Another No.1 status is on the line
It may have only been a few days since England fell to defeat at Lord’s - and lost their No.1 Test status to South Africa in the process - but they must put that disappointment behind them with a one day series starting against the same opponents on Friday in Cardiff.
Now that the Test match action is completed for another summer, Andrew Strauss is sent off on sabbatical with Alastair Cook stepping in to lead an England one day side who are so far undefeated in 2012. Cook’s young side have enjoyed unrivalled success this year accumulating 10 victories over Pakistan, West Indies and Australia en route to their No.1 international ODI status.
South Africa, currently second in the rankings, also have a change in captaincy with AB DE Villiers taking the reins and Test skipper Graeme Smith falling back into the ranks. The tourists come into this series on the back of a strong run of form after series victories over Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
The most glaring omission from the England squad, bar the obvious one: Kevin Pietersen, is that of Stuart Broad, who the selectors have decided to rest ahead of the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka next month. Ravi Bopara, who missed the final two Tests for non-cricketing reasons, returns to the side batting at four as he looks to continue a run of ODI form that has included four half-centuries in nine matches in 2012.
England will be relying on their experienced top order of Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott to get them off to a strong starts that can then be exploited by strokemakers Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter. Meanwhile, aside from the omission of Broad, the England bowling attack has a very familiar feel to it with Jimmy Anderson, Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann all included.
The South Africa limited-overs squad also has a certain symmetry to it with the frame of their Test team retained. However, the main issue for the tourists is to fill the significant hole left by the absence of Jacques Kallis, who is another player rested due to the impending T20 World Cup.
The uncapped Dean Elgar is the player thrust into the fray to replace Kallis with one day specialists Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel and Francois du Plessis also drafted in to freshen up the squad. After his success during the Test series with both bat and ball it comes as a surprise that Vernon Philander is left out of the squad.
I feel a brief word on the Cardiff pitch is necessary as it has traditionally been a tough place for batsmen to express themselves. The weather forecast predicts overcast conditions littered with showers so batsmen will have to be cautious early on as the ball is bound to nip around a fair bit.
This will no doubt be another close and competitive series but I think the absence of Jacques Kallis could swing the balance in England’s favour (series win – 1.85). With that in mind I consider an England win in Cardiff at 2.00 as solid value as they strive to preserve their No.1 status.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes.
South Africa: AB De Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Francois du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.