Cricket / Preview / South Africa V England Odi Series

South Africa v England ODI Series

South Africa start as strong favourites for the five one-dayers with a number of the visitors' squad struggling with injury.



South Africa v England ODI Series

1st ODI: Friday 20th November, Wanderers (D/N)

2nd ODI: Sunday 22nd November, Centurion

3rd ODI: Wednesday 27th November, Cape Town (D/N)

4th ODI: Saturday 29th November, Port Elizabeth

5th ODI: Tuesday 4th December, Kingsmead (D/N)


South Africa

G Smith (c), H Amla, J Botha, M Boucher (wkt), AB de Villiers, J-P Duminy, J Kallis, C Langeveldt, R McLaren, J Morkel, W Parnell, A Petersen, D Steyn, L Tsotsobe, R van der Merwe


A Strauss (c), J Anderson, T Bresnan, S Broad, P Collingwood, A Cook, J Denly, S Mahmood, E Morgan, G Onions, K Pietersen, L Plunkett, M Prior (wkt), A Rashid, G Swann, J Tredwell, J Trott, L Wright



Key Stats

  • South Africa have won all of their last 11 bilateral ODI series at home against the other seven major nations when Graeme Smith has started the series as skipper.
  • Kevin Pietersen has top scored for England in only two of his 14 bilateral ODI series against non-minnows — and in none of his last 10.
  • An opener has top scored for South Africa in 11 of their 14 bilateral ODI series against non-minnows in the last five years.
  • The team batting first has won 17 of 19 matches between non-minnows under lights at Newlands. 



Following an encouraging performance with the bat in their narrow rain-affected victory in the first T20 international, South Africa brought England back down to Earth in the second game — totalling the second-highest score in the format’s brief history in the next game against a somewhat makeshift attack. England’s sudden spate of injuries reduced them to just 11 available players for their win in the final warm-up against South Africa A, with both their most experienced bowler (James Anderson) and batsman (Paul Collingwood) missing that game and still questionable for the first match on Friday. Two of the tourists’ first-choice bowling attack — Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann — are both definitely out for the first two ODIs, with Liam Plunkett and James Tredwell drafted into the squad as cover.


Team Form

Although they have lost the top spot in the ODI rankings having briefly claimed it from Australia, South Africa are still streets ahead of England in terms of results, winning eight of their 13 games this year against the other seven major nations and 19 of their 34 (with one no result) since the last World Cup. England, by contrast, have a losing record over both those periods: W8-L10 and W22-L28-T1 (with two no results), respectively.

The disparity between the sides’ records would be greater but for England’s head-to-head dominance in this fixture of late, winning five of their six games (the other was a no result) since the World Cup in the Caribbean. Five of those games did come in England after the Proteas’ comprehensive Test series victory, although the most recent was England’s 22-run win in the Champions Trophy two months ago. That was just England’s fourth away win against the South Africans in 50 overs, with the home side winning their previous (both seven-game) series 4-1 and 6-1 and also taking three of four in a triangular series against England in 2000.

South Africa’s home dominance in this format is not limited to the Three Lions however. Since rejoining the international scene in 1992, they have won 17 of their 20 bilateral ODI series at home against the other major nations, losing just two — both to Australia — as well as winning four of their five series of three or four teams. Their overall home win rate against non-minnows over that period is 69%, the best in world cricket (ahead of Australia and Sri Lanka on 65%) while in that time, England have won only 31% of their away ODIs — better only than New Zealand (28%). 

It is unsurprising then, to find that England have won just two away series of three games or more against non-minnows in that time and just three of 21 since the 1987 World Cup. They have won two of their last four away series (in the West Indies earlier this year and in Sri Lanka in 2007), although they were drubbed 5-0 and 3-1 in the two tours in between (India and New Zealand, respectively), losing four of their last seven away series of three games or more by at least two matches. South Africa have won all 11 home series against non-minnows that Graeme Smith has started as captain (last losing in the 2002 series to Australia in which Smith made his debut as captain), winning eight of the 11 by at least two games. That includes six of their eight five-game series in that time, with the two series decided by one game both being 3-2 wins over Australia.

Statistically, England are heavily outgunned in both departments as well, averaging just 29.1 runs per wicket against non-minnows with the bat over the last year, while scoring at 5.13 runs per over, and conceding 33.8 runs per wicket with the ball (allowing their opponents to score at 5.36 runs per over). South Africa’s figures dwarf these, averaging 37.6 runs per wicket (5.56 runs per over) and allowing 29.4 runs per wicket (at 5.32). This decade there have been 32 series between two of the eight major nations where one side had better figures in all four of these categories, with that team winning 20 of them to 10 losses and two drawn series. When the numerically superior team was at home, they have won nine of 12 series — five by at least two games. South Africa have been the ‘better’ team in seven of those 32 series, winning five of them, including an aggregate 11-1 from their three home series. England have actually won their last three series when going in in this position (v South Africa in 2008, in Sri Lanka in 2007 and v India in 2007), although had lost all four such series prior to that.



