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Cardiff – There is no time to become big-headed, there is barely enough time to overcome sore heads – the five-match one-day series starts on Friday, so it is time for South Africa and England to move on.
The Welsh capital would appear an usual place to start the series, firstly because there are so many other distractions for the townsfolk. The famous Millennium Stadium is preparing to host a “Speedway” event on Saturday, while most of the excitement at the Swalec Stadium (Sophia Gardens) is about the T20 Finals day on Saturday and not the ODI taking place there on Friday.
Having endured such long breaks – 10 days – between the Test matches, the three-day turnaround to the ODIs is a bolt to the system.
South Africa have barely had time to absorb their awesome achievement of winning a Test series here and claiming the No 1 ranking that went with it, than the next challenge has been placed before them.
A couple of players were still nursing sore heads from the celebrations on Monday night as they took on Gloucestershire in a one-day “warm-up” match in Bristol on Wednesday. Some of the new players who’ve flown in for the series barely had time for a handshake with their victorious Test colleagues before everyone was out on the park “preparing” for the ODI series.
Gary Kirsten admitted there was no team meeting ahead of the game – “just no time for that” – but that didn’t mean the one-day series was being viewed as just another item on the tour. The Tests may have been a priority given what was at stake and the three T20 Internationals next month, vital preparation because of the World T20 championships, making the ODIs – all five of them – appear little meaningless. Not so, says Kirsten.
“In one-day cricket we will experiment and bring in guys, we will use every opportunity we can to expose guys to international competition. One-day cricket is a great platform for that, more than Test cricket,” explained the South African coach.
Which means Jacques Kallis is being rested, and in comes Dean Elgar for a first taste of what’s on offer at cricket’s top table. Ryan McLaren returns for the first time since the one-day series in the West Indies in 2010, while Imran Tahir last played 50-over cricket at the World Cup. Wayne Parnell joined the squad from the SA A side who are in Ireland, while Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Albie Morkel and Robin Peterson will be delighted to be removed from bench-warming duties.
“Some of the guys who have been sitting on the bench during the Test series can’t wait to play some games, and we’ll feed off that energy,” said Kirsten.
Most had a decent stint out on Wednesday in Bristol with McLaren (3/29) and Parnell (2/40) impressing with the ball, while Elgar made a useful 40.
The only concern emerged when Albie Morkel appeared to injure his left ankle at the start of his eighth over. It was the same ankle which he hurt in the tour match against Worcestershire three weeks ago shortly after he’d been called up to replace Marchant de Lange.
The injury will be assessed, but while he batted without too much discomfort on Wednesday, South Africa will be keen to utilise his full all-round skills, especially as they are already without Kallis.
“We have got to manage Jacques appropriately now. He’s fully aware, as am I, that he can’t play all the cricket anymore. It’s too taxing for him physically. We want him to play in the World T20, so this is the perfect opportunity to give him a break,” said Kirsten.
Only Hashim Amla and Tahir from the Test side played on Wednesday, but Kirsten isn’t at all concerned about a lack of preparation. “My sense, especially with the Test players, is to give them as much of a break as we can, knowing their match intensity is well up and to find our feet as we go along. It will be the same for England.”
England have eight players in the squad who played in Test series, and South Africa six, so there is no discernible advantage other than England having the cosy comfort of home ground. Friday’s match starts at 11.15am.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla (vice-capt), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel, Morné Morkel, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
England: Alastair Cook (capt) James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes – The Star