South Africa, welcome to bubble cricket. Yes, that’s right, this is the first time that the Proteas have turned out in any format since Covid stopped cricket in its tracks some eight and a half months ago. By contrast, their English opponents were pioneers of the biosecure hubs over the summer, playing almost without break in Manchester and Southampton between the start of July and the end of September.
But while the recent history of the sides might differ coming into the first of three rubbers, the goal is the same: success at the next T20 World Cup, scheduled for India in 11 months from now. In the case of Eoin Morgan’s men, that tournament will present the opportunity to become dual white-ball world champions.
From Morgan’s perspective, what he learns in this series will help inform the selection process for that major set-piece event. In their most recent outing in the shortest form against the Australians at the end of their summer, they wrapped up the series in straight sets before losing the third and final rubber. This time around, they are picking from a strong squad with the majority of their eight of the team who played in their ODI win at Lord’s last July likely to feature in today’s XI.
As for the Quinton de Kock’s hosts, they were in a good run of white-ball form before Covid hit but the extent to which that matters now after so many months away remains unclear. As we saw in the ODI between Australia and India earlier today in Sydney, ring rust is a very real thing when teams return from long breaks. The good news is will have Kagiso Rabada, coming off the back of a superb IPL.
We’re about 20 minutes away from the toss at Newlands, where they won’t be spectactators in attendance, I’m sorry to report. But that’s okay – we’ll have fun. Drop me a line in the usual way or fire me a tweet. I’m looking forward to it.