As the team figures suggest, South Africa hold a clear advantage in personnel, in particular with the bat. Four of their top five (Smith, Kallis, de Villiers and Amla) all averaging over 35 against the seven other major nations, while only Pietersen (albeit at 47.7) does for England. AB de Villiers has been in particularly good form for the Proteas of late, averaging 62.3 in 12 matches over the last year against non-minnows, with five 50s and being one of his side’s top two scorers in eight of the 12 games. Indeed, he and his captain have monopolised the top-scorer market (three and four, respectively) in the last year, with no other player top-scoring for them more than once. Jacques Kallis has the best record for his career in this market however, top-scoring in just under a quarter (66/254) of his side’s innings against non-minnows and is slated to open alongside Smith in this series. 

In terms of series top scorers, only AB de Villiers, of South Africa’s current squad, has led the side in runs in more than one series (2 out of 10) over the last four years, with their leader in this market, Herschelle Gibbs (4/10), not making the main squad for the first three ODIs. Indeed, just three of South Africa’s leading run scorers in their 14 series against non-minnows over the last five years has not been an opener. Smith has a better record against England than Kallis (43.9 runs per innings to Kallis’s 29.3) in this format and has slightly better form overall, making 40 or more in 12 of his 23 ODI innings against non-minnows since the World Cup (11/32 for Kallis).

Somewhat surprisingly, Kevin Pietersen has top-scored for England in a bilateral series against non-minnows only twice in 14 attempts — and they both came in his first four tours (including memorably here in 2005). In the time that he has been in the squad Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook have top-scored in a series as many times (in eight and seven series, respectively), while the man that has done it most often (Owais Shah) did not make the squad. Openers have top-scored in half (11/22) of England’s series against non-minnows of three games or more and with the England captain in superb form in all formats, we would look for him to lead the way for his side again.

One possible advantage for the visitors is in their attack, with the home side fairly short on one-day experience, with the obvious exception of Jacques Kallis. Apart from him, only Charl Langeveldt (57) and Dale Steyn (35) have more than 20 ODI wickets against non-minnows to their name while England have seven such players, although only three with 50 or more wickets — and it is possible none of them (Anderson, Collingwood and Broad) will be on the field at the Wanderers on Friday. Indeed, England’s chances of a series victory appear to have been dealt a severe blow with Stuart Broad’s shoulder injury keeping him out of the first two games at least. Broad has easily the best career stats of the bowlers in both squads with at least 20 ODI wickets against non-minnows, averaging 26.8 with a strike rate of 31.0. Both of those figures are the best of the bowlers in this series, with the only other man with an average of under 30 in ODIs against the major nations — Graeme Swann — also on the sidelines for the first two matches. 

Swann’s absence is perhaps not as big as it would be elsewhere, in terms of wickets at least, with only one spinner (out of 37 bowlers) topping the wicket tables for his side in the last 10 years in South Africa. Opening bowlers have taken the honours 70% (26/37) of the time, which suggests it will be between Anderson and Onions for England. Anderson’s record in South Africa is good (17 wickets in nine games at 22.8) and it is hard to look beyond him leading the wicket takers for England if healthy. 

By the same reasoning, Steyn and Langeveldt look the most likely contenders to top the wickets charts for South Africa — assuming they continue to open the bowling. Steyn’s figures against non-minnows, although from a fairly small sample, are better at home, averaging 28.2 in South Africa to 38.0 elsewhere. The same is not true of Langeveldt (33.7 at home against 30.6 everywhere else) who has picked up more than two wickets in just two of his 16 ODIs in South Africa against the major nations.



The venues for the first two ODIs — the Wanderers and Centurion — have been the highest-scoring of the five that will be visited on this tour, with 18 totals of 300 or more made at those two grounds in 66 matches between the eight major nations — compared to just five in 83 at the other three venues combined. Newlands in particular, is bowler-friendly, with nearly half (25/56) of the innings played there in games between non-minnows failing to reach 200 and less than a quarter (13/56) getting past 250. 

The higher-scoring nature of the first two grounds lends itself more to chasing down totals, with the side batting second winning 20 of 33 ODIs between non-minnows at the Wanderers and 18 of 32 at Centurion. Conversely, it has proved extremely beneficial to get runs on the board at Newlands, with three quarters (21/28) of sides batting first there ending up as winners — including in 17 of 19 day-night matches.

Newlands is also something of a fortress for the home team, with South Africa losing just three of their 25 ODIs in Johannesburg, while their worst record of the five sites in this series being at Kingsmead (W13-L7-T1-D4). As those figures suggest, the weather could well be a factor in Durban with a quarter (7/28) of the ODIs played there having been affected by rain, all of which were — like the final match of this series — day-night games.


Strong Recommendations

  • South Africa -1.5 at 2.2
  • Graeme Smith to be top South Africa batsman at 4.3
  • Back the team that bats first in the third ODI to win


  • Andrew Strauss to be top England batsman at 4.3
  • Dale Steyn to be top South Africa bowler at 3.5
  • James Anderson to be top England bowler at 3.25


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