Less of a bilateral ODI series, but more of a preparation for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, the 3-match one-day series between England and South Africa concluded with the ‘Three Lions’ registering a 2-1 win over the Proteas.
Two high-scoring affairs went England’s way before South Africa clinched the dead rubber to avoid an embarrassing whitewash. While the three T20s and four tests will be played after the conclusion of the Champions Trophy, these three matches provided the perfect platform for both the teams to address the minute details ahead of the ICC event which will be played in same conditions.
Here we take a look at five talking points from three-match series which saw some quality performances from players of both the sides.
A reincarnated Ben Stokes can be England X-factor in Champions Trophy
Coming on the back of a fantastic IPL, Stokes continued his rich vein of form against South Africa, scoring an impressive century in the second ODI.
Smashing his way to a 78-ball ton, Stokes issued a statement of warning to the remaining teams ahead of the Champions Trophy. Though he was rested for the final game of the series, Stokes showed no fatigue as he clocked good pace in the first two matches.
His all rounder show will definitely be the fulcrum as England look to win the tournament for the first time.
Jason Roy’s form remains a concern, but England’s batting looks strongest on paper
Even after considering the top order’s failure in the third ODI, there is no hesitation in saying England’s batting looks the most threatening as we enter the competition. With ten 300+ totals in their last 12 matches, all the English batsmen have been firing in unison.
Though Jason Roy’s three single digit scores against Proteas will give the team management a few headaches, Johnny Bairstow’s fifty in the final game will provide a sense of relief simultaneously. But the rest, led by Morgan & Co. have been absolutely phenomenal with the willow and hence no wonder most cricketing experts feel England start favourites for the title.
Kagiso Rabada holds the key to South Africa’s hopes of second CT title
Raising his level of performance with every passing day, South Africa’s pace spearhead Kagiso Rabada is slowly becoming a dangerous proposition for the opposition teams. After setting the IPL on fire with his race pace and devastating combination of seam and swing, Rabada relished the English conditions and scalped 7 wickets from 3 matches.
After a mediocre show in the first two, he was at his menacing best in the third, finishing with 4/39 which included three wickets in an over. The batsmen have fairly done their job so far, but Rabada will need support from fellow bowlers in order to establish the genuine chances of South Africa winning the tournament.
South Africa’s spin conundrum
With only one spinner’s spot up for grabs, the South Africa think tank will have a tough time in choosing between experienced leggie Imran Tahir and left arm off spinner Keshav Maharaj. Tahir, not a huge turner of the ball, relies more on the flippers and googlies can be a decent choice on the pace-friendly England conditions.
However, Maharaj’s 3/25 in the last game and Tahir going wicket-less in the first match along with leaking runs over seven have compounded problems over the selection of spinner. It remains to be seen who is given the nod as South Africa gets their campaign underway against Sri Lanka at Kennington Oval in London.
Hashim Amla’s record breaking spree
Fresh from his IPL heroics, ace batsman Hashim Amla has added another feather in his glittering cap by becoming the fastest cricketer to reach 7000 ODI runs, breaking none other than Virat Kohli’s record. Starting from exactly where he left in the IPL, Amla aggregated 152 runs from three innings in the series with two fifties. South Africa will really hope he can continue his stupendous form in the Champions Trophy as they face some strong pace attack from India and Pakistan in the group stages.