1st ODI: South Africa vs England
I remember my colleague saying on the eve of last year’s World Cup that much of England’s transformation into the best One Day International side in the world could be attributed to the dynamic captaincy and swashbuckling batting of skipper Eoin Morgan.
The rest, of course, is history and Morgan certainly more than played his part in what ultimately led to an unforgettable climax one sunny Sunday evening in July.
Now as we eagerly await this 1st ODI, it’s as if the cycle is beginning again.
For this is where the long, hard road to the 2023 World Cup begins in earnest: in the shadow of Table Mountain and in the wake of an arduous Test campaign with white-ball focuses drifting from 50 to 20 overs, as England and South Africa resume the format that brought them such contrasting emotions at the 2019 World Cup – more than half a year ago.
In their first outing in the format since being crowned world champions, England’s attention turns to the one-day internationals again.
They face a familiar foe after a Christmas period which began with a festive test to savour that resulted in a 3-1 Test series victory, despite losing the opener.
Six matches over three days and a chance for them to assert their tour domination and for the hosts to restore some pride.
Kingsmead in Durban and the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg will follow but first up is Newlands in Cape Town, and then there’s three T20 clashes to conclude the tour.
Some believe it’s a new opportunity and perhaps a glimpse of a new era for the home side with Quinton de Kock expected to bring a calmness and a great understanding of the game to the role of South Africa ODI captain, according to team-mate David Miller.
De Kock will take charge during this series and has also been tipped as the long-term successor to Faf du Plessis.
Four members of the 14-man squad are uncapped with regular captain du Plessis and senior quick Kagiso Rabada rested, but there is still plenty of talent in the ranks and Miller is on record as he expects de Kock to set a positive example for the rest to follow.
In keeping with South Africa’s disappointing 2019 World Cup, Miller had a middling run in England last year, batting four times and making scores of 38, 31, 36 and 31.
However, as a senior batsman who made his one day international debut a decade ago, he is keen to carve out a central role for himself in the run up to the 2023 tournament in India.
The main one day international news for the tourists is that England too have an experimental look about them, with World Cup winners such as Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler rested ahead of the T20Is – which have assumed greater importance in a T20 World Cup year.
Jason Roy hit a century to set up an England win in a 50-overs match against a Cricket South Africa Invitation XI at Boland Park on Friday, hitting 104 off 99 balls in an England total of 240.
Their squad is generally made up of the 2019 World Cup-winning cohort with a handful of additions and some key players rested. But with South Africa hurting from their miserable summer at this level, their determination could prove too much for the world champions on this occasion.
Historically in this format of the game, there’s little to choose between the two nations. England have won 27 of their one day internationals, South Africa have the edge with 29 wins and one has been drawn.
England have the edge test wise in history with 64 successes, 30 more than South Africa, plus 55 ties.
The last time they met in this format was the opening match of last year’s World Cup.
Little did we know that the two stars of that contest would prove to be the stars of an unforgettable final match of the tournament as well.