South Africa will begin a one-day international series against England in Bloemfontein on Friday and will need strong performances to automatically qualify for the Cricket World Cup later this year. The three-match series is part of the International Cricket Council’s World Cup Super League, with the top eight teams qualifying for the World Cup in India in October and November. South Africa need to win at least three of their remaining five games – they also need to play two games against the Netherlands – to rise above the West Indies, who are currently eighth on completion of their schedule.
But Sri Lanka could also beat the West Indies if they win at least two games in their last series in New Zealand in March. South Africa can guarantee qualification by winning all five remaining games.
Teams that fail to automatically secure a World Cup place must compete in a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in June and July.
The England ODI series comes at a time of transition for South Africa, following the resignation of Mark Boucher as head coach.
Rob Walter, the new white ball coach, will fulfill his obligations with New Zealand’s Central Districts and Shukri Conrad, who has been appointed Test coach, will replace the games against England.
Conrad said he was in close contact with Walter. “We share similar ideas. We are in conversation literally every day.”
The South African selectors ignored calls for a shake-up in an under-performing 50-overs team and have not injected new blood into their England series squad.
“It’s a very solid team,” said Conrad. “They understand what it takes in this series.”
But it seems likely that new thoughts may emerge when Walter takes over next month.
Walter, in his first coaching role in New Zealand, showed his willingness to take tough action after being appointed leader of an Otago team that had fallen short of its potential.
“I had to make some tough decisions and that led to the departure of some senior players,” he told South African newspaper Rapport.
One possibility could be a return to international cricket for former captain Faf du Plessis, 38, who reached the first century in South Africa’s SA20 competition on Tuesday night.
But Walter, who worked with Du Plessis when he was head coach of the Titans franchise before moving to New Zealand in 2016, said his first job would be to talk to South African white-ball captain Temba Bavuma.
Eight members of the England team played in the SA20 competition, including captain Jos Buttler, who scores the most runs, and fast bowler Jofra Archer, who has shown good form in five games for the MI Cape Town team.
Injuries prevented Archer from playing for England for nearly two years.
The pace bowler told journalists in Bloemfontein that he was “about 80 per cent fit” and was no longer afraid his body was “going to give out”.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma (captain), Quinton de Kock (wkt), Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Sisanda Magala, Keshav Maharaj, Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen.
England: Jos Buttler (captain, wkt), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes.
January 27 Bloemfontein (day-night)
January 29 Bloemfontein (day)
February 1 Kimberley (day-night)
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