Lotus365 Lotus365 News Match Preview – England vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023/24, 20th Match

Match Preview – England vs South Africa, ICC Cricket World Cup 2023/24, 20th Match

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Hello darkness, my old friend. I’m coming to talk with one of you again. But which one will it be?

Will it be England, the reigning world champions across 50- and 20-overs, whose quest for a third global title in four years is in danger of dissolving in a bisque of self-doubt? Instead of cementing a legacy to rival the great Australian team of the turn of the millennium, their humiliating losses to New Zealand and Afghanistan are threatening to cast England’s narrative back into their World Cup dark ages of the 1990s and 2000s, to make that 2015-19 resurgence seem more like a mirage than a miracle.

Or will it be South Africa… the calmest, most serene force in the competition for two heady performances, as a team seemingly without baggage cruised past Australia and Sri Lanka with scarcely a backwards glance, to give the impression that this… finally… could be their year.

It perhaps shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise that a team that saw off three Test nations at a savage qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe this summer should have arrived in India with their competitive juices pumping – they are arguably better prepped for the maelstrom than many of the more favoured teams, England among them. The trouble is, the catastrophisation of South Africa’s World Cup setbacks will remain on a different scale until such time as the team can shrug off their 31-year hoodoo.

And so, even though a follow-up defeat to the world champions on Saturday would not end South Africa’s hopes of progressing to the knockouts – a third England loss would be vastly more damaging to their own prospects – it would torch the narrative that had prevailed in the first two weeks. No more talk of quiet confidence and flights below the radar for Temba Bavuma’s team, instead the stampede for the tournament post-mortems would begin.

Which is all the more reason for South Africa to stand their ground and restate their credentials, in what promises to be one of the outstanding tussles of the tournament so far ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-eng-vs-sa-blockbuster-guaranteed-as-world-cup-returns-to-wankhede-on-saturday-night-1404429). Humdingers have been in short supply at this event – even the upsets have been crushingly one-sided – but this feels like the first real do-or-die occasion, and at one of Asia’s iconic venues too, which matters more than it perhaps should, given how low-key the non-India matches have been at some of the less-invested grounds.

Irrespective of last week’s shocks, South Africa look a cut above their off-colour opponents. In posting a brace of World Cup records against Sri Lanka – the highest total of 428 for 5 ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2023-24-1367856/south-africa-vs-sri-lanka-4th-match-1384395/full-scorecard), and the fastest century, an exquisite 49-ball filleting from Aiden Markram ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/aiden-markram-600498) – they went further and faster than even England in their 2019 pomp were able to manage. And as if to prove that such towering displays were not a fluke, that total came just a month after the same line-up, but a different star billing, had posted 416 for 5 against Australia at Centurion, with Heinrich Klaasen ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/heinrich-klaasen-436757)‘s 174 from 83 sending shockwaves across the sport.

England, unquestionably, are capable of matching such feats – two days prior to Klaasen’s onslaught, the returning Ben Stokes belted an England-record 182 at The Oval, while in Dawid Malan ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/dawid-malan-236489), they possess an opener in a rare vein of 50-over form. But the rest of their line-up looks shorn of its habitual confidence, perhaps most glaringly their tempo-setter Joe Root, while the holes in England’s bowling are significantly more obvious than any weak links in South Africa’s multi-faceted attack.

Chris Woakes and Sam Curran have been particularly underwhelming, which has had knock-on effects for the impact that Mark Wood and Adil Rashid have been able to make in the middle overs. And while Reece Topley was immense in the victory over Bangladesh, the loss of Jofra Archer and the failure to find an adequate replacement for Liam Plunkett leaves England significantly short of the threat they carried in the 2019 campaign – and even then, they were prone to some profligate displays, safe in the knowledge that whatever they leaked with the ball, their batters were more than capable of matching.

That certainty no longer applies. And the fragility is palpable, even to a South Africa team that knows a thing or two about vulnerability.

Whatever happens, it promises to be a memorable day of England-South Africa sporting action, with the Rugby World Cup semi-final taking place in Paris soon after the close of play. In a pre-match message from the Springboks camp, Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s World Cup-winning captain, stated his “belief” and “trust” in his cricketing counterparts, while describing the Netherlands defeat as a “hiccup”. If they fail to make it right at the first attempt, however, there’s no doubt which respiratory malfunction will be on everyone else’s lips.

Form guide

England LWLWW (last five ODIs, most recent first)
South Africa LWWWW

In the spotlight: Ben Stokes and Quinton de Kock

He’s not the Messiah, but he’s the next best thing to judge by the messaging emerging from England’s set-up. Ben Stokes ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/ben-stokes-311158), the team’s “spiritual leader” in the words of head coach Matthew Mott, has iced up his painfully popped hip muscle and will creak his way back into the fray to shore up a team that’s running out of wriggle room. Irrespective of the runs he can offer, Stokes’ mere presence on the field will be uplifting – as he demonstrated in dramatic fashion in the last World Cup meeting between these two teams in the 2019 opener. It’s largely forgotten that he top-scored at The Oval that day ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2019-1144415/england-vs-south-africa-1st-match-1144483/full-scorecard)with 89 from 79 balls: his iconic intervention came at deep midwicket in South Africa’s run-chase, when he clung onto that “no way!” one-hander to prise out Andile Phehlukwayo. Stokes will, quite literally, be putting his body on the line for England’s cause once more, and with that kind of an example to follow, none of his team-mates will dare to give less than their best.

