The last time South Africa played England at The Oval in 2008, they were trounced by 126 runs, and they last won a match there in 1999 when they beat England by 122 runs – a match in which the now-coach Gary Kirsten notched up 45 at the top of the order.
Of course, a lot has changed since then, and South Africa is sitting pretty on a 1-0 advantage in the series. But they weren’t entirely convincing in the first ODI, despite a crushing 80-run victory. The good news for the Proteas is that England looked equally unremarkable, and the only difference between the two sides was Hashim Amla. The Bearded Wonder might be in the form of his life, but it’s time for the new faces to step it up – particularly the bowlers.
South Africa’s strategy with pyjama cricket is to expose youngsters to the perils of international play, and as such, the likes of Dean Elgar and Wayne Parnell have a real chance to make a name for themselves, especially ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup. The Oval will still be a good pitch to bat on, and while it might be a completely different format, the ghosts of 637-2 will surely haunt England. There’s no better time for the fresh faces to stake a claim.
Parnell has been erratic for some time now, and the one-day series is the ideal time for the left-armer to find some sort of consistency. He can be a real threat when hitting the right lengths, as he proved during the recent unofficial T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe. He also had a good spell with the South African A team against Ireland, picking up two five-fors in two consecutive first class matches, but translating that form to the shorter format of the game is proving to be a hurdle for the youngster. His two wickets in Southampton undoubtedly would have given him a bit of a confidence boost, though. Whether Parnell can channel that confidence and translate it to something substantial remains to be seen.
England will be without Graeme Swann, who has been rested for the remainder of the series – James Treadwell has been called up as a replacement, but with little on offer for spinners on the Oval pitch, it’s likely that Chris Woakes could return or Jonny Bairstow could come in. South Africa has the tricky choice of deciding whether to persist with Ryan McLaren, who struggled in the second ODI, or to bring back Dale Steyn, who sat out of the first two matches owing to a stiff neck.
The match at The Oval is another day-nighter, and if South Africa is made to chase under lights, the real merit of the Kirsten effect will be tested. There’s been a lot of talk about absorbing pressure and transferring it to the opposition, and the heat certainly is on the Saffas to keep up the impressive performances they’ve mustered throughout the English summer.
Players to watch
Craig Kieswetter: Kieswetter’s performances with the gloves were utterly unconvincing in the first one-day international and he’ll have to step up his game if he wants to keep his place – especially as the pressure mounts, with an impressive Jonny Bairstow waiting in the wings and Matt Prior’s form continuing to impress. He scored just 20 in the second ODI – so the pressure is on.
JP Duminy: Duminy is another player who has had an up-and-down career. He’s a handy extra spin option and he put in a few nifty performances against New Zealand earlier in the year. His dismissal in the second ODI was no real fault of his own, as a mix-up between the wickets saw him run out. The 28-year old will be keen to take advantage of the batting conditions at the Oval to help build some confidence ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup. DM
Photo: South African cricket coach Gary Kirsten reacts during a news conference in Johannesburg, June 6, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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