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It’s been just nine months since these teams last met and while the world is an entirely different place, the situation they are playing in is not. Back in February, South Africa and England hoped to use their white-ball clashes to prepare for a T20 World Cup. Now in November, the upcoming matches serve the same purpose after the tournament was postponed.

For South Africa, that’s no bad thing given the rushed circumstances in which their coaching staff took over last summer. They’ve had the luxury of lots of time to plan their approach going forward and this will be their first opportunity to show what they can do.

They come into it entirely undercooked, especially in comparison to their opposition. England spent the last few months pioneering the cricketing bio-bubble while South Africa played around with a new format of cricket that saw three teams compete in the same game. South Africa’s highest-profile players have since been at the IPL while the rest had two rounds of red-ball franchise cricket to get ready but, as a squad, they haven’t played so much as a warm-up match together. Contrastingly, England had a home summer against West Indies, Ireland, Pakistan and Australia, a (shortened) domestic season and two practice matches in South Africa. They have also had a much less chaotic backdrop against which to prepare.

While South African cricket has been inactive, South African cricket news has not. The winter saw the CSA administration lurch through several more crises which resulted in the board resigning and an interim structure being imposed on the organisation by the country’s sports minister. At the same time, South Africa handled the Black Lives Matter movement as badly as they could, with a confused stance on how to tackle anti-racism that remains unclear even on the eve of this series.

What we know is that the South Africa team will not take a knee (England did against West Indies and Ireland but not against Pakistan and Australia and will also not this time) but will make a statement in support of antiracism. They will also wear black armbands in support of the fight against gender-based violence and to commemorate those who have lost their lives to coronavirus. Flags will fly at half-mast as part of five days of national mourning in South Africa.

Given the fractious last few months, in which several former players of colour shared stories of exclusion, South Africa’s challenge will be reflected in how they present a united front, as much as in whether they are able to end up on the right side of results.

It’s about much more than cricket, as it often is here, and that is only amplified by the pandemic. The teams are housed in a bio-secure base in Cape Town and all matches are being played between Newlands and Paarl, behind closed doors. That means most South African may not even know the series is taking place. Negotiations with the public broadcaster, SABC, have not been finalised and these fixtures may only appear on pay television, opening up yet another debate about access and elitism in the game. So here we are. This is how the South African summer begins.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

South Africa LWLLL England LWWLW

In the spotlight

After a blistering IPL, where he topped the wicket charts Kagiso Rabada will be expected to set the tone for the summer. With Dale Steyn not selected in the squad, Rabada is now the undisputed leader of the attack and will work alongside Anrich Nortje, who showed fire of his own in the IPL, to form a formidable new-ball pair. South Africa have long based their strategies around their quicks and having two genuinely fast men leading the pack fits perfectly with their new aggressive – but smart – style.

Jason Roy has not played a T20 international since England toured South Africa earlier this year and will want to use this series to nail down the opening spot. He is up against just about every other member of his squad, with Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Jos Buttler and even Ben Stokes all making cases as openers, but if Roy gets a run in this series he may seal the spot for the T20 World Cup. His domestic form makes a good case to give him first bite at the cherry. Roy had a decent run in the five matches he played in the Blast, scoring 206 runs at 41.20 in Surrey’s run to the final.

Team news

It’s almost impossible to select a team before match day because of the risk of positive cases of Covid-19 but, all being well, this is who South Africa may opt for. One of Temba Bavuma or Janneman Malan will open with Quinton de Kock, with Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller making up an experienced middle order. The No. 6 and 7 spots are anyone’s guess (and ours are below) with the bowling likely to split along the lines of three seamers and one spinner. Dwaine Pretorius has been ruled out of both the T20 and ODI series with a hamstring injury, leaving Andile Phehlukwayo as the sole seam-bowling allrounder.

South Africa (possible): 1 Quinton de Kock (capt, wk), 2 Temba Bavuma/Janneman Malan, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 David Miller, 6 Heinrich Klaasen/Jon-Jon Smuts, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Kagiso Rabada, 9 Lungi Ngidi/Lutho Sipamla, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

Like South Africa, England are not saying too much about the XI they will field as they wait to see whether any additional grass will be taken off the wicket. Roy is expected to open alongside Buttler with Stokes returning to the XI after missing part of the home summer to be with his father in New Zealand, completing a top order that will likely also include Bairstow and Malan, the No. 1-ranked T20I batsman. The No. 7 spot could be conditions-dependent, with Moeen Ali the man in possession but Sam Curran pushing for inclusion after an impressive IPL. And all eyes will be on Jofra Archer and Mark Wood’s pace, especially as a counterpoint to Rabada and Nortje.

