England vs South Africa: First ODI Preview

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England and South Africa go head to head in the first of three ODIs as the sides prepare for the Champions Trophy in June. 

The IPL has come and gone which means that attention now turns firmly toward international cricket as we near the commencement of the Champions Trophy.

England and South Africa go head-to-head in three One Day Internationals, before the Champions Trophy kicks off, the first of which gets underway on Wednesday afternoon at Headingley in Leeds.

England vs South Africa | Wednesday 24 May | Headingley, Leeds | 14:00

To Win Match
England 82/100 | Tie 35/1 | South Africa 1/1

England 
The English know full well what awaits them heading into this series: a three-match slug-fest with the undisputed kings of the bi-lateral, 50-over series at the minute. That said, Trevor Bayliss’ men haven’t been too bad themselves of late – especially at home.

In fact, England haven’t suffered a series defeat at home since Australia turned them over in a 3-2 loss in 2015. They come into this series with pretty much the same crop of players who have matured into one of the most formidable ODI sides on the planet.

Since their away series defeat against South Africa in February last year they’ve gone on to win 15 games whilst losing just four. Eoin Morgan and his players have lost one ODI series since then, although losing 2-1 in India is hardly the worst result in the world.

They’ll also be more settled than the Proteas having just concluded a two-match series against Ireland in which they cruised to a 2-0 win without having to get out of second gear. This extra time together could prove the difference with many of the South African IPL players only departing India last week.

Bayliss will want his explosive top order to take the game to the South African seamers and force AB de Villiers to turn to Imran Tahir early doors. South Africa will be all too aware of the damage that Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Joe Root can do at the top of the order after that World T20 match at the Wankhede last March in which England chased down 229 with two balls to spare.

We don't really need to say much about Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Adil Rashid and David Willey who are all more than capable of putting the foot down toward the back end of the innings. I do worry a bit for England's bowlers, though. Aside from Adil Rashid, I don't really see anyone causing the South African batsmen too many problems, although Mark Wood's pace and skid could well prove me wrong.

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South Africa
The South Africans will come into this three-match series looking to lay down a marker against the Champions Trophy hosts and indeed the rest of the participants in June’s showpiece event. A strong showing against an effervescent English side will put Russel Domingo’s men in the ideal headspace heading into the tournament.

Many of the players – excluding those who had IPL commitments – who are coming into the series do so off the back of a pretty lengthy break from the competitive game. Guys like Quinton de Kock, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phelukwayo, JP Duminy, Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel will be raring to go come Wednesday.

In terms of form, Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir enjoyed magnificent IPL campaigns. Kagiso Rabada got plenty of game time for the Delhi Daredevils and performed consistently without really setting the tournament alight. David Miller and Faf du Plessis both had surprisingly quiet tournaments and were overlooked for their respective franchises more often than not.

All eyes, however, will be on Quinton de Kock. The 24-year-old returns to the fray after recovering from a finger problem that ruled him out of the IPL. He’s far more consistent now than he was a few years ago with four half-centuries and a ton to his name in his last seven ODIs – certainly one to watch.

Another player to keep an eye on will be Chris Morris. The South African all-rounder has been bowling superbly well since the last few weeks of the Momentum One Day Cup. He bagged 12 wickets in nine IPL appearances at an average of 20 and a healthy economy of 7.74. His ability to swing the ball at pace will worry the English batsmen while his knack for pilfering quick runs at the end of the innings will no doubt be cause for concern for England’s attack.

Looking ahead, I think the Proteas would have been priced up as favourites had this match been played at a natural venue. Their 50-over form has been nothing short of sensational, smashing both Sri Lanka and Australia 5-0 at home last year before grabbing an excellent 3-2 win away in New Zealand.

They’ve not lost an ODI series since July 2015 where they went down in a rain-affected trio of matches in Bangladesh. I honestly don’t think there will be a repeat of that result here, South Africa are currently the kings of the bi-lateral series and should be backed to get off to a good start – especially in English conditions.

Verdict: South Africa 1/1
I initially thought this game would have been priced up at 9/10 each way, although the bookies have given England the favourites tag as they’re at home. To be honest, it’s too close to call so I’ll be having a small strike on South Africa who offer better value at even money. 

Value Bet: Hashim Amla to top score for South Africa 33/10
Hash enjoyed an absolutely magnificent IPL campaign and has always enjoyed playing in England where he averages just over 60 in ODIs. This coupled with his decent showing against Northamptonshire (59 off 67) has me leaning toward a small strike on the bearded top order accumulator to top score for the Proteas. Get on at 33/10.

Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.net

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