He had a temporary blip against the Netherlands, and coincidentally or otherwise, the rest of South Africa’s batting fell away with him. Either way, Quinton de Kock ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/cricketers/quinton-de-kock-379143) has started this World Cup in a rare old mood. Having confirmed before the tournament that this will be his ODI swansong, he emitted vibes of rare serenity in those back-to-back hundreds against Australia and Sri Lanka, and of all the characters in South Africa’s dressing-room, he’s surely the least likely to allow his equilibrium to be rocked by the embarrassment that followed in Dharamsala. Apart from anything else, de Kock knows this surface well from his title-winning exploits with Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and in his last meeting with England at this venue in the 2016 World T20, he blazed 52 from 24 balls. Little wonder, his team-mates were hanging on his every word in the team talk.

Team news

Much to ponder for England as they prepare to welcome Stokes back to the fold. His value as a pure batter is indisputable, but his absence as a bowler threatens the depth and balance that has been such a factor in the team’s white-ball success. Harry Brook was the man who benefited from Stokes’ hip injury, but as one of the few successes of a dismal display against Afghanistan, jettisoning him now would seem counterproductive. Instead, it seems the fall-guy will be Liam Livingstone, whose allsorts spin was a prized asset in the same game, but whose batting has been worryingly off-the-boil for several months now. Further concerns are stacking up in the middle-order, where Chris Woakes and Sam Curran were spanked for a combined 87 runs in eight overs by Rahmanullah Gurbaz and co. Neither has contributed enough with the bat either, but the management’s faith in Woakes seems deeper-seated. He might yet get another outing to find his range, with David Willey – the self-styled “donkey” of England’s attack – in line to replace Curran as a more heavy-duty left-arm option.

England: 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Joe Root, 4 Ben Stokes, 5 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 6 Harry Brook, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 David Willey, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Reece Topley

Of the two upsets in last week’s round of games, South Africa’s probably edged it in terms of shock value, but – despite the inevitable hacking sounds from the back of the class – it could also be more easily written off as a bad day at the office. Certainly the team that had pounded its way to the top of the standings with two statement wins over Australia and Sri Lanka looked balanced, composed and dripping with threat in every facet, from de Kock’s back-to-back hundreds at the top of the order, to the power and finesse of a thrillingly varied middle-order, and on through to a bowling attack in which Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen and Kagiso Rabada could hardly be more complementary as a trio of frontline seamers. In defiance of South Africa’s default setting at the first sign of World Cup adversity, “don’t panic!” is surely the message that a broadly unchanged XI will seek to send out. The only real selection call is Tabraiz Shamsi versus Gerald Coetzee, but the extra seamer in Coetzee seems the likelier route.

South Africa (probable): 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 David Miller, 6 Heinrich Klaasen, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Lungi Ngidi, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi/Gerald Coetzee

Pitch and conditions: Runs in prospect

Mumbai’s had to wait two weeks to get into the World Cup spirit, but the first track of the tournament will surely offer runs in abundance. There is some patchy live grass on the strip and it looks perhaps a little dry, but it proved an absolute road in the IPL this year, with an average total across seven games of 196, including three successful chases of 200-plus. After escaping Dharamsala unscathed (at least in terms of personnel), both teams may look slightly askance at another less-than-ideal outfield, with several divots in evidence as a consequence of fielding drills.

Stats and trivia

  • It’s been similarly closely fought in World Cup clashes, with England this time winning the head-to-head 4-3 ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/team/3.html?class=2;filter=advanced;opposition=1;orderby=start;template=results;trophy=12;type=team;view=results), including victories in each of their last two meetings, in 2019 and in 2011, when Stuart Broad sealed a six-run thriller in Chennai ^(https://lotus365.today/goto/https://www.espncricinfo.com/series/icc-cricket-world-cup-2010-11-381449/england-vs-south-africa-21st-match-group-b-433579/full-scorecard).
  • Jos Buttler needs 105 runs to reach 5000 in ODIs. A tall order, perhaps, but he does have 11 centuries in the format to date, and with just 72 runs in three innings at the tournament so far, he’ll feel he owes his team a few.
  • It’s 25 years since England and South Africa last played international cricket and rugby on the same day. On day three at Old Trafford in 1998, England’s cricketers were fighting their way towards what proved to be a series-turning draw. Their rugby team weren’t so lucky, losing 18-0 in Cape Town.
  • Quotes

    “He’s been a fantastic performer for an incredibly long time for England in all formats and especially in one-day cricket. And we’re all honest guys, right? He’s not performing quite how he would like to at the minute, and that’s frustrating, but there’s no judgment from our side. We always back all our players that are in our team, they’re high-class players and he’s certainly one of those.”
    Jos Buttler backs Chris Woakes to come good despite his rough start to the tournament

    “Growing up idolising a guy like Sachin [Tendulkar], the Wankhede was a stadium you always heard about. It’s another tick off my list as a cricketer. JP [Duminy], and Quinny have spoken about how it has been a batters’ paradise. If it is your day, you can fill your boots, and with it being a full ground, there is really something to enjoy.”
    South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma, whose childhood nickname was “Sachin”

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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