Coaches Andy Flower of England and Gary Kirsten of South Africa will play series-deciding roles in the one day cricket internationals between the two countries over the next week. The series ends next Wednesday (5 September) at Trent Bridge and could see South Africa replace England as the number one ranked One Day International team of the world, if they win the series.
Flower’s role in the resurrection of England's cricket team cannot be overemphasized. Under his hand England won the T20 Cricket World Cup in 2010 and in 2012 won ten One Day Internationals to become the world’s number one team the 50 over format.
England emerged from the shadows in limited over cricket and has become a real force globally because of Flower’s emphasis on aggression and adventure. He abandoned his predecessor’s focus on structures and an conservative, disciplined approach.
Flower has required his troops to be much more offensive and confident in their batting. They have attacked relentlessly in the power plays, and played with an adventurous and aggressive approach.
Under Kirsten’s coaching, South African T20 cricket has also become a tad more aggressive in the first six overs, thanks partially to the ultra-attacking Richard Levi.
But at times South Africa has gone back into their shells with a laager mentality and with measured and timid One Day cricket, especially in the 50 over format.
This approach will get you to 250 in 50 overs, which with a bowling attack of international class is defendable, but not quite out of the danger zone.
Kirsten has also erred by using arguably the world’s best One Day batsman, AB de Villiers, at number five when you need a world-class batsman like that higher up in the order, use him in as many of the 50 overs as possible.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe, one of South Africa’s most successful One Day bowlers, looked off the boil in the first series match in Cardiff it was called off due to rain.
If South Africa wants to prevail in the series, they will have to use their world-class performers to put England to the sword.
Hashim Amla and De Villiers, first and third world-ranked One Day batsmen , must show their mettle. To make this possible Graeme Smith should be used as opener and Dean Elgar at number three, will have to perform.
Smith cannot allow Amla to play the sole role of aggressor. He himself will have to shoulder responsibility to attack in the power plays.
Elgar, making his debut for the Proteas, will similarly have to be more aggressive than has been the case for the A team against Ireland recently.
Morné Morkel, Dale Steyn, Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell will share the responsibility to attack the English top order for the early breakthroughs.
De Villiers said earlier last week he believes England's batting"Droid Sans, sans-serif"
Parnell looked in good nick in a warm-up game and collected two five wicket hauls for the A team against Ireland.
Steyn has yet to perform to his ability in One Day Internationals. There is no doubt about his ability in the limited format, as he proved with eighteen wickets during this year’s Indian Premier League. Morkel was also superb in that tournament.
Players like Albie Morkel, Faf du Plessis and Robin Peterson would have benefited from being part of the team environment in the test series, where the inspirational presence of Mike Horn and Paddy Upton and the technical proficiency of Kirsten and Allan Donald would have prepared them well for the One Day Internationals.
But ultimately the series will be decided by the philosophy that underpins the approach to the game.
If South Africa errs by being too conservative and too tentative and lacks that ruthless edge during the power plays, England will edge them in this series.
South Africa already knows that England, encouraged by the attacking Flower, would play free-flowing, offensive cricket.
England will miss the controversial yet charismatic and free-flowing Kevin Pietersen in their"Droid Sans, sans-serif"
Yet KP gives England so much more class and substance than Eoin Morgan or Ravi Bopara. He was man of the series in the 2010 T20 World Cup tournament and averages more than 41 in One Day Internationals, with nine centuries.
On his day, Pietersen can transform a match within 50 deliveries and demolish any attack in the world. But England’s top order will do their level best to achieve a convincing series win against South Africa to silence critics who have bemoaned Pietersen’s absence.
The second match in the One Day Internationals will be contested at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Tuesday and the third at the Oval in London on Friday.
Lord’s in London will host the fourth match on Sunday and Trent Bridge will be the scene for the fifth and final match next Wednesday (5 September).