South Africa is ready for the return of sport
I’ve been spending some time in Johannesburg over the last few days and I can tell you that South Africa is desperate for sport.
It’s been a difficult time, but they just want to see Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada and all the others do the business against England.
It’s such a big series and such a competitive series whenever these two teams meet. There’s a real buzz around it.
Whatever else has been going on, it shouldn’t affect the players. They need to stick the Proteas jumper on and get to work.
Both teams should focus on the here and now
There is talk about South Africa and England planning for the World T20 in 12 months’ time but, from a player’s perspective, you only think about the game in hand.
When it’s South Africa v England, that’s enough motivation. You’re thinking about how to beat the opponent.
They’ve got some big contests coming up and if they look too far ahead, they will lose their focus on how to win these matches.
Roy and Buttler are key for England
There are all sorts of opportunities and possibilities for England to look at in their T20 batting order.
In this format of the game, Jos Buttler has to be an opener. Even in 50-over cricket, I think he should be an opener. He is a magician with the bat and, if he’s there for 15 overs, England will win the vast majority of their matches. He intimidates bowlers. He’s the kind of guy that South Africa will be spending longer talking about in their team meeting than anybody else.
I also want to see Jason Roy back and given a good run over the next few months. He has been injured and didn’t play in the IPL, so he needs to be given a chance to recover his best condition. He is one to watch in this series. He was born in South Africa, so this one is extra special for him, and I think he deserves to play, despite all the competition for places.
Roy-Buttler-Bairstow – or even Roy-Buttler-Stokes – looks a very decent top three.
The battle of the pace men
A fascinating battle is Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada v Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
This series could be a tough one for pace bowling, particularly starting at Newlands, which isn’t really a fast wicket. But that doesn’t matter. When the ball’s coming down at 150kph+, batsmen have to have their wits about them.
The aggressive nature in which both fast bowling units will be playing is going to be what people tune in for, but it could also decide the series.
Australia v India is a fantastic contest
The cricketing rivalry between these two nations is historic.
Even though these ODIs will be played in front of limited supporters, if players are having to dig deep to find motivation then there’s a problem. The big players will stand up.
The match-ups in these line-ups are compelling. We’ve got Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc bowling at Virat Kohli, trying to intimidate him. Kohli loves batting in Australia, too. And you’ve got Jasprit Bumrah running in at David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith.
I’m particularly keen to see how Shubman Gill can get on for India. He will make any team that he is in a better one.
India, obviously, have produced some of the greatest batsmen of all time.
Gill is in this squad on merit and because he has the potential to become another Indian great – when he gets the opportunity, he needs to grab it.
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