first T20 since the pandemic hit as series after series got cancelled as a result of the issues going on around the world. Given that, you would think they will take some time to warm into the series, which is understandable. They need to hit the ground running if they can though as they now know they are in a qualifying group for the World T20 with Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Namibia, a section they could easily escape from.
Ireland showed in the ODI series that they can bat well at this level but they started slowly in all three matches and then picked up the pace as their innings went on. They can’t really afford to do that here so there will be an onus on their opening batsmen to get them off to a flier. They are also going to need their bowlers to make early inroads as we saw what happens when they don’t in the final ODI on Friday.
The South Africans have been fairly active in T20 cricket this year and come into this series off the back of a fine 3-2 win over West Indies not too long ago. That looks an even better result than it did at the time now that West Indies have taken Australia to the cleaners since then. South Africa had a number of issues in that series despite them winning it and it will be interesting to see if they are any closer to solving them in this series.
The big problem they had in the Caribbean was finishing off their batting innings. To be fair to the South African middle and lower order batsmen, Australia have just made an absolute mess of that as well so perhaps a lot of it was down to how much they were allowed to play. The other issue the Proteas have is balance to their team in this format of the game. They lack that all-rounder that can be devastating with the bat and sufficient with the ball.
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Ireland will make changes from the side which played in the ODIs with Kevin O’Brien coming into the team. He is expected to open the batting alongside Paul Stirling in a power based opening to the Irish innings. Shane Getkate is expected to come in.
It looks like South Africa are going to have Temba Bavuma opening the batting alongside Quinton de Kock at least in this match if not the series. That is harsh on Janneman Malan. The one decision they have is whether to pick Heinrich Klaasen or David Miller. A lot of that will depend on the fitness of the latter.
We saw a couple of high scoring ODI matches between these two sides and until that trend ends I’m going to keep riding the run lines. I’m even more convinced that the strength of the Ireland side in this format of the game is their batting and although I’d like a little more depth in the South African order in T20 cricket, there is plenty of quality in their top six to feast on the weakness of the Irish side which is their bowling attack.
The runs line for this first T20 is down at 320.5 which feels very low. We saw in both the ODIs that this is a small ground and the wickets have been glorious for batting so far. With no weather issues on the radar I don’t expect that to change here. As long as Ireland don’t get bogged down by spin in this match, and they saw enough of Tabraiz Shamsi in the ODIs to have worked him out, I expect both teams to score in excess of 160 which will bring the over in here.
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