England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Moeen Ali/Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Mark Wood

Pitch and conditions

South Africa’s surfaces had an almost eight-month rest due to the inaction during the lockdown which has given them more time than usual to recover from the wear and tear of a busy summer. And it seems to have done them good. The franchise four-day competition demonstrated that there are runs and good bounce for the quicks and spinners. At Newlands earlier in the month, over 900 runs were scored between the Cobras and the Titans, seamer Lizaad Williams had early success with six wickets in the match and George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi took 16 wickets between them. Expect something for everyone in this series.

Stats and trivia

  • England are unbeaten in their last seven T20 series, and have won six of those (with a draw against Pakistan). They’re still three away from equalling Pakistan, who won 10 series on the trot .

  • South Africa have not won a T20 series since March 2019, when they beat Sri Lanka at home. Since then, they have drawn with India and lost to England and Australia.

  • If he plays, Rabada will earn his 100th white-ball cap for South Africa.

  • Chris Jordan is two wickets away from equalling Stuart Broad as England’s record-holder in T20Is.

Quotes

“The last series that we played we gave them a run for their money. It was disappointing that we didn’t win the series but we always fought til the end. We didn’t sit back just because we knew it was England. This time around it should be a good contest again.”
Quinton de Kock is eyeing some payback after defeat in February

“Winning at the moment would be great. But for us, given the luxury in players that we have at our disposal, it’s more important that we get their roles right and they feel comfortable within that, because if we manage to solve that problem, the results will look after themselves.”
Eoin Morgan on England’s priorities for the series



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WTC 2021-23 – Geoff Allardice

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The ICC’s acting CEO has said teams will continue to be ranked based on percentage of points contested

The shift to a ranking based on the percentage of points contested, which came about thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, will extend into the second (2021-23) edition of the World Test Championship, with one caveat. Instead of 120 points being available over each series, independent of the length of the series, every Test match will now carry an equal number of points. At the end of the WTC cycle, teams will be ranked based on the percentage of points accrued over all the matches they have played.

The above points system was revealed by Geoff Allardice, the ICC’s acting chief executive officer, during a media chat organised by the ICC on Monday. As a consequence of several series in the first cycle of the WTC being postponed due to the pandemic, the ICC altered the points system last November, deciding to rank teams based on the percentage of points won from the series they contested.



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Eng vs NZ 2021 – ‘Players have got to show desperation and earn the right to stay in the side’

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Graham Thorpe, England’s assistant coach, has called on his team’s young batters to prove their “desperation” to stay in the Test team, after New Zealand’s eight-wicket win at Edgbaston on Sunday completed their first series victory in this country since 1999, and England’s first loss on home soil in seven years.

Thorpe, who was a part of the England team that slumped to the bottom of the unofficial world rankings with their 2-1 series loss in 1999, said that he hoped this defeat would spur a similar quest for higher standards among the class of 2021, after he himself played a central role in the Nasser Hussain-led team that went on to win four series in a row in 2000-01, including their first against West Indies in 32 years.

But, Thorpe warned, while today’s selectors were far more tolerant of short-term failure than they were at the start of his own career in 1993, the management would need to see evidence of greater mental application than was the case in the past two Test matches. That was particularly the case in the second innings at Edgbaston, where England slumped to 76 for 6 and ultimately 122 all out.

“We have some younger players in our team who are still developing and we’re wanting them to improve,” Thorpe said. “But sometimes the intensity and the spotlight of Test cricket, when you’re up against a good team like New Zealand, just highlights how much of a challenge our players found their decision-making and the execution of shots.

“Whatever technique you have, the basics are still the same,” he added. “You have to get in, you have to be positive in your defence, leave the ball well outside off stump and play straight. These are the things that have applied to batting in Test match cricket for as long as it has been going.



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England vs India women’s Test 2021 – Harmanpreet Kaur: ‘We may not have much practice, but mentally we’re prepared’ | Cricket

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‘Because of the struggles of past Indian women’s cricketers, we have this opportunity’ – Harmanpreet Kaur


Harmanpreet Kaur believes that a lack of adequate game time in the longest format in the lead-up to India Women’s return to Test cricket after nearly seven years can be offset in some measure by cultivating a positive outlook and heeding advice received from Ajinkya Rahane.

