The home side’s challenge doesn’t get any easier with the confirmed return of Jofra Archer
“It seems as if there is an echo in space; it’s the same question,” Shukri Conrad said as he looked at different parts of the ceiling during a news conference in Bloemfontein on Thursday. He was asked about the significance of South Africa’s World Cup Super League (WCSL) series against England for the third time in less than 13 minutes.
The truth is self-evident. If England win all three games, South Africa will face an unprecedented journey to the qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June and July to reach the World Cup in India in October and November. If South Africa beat England once, they will have to beat the Netherlands in both their games on March 31 and April 2 to avoid the qualifier. Win two against England and only one win against the Dutch is required. From the South Africans’ point of view, a 3-0 win against England would mean that the Netherlands do not have to come.
England are fourth in the standings and so well on course for a top-eight finish that it will guarantee the defending champions – it’s difficult to call a team that lifted the 2019 trophy on a limit count champions – a place in India would.
The home side’s challenge is made no easier with the confirmed return of Jofra Archer, who has not played for England since March 2021 due to injury. Archer, who estimated his readiness at “about 80%” on Wednesday, was in a decent pitch in the SA20, where he won eight wickets at an economy rate of 7.57 in five games in which he bowled 19 overs has.
Archer isn’t the only member of the England squad who has adapted to the series by playing in SA20. Jos Buttler is the leading runs scorer in a tournament where Phil Salt has scored for two and a half centuries. Phil Salt, Jason Roy, Olly Stone, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid and Reece Topley also attended, with varying degrees of success.
Of South Africa’s 16-man squad, only Temba Bavuma does not play in the SA20 – he was not bought at the player auction. Heinrich Klaasen made three 50s in the tournament, Quinton de Kock two and Aiden Markram and Marco Jansen one each. Anrich Nortje has won 13 wickets on a savings course of 6.07, with Lungi Ngidi winning nine at 6.39, Parnell nine at 8.43 and Kagiso Rabada seven at 7.40.
The series is the first South Africa to play in any format after the elimination of Mark Boucher during the T20 World Cup in Australia in October and November. Boucher was replaced by Shukri Conrad in a testing capacity and by Rob Walter for white ball cricket. Conrad will oversee the England series while Walter, who has been training in New Zealand since 2016, is giving up his life and moving back to South Africa.
England are the only away side who have never lost an ODI to South Africa in Bloemfontein. They won three of the four games they played there while the others were washed out.
When: January 27, 2023; 1:00 p.m. local time (3:00 p.m. BST, 4:30 p.m. IST)
Where: Mangaung Oval, Bloemfontein
What to Expect: A flat pitch and lots of running between wickets on South Africa’s largest outfield. That could be interesting with a forecast high of 32 degrees Celsius.
At their last ODI at Bloem in March 2020, South Africa fielded both Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi – dismissing Australia with 271 en route to a six-wicket win. The spinners kept the damage under one run but the star of the day/night was Lungi Ngidi who won 6/58. Could we see this type of configuration again?
Possible eleven: Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (captain), Heinrich Klaasen, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi.
Phil Salt’s participation is questionable due to illness. If he doesn’t make it, Ben Duckett will step into the breach.
Possible XI: Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler (Captain), Harry Brook, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Reece Topley
What they said:
“We know where we stand when it comes to how many games we have to win. But we want to shift our focus. There is an opportunity for us to clarify our identity and how we want to play. We want to use those games for that.” – Temba Bavuma seems resigned to having to go to the World Cup qualifier.
“This will be his first international game in a long time and there will always be a certain level of expectation from Jofra because we all know what he is capable of.” – Jos Buttler is looking forward to unleashing Jofra Archer.