AB de Villiers and Eoin Morgan pose with the series trophy at The Oval. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters

DURBAN – In the aftermath of Monday’s terrorist attack in Manchester, a three-match ODI preamble to the Champions Trophy takes even less precedence than the players had already given it in the lead-up to today’s first match at Headingley (3pm start, SA time).

England, who host next week’s Champions Trophy, are currently – and rightly – in shock after a terrorist bomb at the end of a Monday-night concert in Manchester shook the country to the core.

Already the ICC has vowed to tighten security around the tournament, and the teams that will descend on the country in the next few days.

They say, of course, that the show must go on. Manchester United slunk to Stockholm for a Europa League final that will be emotionally charged tonight, while the cricketers will get their chance in Leeds.

There will no doubt be a minute’s silence and players on both sides trying to collect themselves and their thoughts.

South Africa’s players enjoyed a braai hosted by former internationals Rory Kleinveldt and Richard Levi on Monday night, for a taste of home.

Events like Monday night are a stark reminder of just how quickly that comfort can wither away, and the Proteas and England will do their utmost to put on a show over the next week in front of audiences who will also look to lift the mood.

These are two of the lead contenders for the trophy that will be lifted on June 18, with both outfits crammed with experience, excellence and expectation.

It wouldn’t be a shock if they met in that Champions Trophy final, but a lot will happen before they even think about that point.

Both sides have spoken about finalising their preparations, adding gloss to the product. England welcomed back a chipper Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler this week after they played starring roles in the IPL recently.

All three will be key men for the hosts, capable of swinging a match in a few overs.

Proteas coach Russell Domingo and captain AB de Villiers discuss tactics during practice at The Oval on Tuesday. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters


SA have their match-winners too, and Imran Tahir and Chris Morris enjoyed similarly fruitful harvests in India.

The conditions in the English spring are a world away from the cauldron of Kolkata or the pressure-cooker of Pune, but there is a different kind of heat.

The seamers will fancy the harder, juicier surface, and batsmen will appreciate the ball coming on to the blade with a bit more urgency. There may be a flurry of boundaries and wickets in the first 15 overs of each innings.

Jason Roy and Quinton de Kock spring to mind as violets that shirk a shrink, and they have the added luxury of knowing that this is just a dress rehearsal – a free hit of a contest before things really matter.

By that token, then, audiences could be in for some entertainment over the course of the next week, as two of the most entertaining teams in world cricket go hammer and tongs at each other.

Both teams, despite their bravado with the bat, are delicate in their psyche.

In that sense, then, a winning start could breed momentum which could turn either unit into a formidable force that will be hard to stop in a tournament that will be over before summer officially arrives in the UK.

Given the events of the past 48 hours, both teams will also go into the opening match with a sobering sense of reality. It is just a game, and one that will lead them closer to just another tournament.

The Mercury

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