One swallow doesn’t make a summer, let alone an autumn – the season into which this campaign is rapidly edging. But after the angst and the travails of the past few months, there was a cathartic glee to be had in South Africa’s comprehensive win against the 50-over World Champions in Tuesday’s first ODI.
It came a few months too late for their World Cup hopes, maybe, but so many facets of South Africa’s performance offered long-overdue encouragement – not least the consummate ease with which Quinton de Kock assumed the mantle of ODI captain, cruising to an effortless even-paced century that enhanced the credentials of a character who is not easily fazed.
Then there was the triumphant second coming of Temba Bavuma, who put a summer of rancorous headlines to one side to produce a sparky 98 in his first ODI for two years. And if there was short-term disappointment in Bavuma’s failure to convert to three figures, then that was offset by the manner in which he took to that troublesome No.3 berth, with responsible shot selection and whippet-like running that lifted de Kock’s performance as well as his own.
And there was the impact of Tabraiz Shamsi, emerging from Imran Tahir’s shadow with three key wickets in a taxing spell of wrist-spin. And, for South Africa’s administrators, there was even the blessed relief of exceeding their team’s transformation targets – with no fewer than four black Africans and three further players of colour in their Cape Town line-up, with Kagiso Rabada still waiting in the wings to further strengthen the side.
South Africa won’t, however, encounter many white-ball teams quite as compliant as England proved to be in their first 50-over outing since that heady day in July. Errors, accidents and inexperience torpedoed their hopes of making a statement performance at Newlands, from the brace of scuffed drives that did for Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, to the direct-hit run-out that kiboshed Joe Root’s nascent innings.
And, as Eoin Morgan said after their seven-wicket defeat, “failure is a huge platform” for the likes of Tom Banton and Matt Parkinson, who may yet prove to be pillars of England’s World Cup defence in three years’ time, but who will do well to lick their wounds from a chastening pair of ODI debuts and absorb the lessons on offer.
For Parkinson in particular, there are some huge shoes to fill. Between the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, no spinner claimed more wickets in overs 11-40 than Adil Rashid, whose dicky shoulder requires constant management and who cannot be relied upon, regardless of his enduring quality, to still be in his prime come 2023. If Parkinson is indeed the heir apparent, he will need to be given the situational experience to learn on the job, even if it means a few more leaky displays as he finds his feet at this level.
And as for Banton, his more immediate impact may well be felt in the back-to-back T20 World Cups that precede England’s 50-over defence – especially if he can thrive at the IPL as impressively as he did at the BBL this winter. But for the time being, he will need to add a new string to his white-ball bow, and hit the ground running against the spinners, in those tricky middle overs, if he is to continue coming in at No.6 in this power-packed order.
Such on-the-job training is perhaps not the ideal way for England to double down on their World Champion status. Certainly you could sense the difference in intensity between the two teams in Cape Town – South Africa, desperate for success and scrapping for every moment in the match; England, rather more lackadaisical in the key moments, and reliant on Joe Denly’s best rescue efforts to post a serviceable total.
But, at the same time, you cannot ever fully write off this England team, even when it is missing the likes of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler with the bat, and Mark Wood and Jofra Archer (whose elbow injury has been confirmed as a stress fracture) with the ball. Not to mention the unsung hero, Liam Plunkett, whose mid-innings guile was not adequately replicated at Cape Town. Room for improvement, you might say. Morgan will certainly be expecting some improvement.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWWLL
In the spotlight
Temba Bavuma has barely left the spotlight all summer, but having created column inches through his absences in the Test series, his return to the one-day side produced nothing but positives for his team. The challenge now is to back up the impression he made in his first ODI since October 2017, and only the third of his career. For if he’s sometimes struggled to justify his status in the Test team, then there was an abundance of composure on display in the one-day side – and given that South Africa’s top order has been up for grabs since the departures of AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, not to mention Faf du Plessis’s uncertain future, he’s got a chance in these two remaining games to make a real statement of intent.
It was a mixed bag from Chris Jordan on his return to the 50-over team after an absence of three and a half years. His initial two-over spell was milked for 18 runs as he struggled to find his range, but at the back end of South Africa’s innings, with a lost cause beginning to loom, he briefly gave England hope with the wicket of Bavuma and two further overs that conceded just four runs in all. His skills at the death have rarely been questioned, but can Jordan offer more in other areas of the innings? With Archer and Plunkett out of the picture, temporarily or otherwise, he has more to gain from this tour than most of England’s more established performers.
Why change a winning formula? South Africa haven’t got much right in recent times, but the alchemy of the XI that won at Newlands was such that they’d do well not to tinker. Kyle Verreynne, Janneman Malan and Bjorn Fortuin are waiting in the wings if needs be.
South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk, capt), 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Temba Bavuma, 4 Jon-Jon Smuts, 5 Rassie van der Dussen, 6 David Miller, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Beuran Hendricks, 9 Lutho Sipamla, 10 Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Some decisions for England in the wake of their Cape Town defeat, most notably when and how to reintroduce Moeen Ali to their starting XI, especially given that Joe Denly’s performance in adversity has cemented his place in the middle order. His selection may depend on whether England value his wise old head, with the series in jeopardy, over the experience it will offer to the younger players in the team.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan, 5 Joe Denly, 6 Tom Banton, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Matt Parkinson.
Pitch and conditions
Wet, wet, wet… that’s the unfortunate prognosis at Kingsmead, where there’s an 80 percent chance of rain on Thursday, at a venue where a succession of Mzansi Super League matches were also washed out.
Stats and trivia
South Africa’s ODI record at Kingsmead isn’t quite as formidable as at Newlands, but with 22 wins and 11 losses in 38 matches (1 tie, 4 no-results) it’s still something of a fortress. They’ve lost just once there, to India, in their last eight games dating back to 2013.
South Africa have never lost an ODI to England at Kingsmead, though that’s not saying much. They won their first encounter by five wickets, in 1996, before the next two – in 2005 and 2009 – were washed out.
If selected, Adil Rashid will play his 100th ODI, one match after his team-mate Chris Woakes did likewise.
“Although we are young in terms of experience on the international scene you can see what this team can do, given a bit of backing and some time. It’s exciting to see what this group is capable of.”
Tabraiz Shamsi on the energy in the South Africa camp
“I don’t necessarily think there’s more motivation, but when there are guys missing there are opportunities, and we’ll no doubt be looking to take those.”
Tom Curran recognises the absence of senior players offers a chance for the other squad players to make their mark