Can England recover on the Difficult Surface

With their victory in the opening ODI on Friday night, South Africa checked off a crucial need in their quest for automatic qualification to the 2023 World Cup. That one victory is sufficient to maintain their chances of finishing in the top eight of the World Cup Super League, even if they go on to lose the series. The victory on Friday has allowed them to maintain control over their destiny, even if they will still need to defeat the Netherlands 2-0 and hope that other outcomes go their way. Despite the fact that they have emphasized that results are not currently the major goal, five victories will ensure them a place in India.

That may seem odd to say given the importance of their upcoming four ODIs, but South Africa is focusing more on reclaiming its white-ball identity after losing it in recent years. Although the fundamental principles of the new strategy are not yet obvious, they appear to be based on the idea of bouncebackability, which has come to be associated with South African culture. South Africa’s bowlers won the match even though they appeared to be 50 runs short with the bat after England raced to 146 without loss in just 20 overs while chasing 299 runs.

The outcome posed South Africa with some well-known questions, such as how large is the gap between their hitters and bowlers? And do their batters match today’s scoring rates? The latter may be true, but it was still enough to defeat the World Cup champions, so there isn’t much to complain about there. In order to get out of its difficult situation, England is also currently figuring out their ideal formula. They have dropped their last four ODIs, but all of those games were crammed into the schedule at what feels like the worst possible time. The South Africa matches, which were postponed from 2020, are taking place while two franchise tournaments involving England players are in progress and their Test squad is on its way to New Zealand. Australia’s matches followed their T20 World Cup victory. The schedule was actually named by Ben Stokes, a former Test captain, and recent ODI retiree, as the single worst problem in England’s ODI setup, but they won’t want to use it as too much of an excuse.

Instead, they’ll try to figure out how to make their typically aggressive hitting approach more effective on a surface that isn’t always conducive to prolific run production. Bloemfontein is known for its slightly sticky pitches, which become harder to bat on as the ball grows softer and older. Although England’s power game is undeniable, their failure to successfully chase down the ball on Friday signals that the middle order needs improvement. The Bloemfontein audience is in for a treat as both teams have good attacks and are finding out their batting, and it’s been heard that many more are expected for the game on Sunday. Given that the Free State does not have an SA20 squad, it is their final opportunity to see international cricket this summer and serve as a reminder to Cricket South Africa of their importance to the national cricket circuit.

On Friday, Sisanda Magala delivered his best performance while representing his country when he broke the opening stand that threatened to make the game unfairly favor England and then added two more wickets to give South Africa the upper hand. Magala, who typically bowls new balls, did well transitioning to the fourth change and was especially strong with the bouncer. Although South Africa has plenty of seam bowling options, he offers variation to the attack and may utilize the remainder of the series to press for a more long-term spot in the white-ball team.

Sam Curran has had a difficult few weeks in South Africa since he hasn’t performed as well in the SA20 as his IPL price tag said he might. In seven innings for MI Cape Town, Curran scored 67 runs and claimed three wickets. However, in the first ODI, he displayed hints of resuming his wicket-taking ways. Quinton de Kock, Rassie van der Dussen, and David Miller, the three greatest threats for South Africa, were all bowled by Curran, who used the short, slower ball, as did Magala. He’ll be eager to follow it up with a strong batting effort to demonstrate his all-around value as England looks to tie the series.

Janneman Malan and Reeza Hendricks will likely remain on the bench for the time being due to Temba Bavuma’s promotion to the opening position. South Africa may think about making some changes to the attack, despite the fact that their bowlers won them the first ODI. Due to his disappointing performance on Friday, Tabraiz Shamsi might be replaced by Keshav Maharaj, while South Africa might wish to replace Wayne Parnell with Marco Jansen to see how he performs on a friendly surface.

Although the game on Sunday will be played on a brand-new strip that is closer to the center of the plaza, don’t anticipate any more life. Run scoring might progress similarly to how it did on Friday: fast with the new ball, and a little bit trickier later on, if the pitch is flat and somewhat slow. The heat will present an additional difficulty. Players will spend the majority of the game in 32-degree sunlight because it is a daytime game.