26th May: Chennai S. Kings v Mumbai I, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
England v South Africa
3rd NatWest ODI, The Brit Oval, Friday 29th August, 10:15 GMT
Preview by Pete Exley
After a dazzling display of clinical cricket on Tuesday, a Kevin Pietersen inspired England travel to The Oval looking to maintain the momentum gained by two emphatic wins against a fancied South Africa. The England team seem to have gained a new lease of life under the guidance of Pietersen and since the departure of Michael Vaughan, have looked to have a new self confidence and they must now keep the pressure on to press home their advantage.
In the past, England have been guilty of letting the opposition off the hook after starting a series in impressive fashion, just look at the recent series against New Zealand, so this series could prove to be a turning point in the fortunes of English One Day cricket if they do indeed complete a series victory in London. Pietersen’s new attacking approach to cricket has galvanised his young, vibrant team and their spirit was epitomised by the bowling performance in the second ODI.
Stuart Broad showed signs of what may come in the future with his devastating spell of 5-23, but it was the united front of hostile bowling from the four pronged pace attack that is encouraging for the remainder of the series. With four men capable of bowling at over ninety miles-per-hour, England has an attack that will make many opponents quake in their boots. The challenge for Pietersen is to keep his team performing to this high standard for a prolonged period of time, but the omens are looking good.
The only concerns still lie with the batting. The opening partnership of Ian Bell and Matt Prior, although clinical in the most recent match, do not look like a permanent solution to the problem of the power-play overs. The stately method of play exhibited by Bell in both matches may be sufficient on English pitches, where the ball moves prodigiously early on, but on the more sedate pitches overseas, he will have to look to capitalise on the restrictions, otherwise his place could be in jeopardy. Prior’s assured keeping since his return to the side looks to have cemented his place in the team, although some of his shot selection in the run chase on Tuesday looked a tad reckless. Having said that, the middle order looks strong and they will hope to a have a chance to display their talents at the Oval.
The Proteas, on the other hand, may need to shake up the team with some changes after Graeme Smith was forced to apologise to the supporters for his team’s humiliating display. Morne Morkel could return to join his brother, Albie, in a return from injury to bolster the bowling attack but it is the batting order that should fear for their places after such a spectacular failure at Trent Bridge. The top six are all capable of making big scores but have again failed to bring their Test form into the shorter format.
Jacques Kallis in particular looks woefully out of form and we are perhaps seeing the beginning of the end to his illustrious career. With skipper Smith looking likely to miss out with an ongoing elbow injury, Kallis will cling on to his place and deputise for Smith just a year after quitting from the vice-captaincy role. The only possible replacements for Smith lack international experience so South Africa will struggle to find someone to provide much needed runs.
On the bowling front, South Africa may well be boosted by the return of Morne Morkel and the combination of the volatile Andre Nel and the pacey Dale Steyn will always be dangerous. Although a little wayward on Tuesday, Steyn bowled at a frightening pace, consistently touching 93 miles per hour and England will have to be wary as he has proved in the recent past that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Needing a win to keep the series alive, all of the pressure is on the Proteas to win Friday’s match, but a confident England will want to claim what would be a magnificent series win by defeating a South Africa team in disarray in what promises to be an intriguing encounter.
© Cricket World 2008