It is more than six months since England finally got their hands on the Holy Grail, lifting the men’s 50-over World Cup for the first time in history. Since then, neither they nor South Africa – who crashed out after a disastrous group stage – have played an ODI, as the format takes a back seat ahead of back-to-back T20 World Cups in 2020 and 2021. With the next 50-over tournament more than three years away, there is a distinctly developmental feel about the squads facing off over the next week in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Let’s take a moment to catch up on where we are now.
Look out, the World Champions are coming!Well, sort of. Eight members of England’s 15-man World Cup-winning squad have been included for the ODI leg in South Africa, with Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood (all rested) among the notable absentees. Trevor Bayliss, the coach, has moved on but Eoin Morgan takes up the reins again as captain – although he is not considered likely to be in charge come 2023, when he will be 36 – and the top order looks pretty familiar, with Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy and Joe Root all involved. Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid are set to play their 100th ODIs, Moeen Ali will make his first England appearance since the first Ashes Test in August, and Tom Curran completes the set.
So who else is missing?Of the XI that played the World Cup final, only Liam Plunkett has been dispensed with. Plunkett missed out on a white-ball central contract late last year – and made his disappointment clear – and it looks like, at 34, his England renaissance is over. James Vince played three times during the group stage, deputising for the injured Roy, and was involved in the T20Is in New Zealand last year, but has repeatedly failed to take his chances. Liam Dawson, meanwhile, is a more curious case – brought into the World Cup squad at the last minute, as the back-up spinner in place of Joe Denly, he didn’t feature during the tournament and has slipped down the pecking order once again.
Time for an injection of young blood, then?Yes, for the most part – although Denly (who has a white-ball contract despite being a regular Test pick for the last year) is again involved, and at almost 34 the oldest man in the squad. Three players are in line for ODI debuts, all of whom won T20I caps in New Zealand as part of England’s World Cup planning: Tom Banton, the most exciting of the lot, comes in on the back of a strong Big Bash League but may have to bat out of position in the middle order; while the Lancashire pair of Saqib Mahmood, a reverse-swing-adept seamer, and Matt Parkinson, the legspinning understudy to Rashid, will be hoping for further international exposure.
Any other notable inclusions?Dawid Malan is back in contention, having usurped Vince with his exploits in New Zealand – which included becoming only the second Englishman to score a T20I hundred. Malan’s only previous ODI came against Ireland in May but this is arguably his strongest format, with ten List A hundreds and a career average of 41.41. Chris Jordan, a T20 mainstay, could play his first ODI since 2016, and there is a chance for Sam Curran to stake his case as an all-format allrounder.
South Africa, by contrast, had a dismal World Cup – so let the rebuilding begin!That’s pretty much the ticket. This is a chance to move on after South Africa were dumped unceremoniously out of the World Cup, their five defeats in seven round-robin games condemning them to an early exit almost before anyone had a chance to mention ch**ing. Quinton de Kock has been anointed as their new ODI captain, with a view to taking the team through to 2023 in India – although Faf du Plessis has not retired from the format, and is also expected to lead the team at the T20 World Cup later this year. De Kock is set for a heavy workload, as he juggles the captaincy with opening the batting and keeping wicket.
Do any of the old guard remain?Not really. Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and JP Duminy retired after the World Cup – taking 487 caps’ worth of experience with them – while Dale Steyn seems to be focused only on winning an international swansong at the T20 World Cup. Kagiso Rabada has also been rested for the England series, with David Miller the most experienced member of South Africa’s 14-man squad.
Who should we be looking out for?One of the few positives for South African cricket over the last year or so has been the form of Rassie van der Dussen, who averages 73.77 after 14 ODI innings. Lungi Ngidi, 23, is also a huge talent, and fit again after missing the Test series. Of the uncapped players, JJ Smuts, Lutho Sipamla and Bjorn Fortuin have all played T20 internationals, while Janneman Malan was the second-leading run-scorer in this season’s Mzansi Super League and Kyle Verreynne, the back-up wicketkeeper, averages 50.72 in first-class cricket and has featured for South Africa A.
Sounds like England are still the favouritesCertainly as far as the bookies are concerned, although England lost 3-2 here in 2015-16 – one of only three series defeats they suffered during the last World Cup cycle. Their leading performers on that tour were Alex Hales (383 runs at 76.60) and Reece Topley (10 wickets at 21.90) which tells you plenty about how things can change between now and England’s defence in 2023.