CAPE TOWN – After a tension-filled last couple of days South Africa and England will look to restart the One-Day International series in Paarl on Sunday.
There were genuine concerns that the series would be cancelled altogether after a third South African player tested postive for Covid-19 this week, causing the first scheduled ODI at Newlands on Friday to be postponed.
However, after a tense wait for the results of further testing done on the Proteas, the series can now commence after they were all recorded as negative.
Somehow, the Proteas will need to put yet another sideshow to one side, and attempt to focus on finding a way to beat this juggernaut England white-ball outfit.
It will certainly be an immense challenge, particularly without senior players Kagiso Rabada (injured ) and Faf du Plessis (rested).
Both these stalwarts, however, also missed South Africa’s last ODI series prior to lockdown when Quinton de Kock led a young and inexperienced Proteas outfit to a 3-0 whitewash of Australia.
Considering the way the Aussies just dominated Virat Kohli’s Indian team in an ODI series, it was a significant achievement.
Rookies such as Janneman Malan, who struck a delightful maiden ODI century, in just his second game in Bloemfontein will be eager to restart his burgeoning one-day international career.
It is, though, hugely disappointing for the Proteas that Heinrich Klaasen – Man of the Series against Australia – will not be available for the series, but they will at least have David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo back after the duo missed the T20 series.
Furthermore, Cape Cobras rookie Kyle Verreynne should also be able to look forward to some game time in the ODI series after being overlooked in the T20s.
The mercury levels are set to hover around the 33 degrees celcius mark at Boland Park on Sunday, which could have a major impact on the surface.
The Proteas failed to read the conditions correctly at last week’s T20 at the winelands venue, but will look to be smarter this week.
They certainly have the personell at their disposal to exploit the conditions with as much as four spin bowling options in Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj, George Linde and Jon-Jon Smuts part of the now 17-man squad.
After sending 2019 World Cup heroes Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer back home after the T20 series, England will look to broaden their selection net as they build towards the next global jamboree in three years time.
Olly Stone, Mark Wood and Sam Billings are all expected to come in to the line-up along with the return of Test captain Joe Root and Moeen Ali.
The one-day series is certainly expected to be a lot closer contested than the ODI series, if only for the fact that England have only once ever – 2009 – won a bilateral 50-over series in South Africa.
The Proteas are hoping that home advantage, even without the support from the stands, counts for something once more because if ever a team needed a victory just to lift the overall morale it was this team right now.
Start: 6pm TV: SS2 & SABC3