The ODIs at the end of test series are a bit like doing your tax return. You watch them out of a sense of duty more than anything else. They’re dull as dishwater and there’s usually some bad news at the end. A heavy series defeat is much like receiving a huge bill from HMRC. Both feel like a blow to the Jatz Crackers.
However, things are finally beginning to change. England’s ODI side is actually pretty competitive these days, and watching them take on South Africa in their own backyard will be a good barometer of progress. I’m actually really looking forward to the series.
Although the Proteas wilted horribly in the tests, and couldn’t really cope with the injuries suffered by Steyn and Philander, I expect the Cricket Boks to play much better in these ODIs. People remember their recent tour of India as an absolute disaster, but it’s worth noting that they managed to win the ODI series out there 3-2. That’s a pretty good effort in anyone’s book.
Some observers seem to think that South Africa’s bowling won’t be up to much. I respectfully disagree. Any attack with Morkel, Rabada and Tahir will be a handful. I’ve haven’t seen too much of de Lange recently, but his record is good: 3 matches, 8 wickets at an average of just 14. Meanwhile Chris Morris is a promising cricketer who should contribute with bat and ball.
The Proteas batting also looks a bit spicy. We know all about Amla and de Villiers (expect the latter to put his test woes behind him), while Quinton de Kock is in prime form. I’m also looking forward to watching David Miller, a big unit who averages 35 in 82 ODIs with a strike rate of exactly 100. These guys will be eyeing up England’s inexperienced attack and licking their lips.
As for England, I’m concerned we might be a little under-cooked. The performance in the solitary warm-up game was really promising but the group haven’t had much time together. The individuals seem to be in good form – Willey and Rashid did really well in the Big Bash – but international cricket is a step up in class. Can the likes of Jos Buttler, who has refined his drinks carrying technique to perfection over the last month or so, suddenly hit the ground running?
It will be fascinating to see how England’s batsmen cope in this series. I’m really disappointed that Jason Roy has suffered a back injury and might not play in the opening game. Roy is perhaps the most exciting of all our newcomers. He’s strong and seems to have so much time to play the ball.
You could say that Roy is the antithesis of Alex Hales, who has struggled big time in his ODI career to date. Hales averages just 25 in 24 ODIs and although he scored a hundred in the UAE, conditions will be very different in South Africa. We wish him good luck. He may need it.
Although England’s batting line-up isn’t quite the finished article, there’s more than enough depth to post good totals. It’s quite extraordinary that guys as talented as Willey and Woakes might be batting as low as nine or ten. Just think about that for a second. It’s amazing. It must be dispiriting for opponents to get us eight down only to see a guy with eight first class tons stroll to the wicket.
I’m afraid I’m not so confident about the bowling though. Our attack lacks a bit of pace and mystery. However, I expected them to bomb in the UAE and they performed above all expectations. Maybe the likes of Topley and Jordan can surprise us all again? I sense the key man is Adil Rashid. If he can recapture his Big Bash form then our attack will suddenly look a lot more potent.