The SA20 competition has halted for a week so that South Africa and England can play an ODI series which was due to be played during the pandemic when a Covid outburst saw the tourists fly home. The two nations try again in Bloemfontein on Friday.
An ODI series in the middle of a franchise T20 competition would usually get overlooked and put on the backburner but that isn’t the case with this one as South Africa are battling to automatically qualify for the World Cup later in the year and need to win three of their five remaining matches. England begin their preparations for their World Cup defence here.
You would imagine that the South Africa side will be buoyed by their outings in the SA20 competition in recent times. With the exception of Temba Bavuma, everyone who will be involved here will have been active in that tournament over the last couple of weeks so they have no excuses in the form of inactivity or no warm up or anything like that so it would be a surprise if given their need for victories if they don’t hit the ground running here.
We know that when South Africa play any form of cricket their bowling attack is generally very good and that is likely to be the case here with no injury concerns ahead of them. The reason why they are in the position they are with regards to the struggle to qualify for the World Cup because their batting isn’t as strong as other teams and they have been found wanting. That might be put behind them with the form the players have shown in the SA20.
This isn’t the format that England are strongest in but they are the world champions in it and so an emphasis is going to go into it to ensure that they are ready to give a good account of themselves when it comes to defending their crown later in the year. While not all England players have been involved in the SA20 competition, there aren’t many in the squad who haven’t played in one of the T20 leagues around the world recently.
Some of them are coming in from the UAE though so they might take a game to get up to the bouncier and quicker conditions so England might be at a slight disadvantage here. England are also managing the workload of some of their players so they won’t be completely at full strength. The other issue with this England side is they don’t always go as well as they should do when there is a bit in the pitches and you would imagine with the hot conditions in this country over the last week or two that the pitch will have something in it.
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South Africa have two selection issues to work out. The first is whether Janneman Malan or Reeza Hendricks opens. The former has got into the Johannesburg Super Kings head of the latter but isn’t in great form. The other one is whether Lungi Ngidi or Sisanda Magala completes the attack.
Harry Brook was pulled out of the SA20 competition in order to be available for this. England need to decide over Ben Duckett or Phil Salt to open the batting but the big news is that Jofra Archer will return to international cricket in this match.
The Manguang Oval was a pretty high scoring ground in the 50 over domestic tournament with two of the three first innings scores here being comfortably into the 300s and England have scored 399 on this ground as well in the not too distant past so there is certainly a reason to believe that this will be a high scoring match, especially when you consider that the majority of both batting units have been warmed up in the conditions and generally scoring well.
The boundaries line for this one is 54.5 and while the heat in this part of the world is a slight concern I do expect the pitch for this first game to be very good, not least because the other two matches are on this ground soon after this match so if the pitches are hard to play on now they’ll be incredibly tough come the third game. There is no shortage of boundary hitters in either side and 54.5 isn’t a particularly high line these days. This is a big ground but there should be no issues with the outfield so I’ll play the over here.
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