Desperate England face S African test

Desperate England face S African test

Preview : Morgan's men stare at early exit

Desperate England face S African test

After waging an intense battle just months ago, South Africa and England will renew hostilities on a completely neutral turf on Friday with the latter in a very desperate situation to gain an inch.

Just preceding the World T20, England toured South Africa with mixed results. They accomplished what very few teams have done in world cricket, defeating a beleaguered Proteas in a Test series in their own den. In the process of that memorable achievement — their first Test series win over South Africa in 11 years — they also knocked out the Proteas from the summit of the Test rankings that saw Hashim Amla relinquish his Test captaincy.

England then appeared to add more salt to South Africa’s gaping wounds when they opened up a 2-0 lead in the five-match ODI series. With their backs to the wall, South Africa however staged a stunning recovery to show their deep resolve.

Big guns Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers led the recovery with a century each while while Quinton de Kock slammed a ton and Chris Morris played a match-winning knock as the South Africans clinched the series 3-2 — the fifth instance a team has won a series after trailing 0-2. They carried that confidence into the T20I series, blanking England 2-0 before losing 1-2 to Australia just weeks later.

Despite the loss to Australia, the South Africans will be licking their lips on having the chance to open their campaign at the Wankhede Stadium. Last October, in the final ODI against India with the series in the balance, they produced a collective assault that left the hosts stunned. De Kock, a cramping Faf du Plessis and the awe-inspiring de Villiers hammered scintillating centuries as the South Africans raked up a mammoth 438/4 on a belter of a wicket.

Things can’t be more enticing for the Proteas after what happened between England and the West Indies at the same venue on Wednesday. England posted a competitive 182/3 on another flatbed but West Indies, led by the mercurial Chris Gayle (100 not out off 48 balls), scaled it down with 11 balls to spare.

With de Kock, de Villiers, du Plessis, David Miller and JP Duminy in their ranks, the South Africans will be fancying their chances although England showed they too have some attack-minded batsmen in Alex Hales, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes willing to use the long handle to good effect.

Where South Africa hold the edge is in bowling. Premier paceman Dale Steyn relishes playing in the sub-continent, almost growing extra wings, his young apprentice Kagiso Rabada has been making waves with his exceptional bowling while Imran Tahir has an uncanny knack of picking wickets in the shorter format when batsmen are constantly looking to hit him out of the park. Morris and David Wiese provide the all-rounder options, giving South Africa the balance they need.

England, whose bowling took plenty of beating at the hands of Gayle, need to show character against an intimidating South Africa. Left-arm pacers David Willey and Reece Topley’s lengths were very predictable while Ben Stokes’ short-ball ploy saw the ball being easily deposited into the stands. Spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali felt intimidated by Gayle and easily capitulated.

England, who have now lost their previous six international games, need to win this match as a second defeat would mean an early exit from the competition. However, it won’t be easy as South Africa would be eyeing a strong start to their quest of winning a maiden world cup.

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