England vs. South Africa – First ODI

So England faced the ODI team currently ranked number 1 by the ICC and beat them convincingly in the end. A cause for celebration, you’d assume, but everyone’s focus is already on the Champions Trophy which begins in 8 days. The side England chose for this first game is widely expected to be their starting XI in the tournament, and so the team’s performance provides a useful gauge of what we can expect over the next 4 weeks.

Strengthened Their Position

Eoin Morgan – Of course as captain, Morgan’s place was already secure. He does attract a lot of criticism though, so his performance today will have quieted his naysayers (at least temporarily). He got a dominating score of 107 with the bat, and rotated the bowling well which seemed to create wickets from what was a very flat pitch.

Moeen Ali – As Sean B wrote before the game, Moeen’s ODI credentials are not as strong as England’s other all-rounders. His career averages are 27.75 with the bat and 47.54 with the ball, so he arguably wouldn’t get in the team either as a batsman or bowler alone. The two things he has going for him are that his bowling is typically economical, and he has the potential to bat like he has in this game. Moeen’s 117 run partnership with Morgan shaped the whole game, taking England’s score high enough to put pressure on South Africa’s batting lineup. He also bowled well, taking 2 wickets for only the second time in his previous 21 ODIs including the crucial dismissal of de Villiers.

Chris Woakes – Arguably England’s best ODI all-rounder, Woakes had a great game with the ball taking 4 wickets for only 38 runs. Crucially he quickly finished off the tail, which can sometimes be a problem for England’s bowlers.

Alex Hales – Although he’ll be disappointed with the way he lost his wicket to a very loose shot, Hales’ 61 set a strong platform for England to build on. After confirming his status as England’s best ODI opener in this game, it would be incredibly surprising if he didn’t play every game of the Champions Trophy.

No Change

Joe Root – Not a great innings by Root, but not terrible either. Since the 2015 World Cup, Root has averaged 63.00 in ODIs, so his position was never under threat. However he will be under even more scrutiny in the coming weeks, as people try to work out if the added pressure and attention from the Test captaincy will affect his batting.

Adil Rashid – Rashid is what he is; An expensive bowler who takes wickets. That’s what he did in this game, and England’s management clearly believe that it’s a tradeoff worth making.

Liam Plunkett – An economical but non-threatening performance on a very flat pitch in this game by Plunkett. I honestly had forgotten he was playing in this game when I was writing this report.

Weakened Their Position

Jos Buttler – With two more wicketkeepers in the squad, Buttler’s position is arguably the one under most threat from this starting XI. Whilst he was solid behind the stumps taking 4 catches, scoring only 7 runs won’t have done him any favours with the selectors. The manner of dismissal might be worrying too, as the South Africans appeared to have a specific plan to get him out and it worked.

Jason Roy – Only scoring 1 from 6 balls is always going to be a poor day’s work for an opening batsman. With the continued good performances from Hales, Root and Morgan, Roy might be the weakest specialist batsman in the team, if England’s management wanted to get Bairstow or Billings in the side without sacrificing Buttler.

Mark Wood – England’s least economical bowler in this game, both Amla and de Villiers took a liking to his bowling. They are world-class batsmen though, and he did get his revenge on Amla with a great LBW dismissal.

Ben Stokes – A disappointing game for the two million dollar man, but most worrying for everyone will be a knee injury which meant he only bowled two overs in the game. Captain Morgan said after the game that Ben was available to bowl if needed, which hopefully means it’s a very minor niggle.

On To Southampton

The next game in the series is on Saturday at the Ageas Bowl, starting at 11am. Changes are certain to be made, as it would be very surprising if Stokes played with even a minor injury on the eve of a tournament. Willey is the closest like-for-like replacement in the squad, and so would be the favourite to play in Stokes’ place. Ball, Bairstow and Billings will all be eager to press their case to play in the Champions Trophy, if given the opportunity.

As ever, thoughts and comments on the game below:

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