SA v ENG 1st T20I Preview: Buttler's batting order in focus as top guns return

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While Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Mark Wood return for England, South Africa welcome back the Steyn gun. With rain not predicted, for a change, both teams will try to play the XI closest to that in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

Venue - Buffalo Park, East London

Start time - 04:00 PM GMT | 06:00 PM LOCAL

Head to Head record in T20Is - South Africa: 8 England: 6 Tied: 0
No Result: 1

Weather - Cloudy, 28°C, Precipitation: 10%, Humidity: 68%, Wind: 37 km/h

Does Buttler open?

The last time Jos Buttler represented England in a T20 International, it was way back in October 2018. After the Rajasthan Royals' experiment in the IPL of pushing Buttler to open the innings bore fruit, this has become a thing for him in T20 leagues around the world. The wicketkeeper has opened the batting for England in the last few T20Is as well.

In the last 28 T20 innings that Buttler has opened in since May 2018, he has averaged over 46 and has struck at close to 155. The numbers don't really translate in international cricket but that might just be a matter of time.

The obvious logic behind promoting him is that your best batsmen should play the most number of balls and if the wicketkeeper comes out to bat with only a handful of deliveries left, there is only as much he can do. Hence, there is a strong case for him being designated the permanent T20I opener.

England's batting order

This leaves England with a quandary. Their opening pair of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy has done quite well and with Dawid Malan and Tom Banton waiting in the wings, it is a headache of plenty for them. But, going purely by the numbers, Jason Roy averages below 25 and strikes just under 150 since the beginning of 2017 in T20Is. The numbers are quite decent but not remarkable.

His opening partner Johny Bairstow with a T20I average of 26.21 and a strike rate of 134 hasn't done enough either. But, the fact that he is a quick starter helps him warrant a place, possibly at one drop.

Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes pick themselves in the middle order. Moeen Ali is another candidate who is ideal in the middle order due to his promise against spin and will probably bat at six.

The Steyn gun returns

Dale Steyn last played a T20I in March last year after a break of three years, following which he suffered another injury, as has been the case for a majority of the last few years, and was ruled out. The veteran recently finished third in the wicket charts of the Mzansi Super League 2019 with 15 wickets from 8 matches at an average of 15.13 and an economy of 7.09, with best match figures of 3-10.

He has fairly good T20I figures with 61 wickets from 44 matches and an economy under seven. In the absence of Rabada, he will bring in a lot of experience as the leader of the bowling unit. Beuran Hendricks and Lungi Ngidi will be his pace bowling partners.

The du Plessis void

While Faf du Plessis has time and again expressed his wish to hang his boots after the T20 World Cup in Australia, his international career looks quite uncertain at the moment. When head coach Mark Boucher was asked whether or not du Plessis will return for the Australia T20Is, he said:

"That was always the plan and Faf is still one of our best T20 players. We feel he needs a bit of a break away from the game. There is going to be a lot of cricket leading up to a [T20] World Cup so [we'll take] any opportunity we get to give guys a bit of rest and give other guys opportunities to see what they're all about."

In his absence, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller will have the onus of filling the void in the Protea middle order.

Here's a look at the probable playing XI of both teams:

South Africa - Quinton de Kock (c, wk), Reeza Hendricks, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Jon-Jon Smuts, Dwaine Pretorius/Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Dale Steyn

England - Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood

This is where you can catch all the live action across the globe:

UK: Sky Sports Cricket
South Africa: SuperSport
India & Subcontinent: Sony Network
Canada: ATN Cricket Plus (Asian Television Network), CBN
USA: Willow TV, Hotstar
Malaysia: Astro Cricket HD
Middle East and North Africa (MENA): OSN Sports Cricket HD

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