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by Rob Johnston Thursday 11 February 2016
Fourth One-Day International - South Africa v England in Johannesburg12th February | 13:30 local | 11:30 GMT
Cricket. Marvellous cricket.
The game has a way of bringing teams and players back down to earth rapidly and unceremoniously. After flying high in the first two One-Day Internationals, England were thumped by South Africa in Centurion.
Such is the nature of the game.
The series moves on to the Wanderers in Johannesburg for the fourth match on Friday. The Bullring is South Africa’s favourite ground and they have a terrific record here. England have some recent fond memories of their own here after their seven wicket win in the Test series.
South Africa won 11 out of the first 14 ODIs played at the Wanderers after their readmission in 1992 but their recent record in one-day cricket has been less secure. India and Sri Lanka have both won here in the past five years.
That is not to say it is now an easy place to win. Last year, South Africa hosted the West Indies and proceeded to score 439-2 off their 50 overs. This was the game where AB de Villiers scored a 31 ball hundred and the home side won easily.
England have been warned.
Hashim Amla also scored a hundred in that game against the West Indies and the opener roared back in to form at Centurion on Tuesday with another classy century.
Amla’s knock was overshadowed by Quinton de Kock, who has two hundreds in the series and is proving himself one of the premier white ball cricketers in the world. Amla’s knock went almost unnoticed by comparison.
De Kock now has ten ODI hundreds from only 55 innings. At just 23 years of age, it is quite a remarkable start to what South Africa will hope is a long and successful international career.
England have had no answer to de Kock for much of the series. The lack of pace in the opening attack has been exposed by the wicket-keeper on the flat pitches at Bloemfontein and Centurion and Eoin Morgan, the captain, may look at a change.
Chris Jordan has not had a great time of it with the ball, with combined figures of 1-143 off 17.3 overs from the three games. Jordan will be a good cricketer for England but it is time for a rest.
Stuart Broad or Chris Woakes, both left out of the T20 World Cup squad announced on Wednesday, will both come in to contention and may both play if one of David Willey or Reece Topley is also left out.
England’s spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were quiet at Centurion but will find the bounce on offer in Johannesburg more to their liking.
Rashid was the pick of England’s attack in the third game of the series and it seems his Big Bash stint has served him well, giving him confidence and further one-day big match experience. He is maturing in to a fine cricketer.
Whilst England’s attack struggled, South Africa’s bowlers fared better at Centurion than in the previous two games. The introduction of Kyle Abbott and David Wiese has at least given them more firepower and a stronger attack than in the first two games.
Abbott, who will play for Worcestershire in the second half of the upcoming county season, in particular has made a real difference, providing pace and control with the new ball.
At some stage, the home side have said they want to rest Morne Morkel. In a must-win game, it is a tough decision to make but there are bigger fish tofry in the coming weeks so it will be no surprise to see Morkel miss out.
If he does, Chris Morris, who played in the first game of the series, will replace him.Whilst the bowling attacks of the two sides are both steady but unspectacular, the batting line ups on show are exceptional.
England made 318 in the game at Centurion but will be disappointed they didn’t get more. Such is the way of modern one-day cricket that where once a score over 300 was considered almost insurmountable, it is now usually no more than par.
Joe Root’s excellent hundred, his seventh in ODIs, and Ben Stokes brutal hitting were the highlights but England’s one-day batting is in rude health. There will be no changes in that department at Johannesburg.
Neither will there be in South Africa’s top five. With Amla back to form, their top order looks strong and England will hope there is something in the pitch for their bowlers to work with. If there isn’t, it could be another tough day in the field.
England should be helped by the conditions though. Johannesburg is traditionally the quickest pitch in South Africa which should assist the bowlers and batsmen alike. There should be plenty of runs on offer though.
The extra pace suggests that England should pick Broad for his first ODI since last year’s World Cup. His series winning spell of 6-17 here in the Test match may also work in his favour. England have to find a way to get through de Kock and Broad may give them that added edge with the new ball.
South Africa’s middle order isn’t particularly strong with JP Duminy out of form at six, Farhaan Behardien at seven and Wiese at eight. If England can take early wickets, they will have a good chance of restricting the home side.
South Africa’s win has spiced up the series nicely, although England are only a victory away from an impressive series win.
Morgan’s side have shown in the past 18 months that they are fast learners and have come back from big defeats before, notably when they lost the first two ODIs against Australia last summer but rallied to level the series 2-2.
If South Africa’s batting continues to fire, it should be a very tight game but if there is something in the pitch to help the England bowlers, they will start as favourites.
England are marginally favourites for this game but removing Quinton de Kock early is the key for Eoin Morgan’s side. It should be an enthralling contest.
South Africa: 1. Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3. Faf du Plessis, 4. AB de Villiers (captain), 5. JP Duminy, 6. Farhaan Behardien, 7. David Wiese, 8. Kagiso Rabada, 9. Kyle Abbott, 10. Morne Morkel, 11. Imran Tahir
England: 1. Alex Hales, 2. Jason Roy, 3. Joe Root, 4. Eoin Morgan (captain), 5. Ben Stokes, 6. Jos Buttler (wk), 7. Moeen Ali, 8. Stuart Broad, 9. David Willey, 10. Adil Rashid, 11. Reece Topley
© Cricket World 2016