Fast bowlers and spinners could play a significant role in a three-match Twenty20 series between South Africa and England, starting at Newlands in Cape Town on Friday.
South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje were a successful strike combination for runners-up Delhi Capitals in the recent Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates.
England’s Jofra Archer was outstanding for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, while Mark Wood played in all three matches in England’s most recent T20 series, when they beat Australia 2-1 in September.
All four fast men have the ability to bowl at around 150kmh. Nortje clocked a tournament record of 156.2kmh during the IPL.
England may have an edge in spin bowling, with leg-spinner Adil Rashid a consistent threat in white-ball cricket. Long-time stalwart Imran Tahir is no longer in the South African team but left-arm unorthodox spinner Tabraiz Shamsi has the ability to be a worthy successor.
Early season pitches in South Africa tend to give some help to both pace and spin, so it is possible that the matches could provide a reasonable contest between bat and ball instead of providing feasts of attacking batting.
South Africa have not played an international match since March but six of their squad played in the IPL, with captain Quinton de Kock and former captain Faf du Plessis joining Rabada and Nortje in having successful tournaments.
The other squad members played in two rounds of four-day matches before assembling in Cape Town last week.
England have not played since their series against Australia but Archer, captain Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran all played regularly during the IPL.
England have played two intra-squad warm-up matches since arriving in Cape Town last week but South Africa’s planned warm-up games were cancelled after two unnamed members of their 24-man squad tested positive for COVID-19.
England brought 26 players to South Africa but only 15 were named in the T20 squad, with others picked to play in three one-day internationals after the T20 games or as travelling reserves.
South African selection convener Victor Mpitsang said South Africa’s big squad would cover both series.
England won 2-1 in a series in South Africa in February but the matches were closely contested, with South Africa winning one match by one run and England another by two runs.
Because of Covid restrictions, no spectators will be allowed at the matches.
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (capt), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Faf du Plessis, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Glenton Stuurman, Pite van Biljon, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne
England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, Mark Wood
November 27, Cape Town
November 29, Paarl
December 1, Cape Town
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South African captain Quinton de Kock has questioned the sustainability of ‘bubble’ life in the age of COVID-19 as he contemplated an upcoming tour of Pakistan – another series in which players are likely to be confined to cricket grounds and their hotel rooms.
One of the world's greatest fast bowlers, Steyn also made it clear that he is not calling it quits anytime soon, despite playing international cricket for the past 16 years. The bowler, though, had retired from Test cricket in 2019 as South Africa's highest wicket-taker in the format.
The southern coastal city of Galle has seen several days of wet weather and more is predicted for the first of the two Tests, leaving the tourists wondering whether to use more pace on the usually spin friendly wicket.