Sport

ROAD TO THE WORLD CUP

Proteas ODI series against England is more important than ever

Proteas ODI series against England is more important than ever
Aiden Markram plays a shot during the second ODI between the Proteas and Sri Lanka at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on 4 September 2021. With Temba Bavuma absent, his form becomes more crucial to the team. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris / Gallo Images)

The South Africans face a crucial three-match one-day international series against England next week, and with the latter in a slight transition phase, the Proteas have a good chance to claim a vital scalp.

The Proteas are languishing in 11th position in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Cricket World Cup Super League. The top eight teams in the league qualify automatically for the next 50-over World Cup in India in 2023. Currently only Zimbabwe and Netherlands sit below South Africa on the table.

It would be almost unthinkable for the Proteas to not be automatically seeded for the one-day international (ODI) World Cup, but if their performances in the 50-over format do not pick up soon, it could become a reality.

South Africa has withdrawn from their three-match ODI tour of Australia at the start of 2023 and as a result forfeited their Super League points to Australia.

“Cricket South Africa has agreed that the ICC [will] award Australia the competition points. While we are saddened at losing the crucial points, we are confident that our in-form Proteas team will garner the requisite points through the remaining games to secure automatic qualification to the showpiece event in India next year,” CSA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki said on Wednesday.

This places extra pressure on the Proteas to perform in the 50-over matches they have left in order to qualify for the World Cup.

Tour of consequences

The qualification journey continues on Tuesday with the first of three ODIs kicking off against reigning world champions England in their own backyard.

The task is even more difficult with white-ball captain Temba Bavuma ruled out for the entire tour to England owing to an elbow injury, while stalwart pace bowler Kagiso Rabada will miss the ODIs due to workload management.

“Temba is a massive loss for us, not only as a player but as a captain as well. What he brings to the side is immense. I’m hoping that he can get over his injury as soon as possible and get back into the environment,” said Proteas head coach Mark Boucher.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Bavuma blow for Proteas as skipper ruled out of England tour

With Bavuma absent, 27-year-old Aiden Markram’s form becomes more crucial to the team. He has struggled in the ODI format recently and missed out on the recent series in India due to a bout of Covid.

“Obviously he (Markram) didn’t play in India and came home, so he had a good bit of time to go back and just reflect on what’s been a long season,” Boucher said. “I’ve had a chat with him. He’s worked on a couple of things, so I’ve got no doubt that he’s itching to get out there and to try and score some runs for the Proteas. A successful Aiden Markram is good for the Proteas set-up.”

The Proteas are an ever-improving unit under Boucher’s leadership, although the development has been slightly slower in the 50-over format.

So far in the World Cup Super League, the Proteas have played 13 matches and only won four, losing seven, with two no results. They have lost to Pakistan twice, Ireland once, Sri Lanka twice and Bangladesh twice. They were expected to win most of those games.

Proteas coach Mark Boucher believes he has not always been able to select his best side for the 50-over portion of international tours. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

Boucher believes he has not always been able to select his best side for the 50-over portion of international tours.

“I think we’ve got the right players, there’s been maybe a lack of form and continuity in terms of certain series. We’ve lost players to the [Indian Premier League] – it’s happened three times while I was here,” he said.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Coach Boucher bemoans absence of Markram after Proteas’ T20 series draw with India

“We need to understand that there is a World Cup looming and we need to have some sort of continuity with regards to our selection and also the players being available for selection. I think our plans are good and if we can settle on that, then I do think the results will naturally come.

“We’ve got quite a few different options for these games that we’re going to be playing now in the next couple of days. It will give us a good indication of where those players are as individuals.

“But I mean, I think we’ve sort of got a good idea, barring maybe one or two extra batters, who our front line-up is going to be. So we’ll just have to see how a bit of form plays itself out. And hopefully, you know, hopefully we get the proper headache of having everyone among the runs.”

A new England

England, one of the leading cricketing nations in the world, have set trends while others have spent years trying to catch up.

Most recently, their “Bazball” style of Test cricket, led by maverick coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes, which promotes a hyper-aggressive style of batting and bowling, has been largely unfamiliar to the game since the great West Indies sides of the Eighties.

So far the new strategy has worked like a dream. England recently whitewashed World Test Champions New Zealand 3-0 before beating India in a Test match in spectacular fashion – chasing 378 to win on day four and five, Jonny Bairstow and former captain Joe Root struck 114 and 142 not out respectively, with both their strike rates hovering around 80.

In 2015, England’s white-ball team had a similar revolution under the leadership of captain Eoin Morgan. He gave his players the freedom to go after bowling attacks from ball one in every innings, regardless of the opposition or the conditions. He also ensured the team was stacked with big-hitters unafraid to wield the willow at the white-leather ball.

This gung-ho approach led them to extended success in the white-ball format and culminated in World Cup glory at home in 2019.

Last month, however, after an extended period of slim personal results, Morgan announced his retirement, leaving the fearsome Jos Buttler in charge.

White-ball results have not been ideal so far under Buttler’s leadership, with England losing a recent T20I series to India 2-1, as well as the first of a three-match ODI series against the same opposition.

With England going through a slight transition phase, it offers the Proteas a good chance to claim a vital scalp.

A positive series result for South Africa against England will help regain their footing in the World Cup Super League table as well as continue a belief in their philosophy which has been criticised in the past for being “outdated”. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

Daily Maverick Elections Toolbox

Feeling powerless in politics?

Equip yourself with the tools you need for an informed decision this election. Get the Elections Toolbox with shareable party manifesto guide.