The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley


Headingley, the Ageas and Lord's host three-match ODI series

England are back in action, swapping the Irish green for that of the Proteas who will contest three ODIs as a final warm-up before the Champions Trophy. With no disrespect to Ireland, South Africa will represent a far more testing sparring partner as England look to find full sharpness ahead of their Champions Trophy opener against Bangladesh. South Africa are the No.1 ranked ODI side in the world. This is a team that in autumn of last year became the first to whitewash Australia in an ODI series. Four of the top 11 ODI batsmen are South African: AB de Villiers (1), Faf du Plessis (5), Quinton de Kock (6) and Hashim Amla (11). Joe Root at No.4 is the only Englishman in the top 15. The armory also houses Imran Tahir as the world’s No.1 ranked ODI bowler, and the highly impressive Kagiso Rabada at No.5.

South Africa arrived in England last week and warmed up with a comprehensive win over Sussex at Hove before a less convincing 13-run victory over Northants. There will be no Dale Steyn this summer as he continues to deal with that problematic shoulder, while AB de Villiers is in the ODI squad but will not play in the four-Test series. At 34, who knows how many more times we will see him face England on their home patch, go and take in the view while you still can...

Ones to watch

Quinton de Kock

Undoubtedly South Africa’s star man these days, and that’s saying something in an XI that includes AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. De Kock has notched up 3,273 runs at 43.64 in 79 ODIs, including 12 hundreds and a magnificent 178 at Centurion. That innings came in the first of the five-match whitewash over Australia as South Africa chased down 295 in 36.2 overs.

During England’s 2015/16 tour of South Africa, De Kock scored 326 runs at 81.50 in the ODI series, including 138 not out in the series opener and 135 in the third rubber.

He led from the front with an unbeaten century in the warm-up against Sussex before retiring out. His 104 not out came off 78 deliveries including five fours and seven sixes as South Africa secured a 66-run win. The wicketkeeper-batsman suffered a rare failure in the second warm-up match as Richard Gleeson trapped him for a duck.

De Kock goes big against Australia

Ball, Plunkett, Willey?

Assuming England include both Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid in their Champions Trophy XI. There could be a three-way battle for the final seamer spot with Mark Wood sure to start (fitness permitting). That leaves Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett and David Willey. Plunkett – who had a decent series against Ireland – looks the most likely although Jake Ball has impressed in his early ODI career. Willey offers something different as a left-armer, but he didn’t have a great showing against Ireland and the fear is that if the ball isn’t swinging his impact is limited.

Imran Tahir

The No.1 ranked bowler in ODI cricket will be key to South Africa’s hopes in this series, and of course the Champions Trophy. Tahir enjoyed a fruitful spell in the Indian Premier League taking 18 wickets in 12 matches for eventual runners-up Rising Pune Supergiant.

Furthermore, watch out for his erratic celebrations. When he is in the groove I half expect him to go full Forest Gump, bomb past the strikers end giving it the big’un and run straight out of the ground.

Imran Tahir tops the ICC ODI bowling rankings


Huw Turbervill

England fans should savour the appearance of AB de Villiers, sadly not playing in the subsequent Tests. I’m looking forward to seeing Quinton de Kock in the flesh: 12 100s in 79 ODIs at a strike-rate of 95 is quite remarkable. Shame there’s no Dale Steyn but it will be good to see Kagiso Rabada with my own eyes. Result will be 2-1 but to which side is difficult to call – but I will go for England on home soil…

James Coyne

You get the feeling that with some of South Africa’s best players prioritising franchise T20 or taking up Kolpak roles with counties, we might never see them at their optimum in Test cricket again. But, for now, they have an explosive ODI side capable of destroying the best bowling units in the world. Quinton de Kock could make himself a global superstar this summer. South African cricket and spinners have traditionally mixed like oil and water, but Imran Tahir and Keshav Maharaj are accomplished practitioners will crucial roles in the middle overs. Barring rain, England to win 2-1.

Owen Riley

If England’s frighteningly talented batting order don’t get it right, South Africa have the firepower to make them pay. England’s bowlers, like many before them, may struggle to contain de Kock. 21-year-old Andile Phehlukwayo, who has impressed with both bat and ball, is another to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile Eoin Morgan looks to have closed the door on Jonny Bairstow’s Champions Trophy hopes, it will be interesting to see what, if any, part the Yorkshire wicketkeeper plays in the series. To complete the set and be really boring, I'm also placing my rand on a 2-1 home victory.

England's 15-man squad for South Africa series and Champions Trophy


England: Eoin Morgan*, Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow†, Jake Ball, Sam Billings†, Jos Buttler†, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

South Africa: AB de Villiers*†, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock†, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir.


  • May 24: England v South Africa, 1st ODI, Headingley
  • May 27: England v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Ageas Bowl
  • May 29: England v South Africa, 3rd ODI, Lord’s