Jofra’s six-for and Bavuma’s resurgence: Five takeaways from England’s 2-1 series loss to South Africa
Following England’s win in the final match of the ODI series which South Africa took 2-1, here’s what we have learnt from the start of both sides’ run into the World Cup later this year.
Despite going down to a series loss, their first on South Africa soil since 2016, there are plenty of positives for England to take out of the series. Three of their top-six batters scored centuries, Moeen Ali also chipped in with some welcome form with the bat, and Jofra Archer capped off his international return with the third-best figures ever for England in men’s ODIs.
South Africa also not only boosted their chances of automatic qualification for the World Cup by winning two matches but also showed they are a genuine force to be reckoned with in ODI cricket. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of the key takeaways from the series.
South Africa path to the World Cup is still delicate
A 3-0 victory would have pushed South Africa close to a spot in the 2023 World Cup, putting them out of reach of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Ireland in the Super League. However, their loss in the final match means they will probably have to beat the Netherlands twice when they complete their postponed ODI series in March and hope New Zealand beat Sri Lanka at least once – barring any over-rate penalties. Temba Bavuma’s side may have shown in this series that they are a force to be reckoned with in ODI cricket, but their path to the tournament is still delicate.
However, the likes of David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen showed their class in the format in this series and their roster of awesome fast bowlers looked as ferocious as ever. Come the tournament in India, and it’s hard to imagine them being anything other than a force to be reckoned with.
Temba Bavuma’s resurgence
After a difficult winter in both the T20 World Cup and Australia Tests, Bavuma scored his first international century in 12 months, in the second match of the series. With divisions over his place as captain of the T20I side and after being unsold in the inaugural SA20 auction (he finally got a gig on Thursday), the innings was a timely reminder of his class and ability in the fifty-over format. It was a statement win for South Africa and Bavuma, successfully chasing their third-highest total in ODIs.
Timing the chase to perfection, Bavuma scored at more than a run-a-ball and capitalised off the powerplay in the first over of the innings. The poignance of the innings for him as a captain was no more evident than in his post match remarks.
“It was quite emotional getting to that moment (his century).” he said. “It was a reminder to myself and to everyone that I am still here and I still deserve to be where I am.”
Archer is more than back, but England’s bowlers off the mark
After getting panned for 81 runs in his first game for England in two years, Archer was back to his glorious best in the final match, taking 6-40, his first ODI five-for. It was a reminder of just how good Archer was and could continue to be for England, forcing the South Africa batters to duck and weave from his pinpointed bouncers before cleaning up the tail by attacking the stumps.
Aside from Archer’s stellar return, the rest of England’s seamers were off the mark. Bowling in the powerplay, Chris Woakes and Reece Topley looked ineffective, and the pace attack struggled to take wickets in the middle overs. Perhaps not that serious given the completely different conditions which they will face in both the World Cup and the next series against Bangladesh, but something to keep an eye on.
Batting balance muddle
In amongst the centuries, South Africa’s batters exposed just how much England miss Ben Stokes in their middle order. While there is no shortage of talent for England to call on, with Harry Brook showing a flash of what he promises with a swaggering 80 in the second match, how they balance their side is the more pressing problem.
While Moeen Ali is probably batting a position too high at six, without Stokes back in the side the only realistic way to allow him to bat down at seven or replace him, while still giving Buttler an extra bowler is Liam Livingstone. If South Africa showed anything, it was just how much of a better side England look with Stokes in it.
No shortage of options for England at the top
Dawid Malan’s superb century in the final match of the series once again showed just how good he is in the fifty-over format. Along with Roy’s first match century and Jonny Bairstow still to come back from injury, and Phil Salt waiting in the wings – England aren’t short of quality options to open the innings. The questions are, at what point Bairstow will return and who he will replace.