South Africa vs England | Saturday 6 February | St George's Park | 09:30
In a cruel twist of fate, the rain that has largely been absent in Bloemfontein over the last few months, put an end to a fascinating contest between South Africa and England in the first One Day International.
England will take a 1-0 lead into the second ODI set to be played at St George’s Park on Saturday. Can AB de Villiers and his men level the five-match series or will Eoin Morgan and his charges go one step closer to claiming a massive ODI series win for England? Let’s find out.
To Win Match
South Africa 8/10
If we’re going to dissect the Proteas’ all-round performance against the English in Bloemfontein, we’re going to have to look at the bowlers first. The first person I’m going to take aim at is Marchant de Lange. The giant quick from the Titans is a List A player at best. Even in the Momentum One Day Cup, a competition where the quality of players has been called into question over the last few months, he struggles to keep a lid on scoring. While he does take wickets domestically, batsmen are all too able to score freely off the two or three poor balls he inevitably bowls every over.
If he isn’t able to keep the scoring down against the likes Rudi Second, Andrew Puttick and Justin Ontong; how on earth is he meant to contain an England side that possesses some of the world’s cleanest hitters of a cricket ball?
Looking through the rest of the bowling card, Morne Morkel was tidy, given the circumstances. Chris Morris struggled initially but brought it back nicely toward the end of the innings where his Yorker-length deliveries and reverse swing made scoring difficult. Imran Tahir was busy, finding a bit of turn on a parched wicket while the two stop-gap bowlers, JP Duminy and Farhaan Berhadien were routinely punished by the English top and middle order.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Proteas, however. A magnificent batting display from Quinton de Kock stole the show in the second innings. The young wicket-keeper opened the batting for the Proteas along with Hashim Amla and wasted little time in getting off the mark, playing a beautiful square drive for four off the second ball of the innings.
Despite losing his more senior partner early on, de Kock looked unflappable in his pugnacity as he routinely dispatched the English bowlers to the fence. As always, he favoured the leg side scoring 109 of his 138 runs through the on side. He would receive able support from Faf du Plessis who played brilliantly well for his 55 before eventually being caught at deep mid-on off the bowling of Moeen Ali.
De Kock would soldier on, however, even as de Villiers, Duminy and Rilee Rossouw fell at the other end. He would finish the match stranded on 138 as the heavens opened, washing away any hopes the Proteas harboured of claiming a famous victory.
Looking ahead, I like the make-up of the side with the obvious exception of de Lange who will be replaced by the returning Kagiso Rabada. Whether or not Kyle Abbott will be fit for the second ODI remains to be seen as he recovers from a hamstring problem picked up in the final Test. If he is fit, I expect he’ll come into the side for Morris.
Fearless, ferocious and wildly exciting; Eoin Morgan and his charges have broken free from the conservative shackles that had weighed down English limited overs cricket for so many years.
The likes of Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Morgan are all more than capable of destroying any bowling attack in the world on their day, as the South Africans discovered on Wednesday to their detriment.
Roy and Hales got the English innings off to a flying start as the hosts piled on 68 in just 7.3 overs before the former mistimed a drive straight into the grateful hands of Berhadien in the covers. Alex Hales would fall exactly 10 overs later for a 47-ball 59 as he skied a short de Lange delivery down de Villiers’ throat.
The dismissal would bring Buttler to the crease, who along with Joe Root, quickly propelled the English total beyond 200. Buttler was absolutely magnificent on the day and did his chances of landing an IPL deal no harm as he powered to 105 off just 76 balls, hitting 11 fours and five sixes.
Having carried the drinks for the entirety of the Test series, he would have been delighted to have been afforded the opportunity to strut his stuff against a very weak South African bowling attack. What impressed me most about the English keepers was his ability to score on both sides of the wicket. He routinely dispatched the South African attack to all parts of the Manguang Oval.
He would eventually fall victim to Berhadien, but the damage had been done. Ben Stokes would help himself to a typically destructive half-century and England’s charge faded as their tail failed to wag. They would eventually limp to 399-9 after looking like they were well on course for a score of 430-440.
Moeen Ali was the pick of the English bowlers as he picked up three wickets for 43 in his six overs. Chris Jordan will have to improve is he is to keep his place in the side as the first change bowler. His figures of 0-56 in 5.3 were simply not good enough with the likes of Stuart Broad waiting in the wings.
Looking ahead, I do think Broad might come back into the side for Jordan. Adil Rashid will get another crack on a surface that traditionally favours the spinners while David Willey and Reece Topley will probably share the opening overs once again.
The Venue: St George’s Park
Steeped in tradition and history, St George’s Park was the first venue to host a Test match outside of Australia and England and also the sixth oldest ground in the world.
The ground is one of the better spin venues in South Africa so we can look to the likes of Tahir, Rashid and Ali to produce the goods with ball in hand. The ground isn’t particularly big, and with the wind set to be blowing strongly, I think we can expect the see the batsmen targeting certain areas of the ground.
Verdict: South Africa 8/10
The Proteas will be buoyed by their performance with the bat in the last One Day International, and with Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis looking in good touch, they have every chance of levelling the series provided South African management gets Kagiso Rabada back into the side. Back the Proteas at 8/10 – for better value, however, you can go for de Kock to top score for the Proteas at 3/1.