South Africa v England – First ODI at 11:30 live on Sky Sports 2
Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein is the setting for the first of five ODIs in this series. The ground hosted a classic ODI between the sides back in 2005; a match infamous for a maiden international century from a certain Kevin Pietersen. The game ended in high drama when the hosts lost three wickets in the final over to journeyman England seamer Kabir Ali to see the game end in a rare tie.
Temperatures in the early thirties are forecast with clear skies – expect a full fifty overs per side battle.
This isn’t a ground regularly used by the South African’s but when they do play here they often win (P21 W14 L6 T1). There have been just six ODIs since the aforementioned KP/Kabir Ali classic and three of those were South Africa taking on the not-so-mighty Zimbabwe & Kenya.
Here’s a list of the last ten first innings scores in ODIs (most recent first) –
315, 266, 351, 336, 201, 249, 270, 133, 252, 314 – Average of 269
South Africa have batted first in 17 of 24 ODIs completed since the start of 2015 with an average score of 309 – they’ve passed 400 on four occasions and 262 or more 14/17.
England have batted first in 12 of 25 ODIs completed since the start of 2015 with an average score of 272 – they’ve passed 400 once themselves and 283 or more 8/12.
AB de Villiers leads a South Africa ODI side that notably won its last series away in India. In the Mumbai decider, the captain himself smashed 119 off 61 balls as Quinton de kock and Faf du Plessis also notched up centuries, helping South Africa rack up a massive 438/4 to take the series. Hashim Amla, fresh from a double ton and a further hundred in the Test series, has lost the burden of captaincy and should be free to add to his already fine fifty over record where he averages over 52. There are concerns with the ball. Dale Steyn is out for the series; Kyle Abbott will certainly miss the first game whilst Vernon Philander hasn’t played any cricket since November 5th. Morne Morkel and Kasigo Rabada, fresh from thirteen wickets in Pretoria, will lead the attack but SA hierarchy have already hinted both will be rested at some point. 84 wickets at an average of 22.94 suggest leg-spinner Imran Tahir will be vital in those middle overs.
After years of trying to manoeuvre, prod and accumulate through less dynamic players such as Cook, Trott, Bell and Balance, England have finally worked out you need power to compete in ODI cricket. Alex Hales and Jason Roy both blasted maiden ODI hundreds in England’s pre-Christmas series win against Pakistan and in Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and James Taylor they boast a middle order that contains both power and skill that can keep the score ticking over in those middle periods. Jos Buttler returns to the side after sitting out the Tests, fresh from an incredible 116 made off just 52 balls in England’s last ODI in Dubai. Adil Rashid returns from Big Bash duty where he starred for Adelaide with 16 wickets and the seam attack will be bolstered by the return of Johannesburg hero Stuart Broad. Whether he gets into the starting XI is another question after Woakes, Willey and Topley shared 20 wickets in the four match series against Pakistan.
AB de Villiers is a frighteningly good white ball cricketer. Sometimes statistics don’t prove points. Others times, such as AB and his ODI record, they most certainly do –
187 innings, 8403 runs, 54.21 average, 23 hundreds, 47 fifties, 100.28 runs per hundred balls.
If that’s not enough, he is also the proud owner of a world record 31-ball hundred, made last year against the West Indies. There are a couple of chinks in his armour going into this first match – his Bloemfontein record is far from flash with scores of 65, 39*, 21, 11, 20 – an average well below his career record. He’s also having an uncharacteristically lean spell having finished the Test series with three ducks in a row. Overdue to rediscover his undoubted brilliance, expect a fine series full of entertainment, power and class.
There can be no doubting Ben Stokes as a Test match cricketer. A man of the series award courtesy of his 411 runs and twelve wickets was a testimony to his skills in red ball cricket and confirmation as one of the best all round cricketers in Test cricket. White ball cricket, strangely, has been a tougher nut to crack for the Durham man. He’s only passed fifty twice in 29 innings and averages just over 20 with the bat. It’s not much better with the ball either, with his 32 wickets coming at over a run a ball and an average of 34.25 runs per wicket. This is surely due to change soon and this writer predicts a big series for a man that his good memories of Bloemfontein – Stokes took 4-22 and scored 31 here during an England Lions victory last January.
Personally I’m expecting a run-fest namely due to the (lack) of quality seam bowlers on show against (plenty) of quality batsmen.
Recommend taking any OVER RUNS bet around the 285-290 mark for EITHER SIDE batting first.