South Africa vs England: 1st T20I, Preview - Audition for World Cup takes centre stage as Proteas face a stern test

South Africa vs England: 1st T20I, Preview – Audition for World Cup takes centre stage as Proteas face a stern test

While Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes should consider themselves at certainties, Dawid Malan may also fancy himself after a scintillating display in New Zealand.

Dale Steyn
Dale Steyn. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

The prologue is done and dusted. While the Test series provided a clear picture of which outfit is the better, the 50-over games stayed somewhat inconclusive since both teams took their share. And now it truly begins for these two sides as they kickstart their preparations for bagging the ultimate prize in the shortest format later this year.

The three-match T20I series starting at the Buffalo Park in East London on Wednesday are about as far from an irrelevance, especially for South Africa, who will play only one T20I series after this before the mega event in Australia.

Relatively England are in a better place in terms of game time as well as the infusion of their several key players in the white-ball format. From their T20 series victory against New Zealand last November, the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Mark Wood, and Moeen Ali have been welcomed. But that leaves the tourists with plenty of selection conundrums. However, the camp would be relieved knowing the enormous depth in their squad in all the departments.

If not a massive, but perhaps a delightful selection headache is that of who partners Jos Buttler at the top of the order. Jos Buttler’s stunning success at the opening position that took shape in the IPL in 2018 has more or less cemented his spot at that place. While Jonny Bairstow indeed remains in the mix and will bat at three, Jason Roy is likely to partner Buttler, at least for the first game.

While Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes are certainties, Dawid Malan may also fancy himself after a scintillating display in New Zealand. With a host of options in the pace and spin-bowling department, the Three Lions can experiment freely in the upcoming leg with two more series against Australia and Pakistan waiting in the wings before the grandest stage.

The change of guard in the leadership position may not have produced the perfect result for South Africa; however, it signalled their movement in the correct direction. Even as Faf Du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada remain on the sidelines, the Proteas can match the firepower of England around the likes of Quinton De Kock, David Miller, JJ Smuts, Heinrich Klassen, Sisanda Magala, and the growing stocks of Tabraiz Shamsi.

Amid all these faces, how about their premier bowler Dale Steyn on the brink of donning the national colours for the first time since March 2019? If the Big Bash League was anything to go by, Steyn has done just about enough to sneak into the South African squad.

And these three games would form a template whether the veteran speedster will get one last crack at ushering his nation to an ICC glory. The road ahead of the World Cup for both England and South Africa promises not to be smooth. However, there’s no time to start like the present.

Playing Combinations

South Africa

The most significant boost from the hosts’ perspective is the return of Dale Steyn into their ranks. With Rabada resting from the series, the 36-year old has to shoulder the attack along with Lungi Ngidi. The likes of Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, and JJ Smuts could make up the middle-order while Pite van Biljon might make his debut.

Probable XI: Reeza Hendricks, Quinton de Kock(c&wk), Temba Bavuma/Pite van Biljon, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JJ Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Beuran Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi

England

England have plenty of options in all the facets to their armoury. Their top six to start the series may likely consist of Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, and Ben Stokes. Adil Rashid looks set to be the only frontline spin-bowling option while Chris Jordan, Tom Curran, and Mark Wood will likely form the pace bowling trio.

Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (C), Ben Stokes, Tom Curran, Sam Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Saqib Mahmood/Mark Wood

Focus will be on:

Dale Steyn (South Africa)

All eyes will undoubtedly on Dale Steyn. The South African speedster can provide breakthroughs in all phases of the T20 innings. Steyn’s hot and cold display for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League paved the way for Haris Rauf, whose red-hot form hardly let the side miss the South African. Steyn’s five wickets from four games at 16.23 was a testament that he held the ability to wreak havoc in full fitness. And fitness is what the veteran must hold on to along with form to stay in the reckoning for the T20 World Cup.

Ben Stokes (England)

Ben Stokes last played a T20 international in October 2018 against Sri Lanka. While the all-rounder has been nothing less than extraordinary in Tests and ODIs in recent months, the New Zealand-born all-rounder would be keen to mark his territory even in the shortest form for England. The debacle in the final of the 2016 ICC World T20 would further get his eyes affixed in leading England one step ahead of the previous time later this year.

Head to Head:

Played – 15 | Won by South Africa – 8 | Won by England – 6 | No result – 1

Stat Attack:

1- England will play their first T20I at the Buffalo Park in East London on Wednesday.

1- Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir are currently tied on 61 wickets for South Africa in T20 internationals. With Tahir not part of the current series, one more wicket will take Steyn to the top.

12- Chris Jordan has 54 wickets and needs 12 more to surpass Stuart Broad as the leading wicket-taker for England in T20 internationals. During the three-match series, he has a chance of getting there.

Broadcast details:

TV – Sony Six, Sony Six HD

Live streaming – Sony LIV

Match Timings – 6:00 PM (local), 9:30 PM (IST)