Wayne Parnell hits out during his innings of 61 for the Proteas against Sussex. Photo: Sussex CCC via Facebook

CAPE TOWN – The Proteas’ ICC Champions Trophy preparations began successfully on Friday evening at Hove and will continue at Northamptonshire on Sunday with another warm-up game.

But there will be a step up in intensity on Wednesday at Headingley in Leeds, when the Proteas and England square off in the first of three ODIs.

Only four matches therefore remain before South Africa’s Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka at The Oval in London on June 3.

Coach Russell Domingo has already stressed that his team’s focus will not be on the England series and instead be squarely focused on preparing for their Group B rivals, which also includes Pakistan and defending champions India.

Fringe players will be given opportunities – like they were against Sussex on Friday evening – with all-rounder Wayne Parnell deputising for the rested Hashim Amla at the top of the order.

Faf du Plessis was also not required for duty, while ODI captain AB de Villiers was unavailable for selection due to a respiratory tract infection.

De Villiers will be monitored overnight before being considered for Sunday.

Parnell, who is no stranger to opening the batting in limited-overs cricket, grabbed the chance with both hands in the rain-reduced match by clubbing 61 off 42 deliveries (7x4, 3x6) in a 121-run stand for the first wicket with SA Cricketer of the Year Quinton de Kock.

“Obviously with Hashim resting, from the batting side, there was a spot open at the top of the order. I was the guy who was chosen, and thanks to the coach. I was going to open whether it was 50 overs or a shortened match,” Parnell said after the 66-run victory at Hove.

The form of IPL absentees De Kock and JP Duminy would also have pleased Domingo. De Kock blitzed 104 off 78 balls in his first game since recovering from a finger injury, while Duminy, who missed the IPL because of “personal reasons”, certainly looked refreshed during his 68 off 48 balls.

Meanwhile, left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj – playing his first limited-overs match for the Proteas – claimed 2/31 after Sussex duo Harry Finch (62) and Delray Rawlins (41) kept the match competitive with lower-order cameos.

“Some guys have played in the IPL, some haven’t. So, it was just about getting a nice run out. It’s obviously a good wicket down here at Sussex, and Sussex is a really good team. They pushed us a little bit, which is what you want, but it was nice to come out with the win in the end,” Parnell explained.

There is a feeling that South Africa could go deep in the tournament – their World No 1 ranking certainly suggests that – even though a large contingent of the squad are on their maiden tour of England.

“We’re pretty confident, we’ve played really good cricket over the last 12 months, which bodes well for us. But coming over here, the conditions are different. There are a couple of guys coming over to England for the first time. It’s just getting used to the conditions,” said Parnell, who spent the last month playing for Kent before a heart scare curtailed his stay at the county.

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