AB de Villiers during Proteas practice at the Rose Bowl yesterday. Photo: Matthew Childs, Action Images via Reuters

DURBAN – A week away from the serious stuff, every cricketer worth his salt is being asked about a favourite for the Champions Trophy.

No one would dare declare themselves as favourites, but enough of England’s rivals have declared the home side as the team to watch over the next three weeks.

“They don’t have a weakness,” India’s Virat Kohli declared.

Coming from one of the foremost leaders in the game, that is some statement.

England don’t have a weakness? On the evidence of their opening one-dayer against South Africa in Leeds, there are not too many holes in their line-up. They bat deep, bowl to a plan and field with an energy that suggests they have realised what a great opportunity they have in front of them.

On Wednesday, they didn’t even require their talisman, the hulking Ben Stokes, to break a sweat. Jason Roy, another livewire, never got going. They were not needed.

Given the facts, and some of the fiction that is now spouting about the English, you’d swear that the trophy already has their name on it. Of course, South Africa have their own designs on the silverware, and they have very similar credentials to the erstwhile champions.

The problem with the Proteas on Wednesday is that they didn’t complete an innings, with bat or ball. They operated at 75 percent, and they were stung for their folly.

The stakes are that high, the margins that miniscule.

Today (12pm start SA time), the visitors will look to square the series and change some opinions at the Rose Bowl in Southampton in the second ODI. It’s premature to crown England as the best team in the world, and one team can silence some of that hysteria.

AB de Villiers and his men took their medicine, sensibly marked Kagiso Rabada’s 22nd birthday on Thursday, then resolved to go again.

It ought to be a lot closer in Southampton and, if the Proteas live up to their own billing, there may be a sway in the discussion.

The Champions Trophy promises to be one of the most open tournaments in years, with at least four teams in with a fair shout. South Africa are in the mix, too, and they have a chance to remind those who have forgotten too soon. It ought to be most interesting.

Likely Teams

England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (captain), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood.

South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (captain), JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Morné Morkel, Imran Tahir.