“I’ve played only two red-ball matches [in international cricket]. As a batting group when we have a discussion… this time we got a chance to speak to Rahane as well,” Kaur, the India Test vice-captain, said of her “easy and friendly talk” with her male counterpart in Southampton, where both the Indian teams served a hard quarantine upon arriving in the UK on June 3. “He shared his knowledge with us as to how to approach batting in the longest format and how one should divide their innings into parts.

“We may not have much practice under our belt [going into the Test], but mentally [we are prepared]. We’ve discussed a lot of things so we prepare ourselves well for the match. Even in the nets, we’ve tried to be in a good frame of mind because when you are happy, other than thinking too much about your batting, you tend to play well.”

The women’s team arrived in Bristol on Monday for the one-off Test against hosts England that begins on Wednesday. The opening fixture of a seven-match multi-format assignment, the Test marks India’s first outing in the format since the one-off Test at home against South Africa in November 2014. On the domestic circuit, the last multi-day women’s competition – the Senior Women’s Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game – was held in March-April 2018, in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kaur admitted that inadequate preparedness heading into the tour wasn’t ideal, but welcomed the revival of Test cricket for her team.

“Whatever time we’ve got [since coming out of quarantine], we’ve tried to simulate match scenarios as much as possible and tried to keep ourselves in the best frame of mind,” Kaur said. “We didn’t get much time to prepare, or any practice games. Individually, it’s imperative to adapt to the situation.



“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17″


Harmanpreet Kaur is all for letting Shafali Verma develop her own way



“The surfaces are different to what we get in India. We’ve practised against the swinging ball in the nets. We have a further two days – today and tomorrow – to prepare ourselves better for the match, so I hope we’ll be able to do that well.

“It’s a totally different scenario [to playing with the white ball]. I know we didn’t even get any domestic games with the red ball. In the upcoming season and years we’ll get more red-ball cricket also, which is a very good sign for us.”

As with Tests in the Women’s Ashes, the Bristol Test will feature the use of the Kookaburra red ball (the Dukes ball is usually used in England), with England captain Heather Knight saying last week that “we’re going to be using a Kookaburra in this match because that’s what we’re going to be using in the Ashes and it’s no secret this Test match is a huge part of our preparation going into that Ashes series and that Ashes Test match away from home.”

Kaur said that in the practice sessions India have had so far, the Kookaburra didn’t pose much challenge.

“Dealing with a Kookaburra didn’t feel too different because the ball size and weight is roughly the same [as the white ball we use in limited-overs cricket]. The last time we played [a Test], we felt the red ball was a bit heavier than the white variant, which makes you rely on your timing more. But the Kookaburra white and red ball feels the same; just the colour is different. We felt good playing with it because when you’re in whites and you play with the red ball, it’s a totally different feeling.”

When asked about the likelihood of 17-year-old big-hitter Shafali Verma making her debut on Wednesday, Kaur stressed that it was important for the senior players and the team management to refrain from talking shop too much with the young batter.

“We’ve never tried tinkering too much with Shafali because she is a natural player, and if you try talking too much technique or game planning with her, she can get disturbed because she is only 17 years old,” Kaur said. “To burden her with too many thoughts isn’t the right thing.

“All of us try to create a good environment for her to be able to feel less pressured and be able to enjoy her cricket well. She was looking great in the nets, and I hope if she gets a chance to play she’ll do better.”

As regards Jhulan Goswami, the senior-most bowler in the Indian attack, Kaur was hopeful that the 38-year-old pacer would replicate in this Test the consistency and success that’s been a hallmark of her nearly two-decade-long international career.

“She is someone who always takes the lead whenever we’re on the field,” Kaur said. “She’s always [been] special for us because her quota [of overs] is [important]. She will always give us breakthroughs whenever we need. Not only her but all the bowlers are very important because in Test matches you need breakthroughs, and I think she will be fantastic in this match also.”

The tour of England is also returning head coach Ramesh Powar‘s first assignment since replacing WV Raman in the role last month. Kaur, who is also India’s T20I captain, said her interactions with Powar on the ongoing tour had been no different to those during his first stint in the position which ended with the 2018 T20 World Cup, following a high-profile controversy involving himself, ODI captain Mithali Raj, Kaur, T20I vice-captain Smriti Mandhana, and several members of the now-defunct Committee of Administrators that was overseeing the BCCI.

“My interactions with him have been the same [as before]. He is someone who’s involved in the game all the time and expects the same of the players. Whenever you speak to him, you feel like you’re in a match. He asks you to imagine yourself in a match situation and figure out how you would react to it.

“I get a lot of information speaking to him because he, too, has played a lot of cricket, including T20 cricket. So the experience is the same. Whatever we had done in 2018, we are repeating those things now as well.”

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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