South Africa vs England 1st T20I Preview: Morgan's men favourites as Proteas hit resume after long break
While England played their last international fixture in September 2020 against Australia, the last time South Africa took the field was in March this year.
IPL stars in both sides
However, that in no way means that the South African or English players are short of match practice. Both the countries had big representation in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League which has become a potpourri of sorts for the best cricketing talent in the world.
While England had the likes of Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan featuring in the league, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje were the leading South African players part of IPL 2020.
But, are the rest up for it?
It is the remaining players and their preparation in the lead-up to the series which will ascertain the result, and on that front, England are quite ahead of their competitors.
Dawid Malan has been in tremendous form and will hope to continue it after the break. Likewise, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood have also had ample match practice and will be better-placed to put in their best foot forward.
On the contrary, although many of South African players have been part of the country's domestic cricket, one is not sure whether they would have been exposed to the rigours which international cricket requires of them.
While an exceptional talented individual like Rassie van der Dussen is expected to cope with it well, the question will be over the form of JJ Smuts, Henrich Klaasen, David Miller, Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo.
England have the upper hand
In terms of recent results, South Africa lost their last T20I series 1-2 against Australia. While their only victory came by a margin of 12 runs, they lost by 107 runs and 97 runs in the first and the third match respectively which tells that the matches were quite one-sided.
England, who also faced Australia in their last international T20I series, ended up winning it 2-1, with Australia taking away a consolation victory in the final match of the series after England had already taken an unassailable lead.
Faf, de Kock, Rabada, Nortje key for Proteas
Quinton de Kock is coming on the back of a brilliant run for Mumbai Indians in IPL 2020 and will partner either Temba Bavuma or Rassie van der Dussen at the top of the order. Faf du Plessis, who was one of the few shining lights for Chennai Super Kings in an otherwise awful IPL campaign, will slot at number 3 or 4 for South Africa.
However, it is the following batsmen which may be a cause of worry. Although there is no question about the talent of JJ Smuts, Henrich Klaasen and David Miller, it would be interesting to see how they turn up.
South Africa's bowling will be led by Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje who made waves for Delhi Capitals in the last IPL season. While Rabada won the Purple Cap, Nortje also featured in the list of top wicket-takers. The two will get the support of Lungi Ngidi which makes for a strong pace bowling attack.
Tabraiz Shamsi will be their first-choice spinner. The team will need four overs between all-rounders Jon-Jon Smuts and Andile Phehlukwayo.
England spoilt for choice
England are spoilt for choice but are likely to go with the combination of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order. Jason Roy might have to miss out with Dawid Malan claiming the spot at number 3.
Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes will provide the team with stability in the middle order. Moeen Ali is due a big one and will have to dish out a brilliant performance in the series for him to hold onto his place.
Sam Curran is likely to be preferred over brother Tom due to his IPL heroics. Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood pick themselves to form the team's pace attack alongside leggie Adil Rashid.
The series opener will be played in Cape Town which is expected to be cloudy. The temperatures will vary between 14 degree and 20 degree centigrade. The good thing though is that rain will not play spoilsport, with the conditions being good for cricket by and large.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
South Africa - Quinton De Kock (c & wk), Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, JJ Smuts, Heinrich Klaasen, Temba Bavuma/David Miller, Andile Pheklukawayo, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Anrich Nortje
England - Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy/Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran/Sam Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood
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