South Africa v England – 5 things we learned

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Today new writer Peter Gilbert looks at England’s recent ODI series defeat to the Proteas…

As the sun sets on the men’s ODI series between South Africa and England, the England players depart for their various franchises and the Test team.

Before the Bangladesh series in March, and with the World Cup in India drawing ever closer, England will now be piecing together what they have learned from this 2-1 series defeat.

1: England’s middle order looks short of a batter

Despite two scores of above 300, England still seemed short of a batter in the middle periods of the game, someone that can keep the momentum of the powerplay ticking through until the burst at the death of the innings.

This is highlighted by three of South Africa’s middle order, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klassen and David Miller, outscoring all but the imperious Jos Buttler and David Malan.

Liam Livingstone, Will Jacks and Alex Hales are just some of the names that are waiting in the wings and are capable of slotting comfortably into the middle order.

It should be added England that are missing several injured players and, with the World Cup in mind, Matthew Mott will experiment with the batting order and try to find the right line-up for India. Tom Abell’s selection for the Bangladesh series is testament to this.

However, this series proved the importance of Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root especially, to the one-day team. Root averages of 50 and has a strike rate of 87. He is the perfect candidate to glue together the two end of the innings and needs to be back in the side as soon as possible.

2: Sam Curran just has ‘something’ about him

Sam Curran is quickly becoming an important part of the one-day set up for England.

Off the back of being the player of the tournament at the men’s T20 World Cup in Australia, Curran has once again showed his all-round abilities against South Africa.

In the first game, Curran took three wickets at a measly 3.88 runs an over.

These were important wickets, too, claiming the scalps of Quinton de Kock, Miller and centurion van der Dussen.

The wicket of de Kock was an example of Curran’s excellent short ball, one that almost sneaks up on a batter without them expecting it.

In the second, Curran’s quickfire 28 from 17 balls almost took England to a match winning score.

The power hitting he displayed in a barrage of sixes against Lungi Ngidi shows how important he will be when England look to press the advantage late in an innings.

Though his form for MI Cape Town in the SA20 has been mixed, this series has once again proved the talent Curran has.

3: Jason Roy is down, but not out just yet

Jason Roy would be the first to admit that 2022 was not his best year.

Having had a miserable run of form for England, a desperate series of displays in last summer’s Hundred and having lost his place in the T20 side, Roy has to be looking over his shoulder in the ODI team.

That is why the hundred in the first ODI, off 91 balls, must be of massive relief to him.

Roy later admitted the century was an ‘angry’ innings; any viewer could see how much it meant to him to be back to run scoring ways that most England fans had taken for granted before 2022.

It will grant him a little breathing space, in the media as well as in the selection room, and means he lives to fight another day as the first-choice opener. For now.

With only ten runs scored in the other two games, the fans and pundits calling for his place have not been held at bay just yet. And with Phil Salt, Hales and Jacks waiting in the wings, Roy will know he needs another big score come the Bangladesh series.

4: Jofra Archer is England’s trump card

How good is it to see Jofra Archer back in an England shirt?

Figures of one wicket for 81 runs in the first match were evidence of a bowler still trying to find their feet in competitive, international cricket, after such a long time away through injury.

However, the six wickets in the final match proved how important Archer will be in the World Cup.

Anytime Buttler needed a wicket, the captain tossed the ball to Archer. And Archer obliged.

Archer ripped through the South African middle order and, going at just 4.36 runs an over, prevented them from building any sort of momentum in the run chase.

There is so much cricket left before the World Cup, including the small business of an Ashes series, and England will want Archer to play as often as possible.

Perhaps the biggest priority for the selectors this year will be managing England’s trump card so he can play as many minutes as possible.

5: South Africa are building a formidable side

This series has highlighted South Africa’s potential to take the crown off the head of the current world champions.

Aiden Markram, Van der Dussen, Miller and Klaasen (who played all three games) are proving to be a settled, experienced and powerful middle order.

All four scored over a hundred runs in the series and averaged over thirty, with van der Dussen hitting a century in the first match.

Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Ngidi are three of the world’s best quick bowlers and all three were excellent in this series.

With strong squad depth, a capable leader in Temba Bavuma and the incredibly experienced de Kock at the top of the order, South Africa are building a formidable squad.

Will the World Cup in India finally be their year?

Peter Gilbert