Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wounded South Africa seek a comeback

Graeme Smith hands over the captaincy to Jacques Kallis.

Match facts

Friday, August 30, 2008
Start time 10.45BST (9.45GMT)

Big Picture
Kevin Pietersen's captaincy honeymoon shows no sign of abating. A win in his maiden Test was closely followed by a starring role in the first ODI at Headingley, and then on Tuesday at Trent Bridge he reached Nirvana with the most comprehensive victory imaginable. The game was done and dusted in 37.1 overs, and now, to make matters worse for the South Africans, they will have to make do without their inspirational captain, Graeme Smith, who has been ruled out of the rest of the tour with a bout of tennis elbow. Jacques Kallis takes over as captain, but at 2-0 down with three to play, he has his work cut out if he hopes to turn the series around.

Form guide
England WWLLL
South Africa LLWWW

Watch out for...

Steve Harmison The Oval was the scene of Harmison's Test comeback earlier this month, and he clearly enjoyed the extra pace and bounce in the wicket. An unexpected addition to the squad, following Ryan Sidebottom's withdrawal, he has been quietly effective in his two games to date, and managed to bag two wickets in his solitary over during the Trent Bridge rout. Having committed to England's winter tours, another buoyant performance will give South Africa plenty to ponder as they seek to claw their way back into the series.

Jacques Kallis This time last year he resigned from the vice-captaincy in fury after being omitted from the ICC World Twenty20 squad, but in his country's hour of need he's back at the helm. Perhaps the extra responsibility will kickstart Kallis' batting, which has been peculiarly ponderous all summer long. He did make a useful 52 in the Headingley defeat (only his second half-century in nine innings) but was prised from the crease cheaply by Stuart Broad on Tuesday.

Team news

No changes anticipated for England, and little wonder, seeing as the entire side will be as fresh as proverbial daisies after their lightest work-out in months. Thanks to Stuart Broad's five-wicket haul and Matt Prior's bullish 45 not out, five of the 11 players did nothing more strenuous than stroll on the outfield for 23 overs.

England (probable) 1 Ian Bell, 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen (capt), 5 Andrew Flintoff, 6 Paul Collingwood, 7 Luke Wright, 8 Samit Patel, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steve Harmison.

Problems abound for South Africa. They've lost their captain, Smith, so Hashim Amla comes in at the top of the order for only his fourth ODI, while the Morkel brothers, Albie and Morne, are not entirely match-fit as yet. Albie did play at Trent Bridge, though like most of his team-mates he made no great impact, while Morne looked intermittently hostile during his net session on Thursday afternoon, and is likely to come in for Andre Nel.
South Africa (possible) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Jean-Paul Duminy, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Johan Botha, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Makhaya Ntini.

Umpires: Nigel Llong, Simon Taufel

Pitch and conditions
It was quick and bouncy for the Test match earlier in the month, and more of the same is anticipated for Friday. Expect good value for shots on a fast outfield, but plenty of life for the tall bowlers on both sides.

Stats and Trivia
# In 37 ODIs since 1992, South Africa have enjoyed much the better of their contests against England, with 22 wins to 13 losses. What is more, they have never lost three consecutive matches in the same series.

# South Africa have played in three previous ODIs at The Oval, including the 1999 World Cup, when they pushed England towards an early exit with a 122-run victory. They also won in 1998, by three wickets, but lost five years later, by six wickets.

"Being booed off the field is more than enough motivation for the guys to put in a big performance."
Jacques Kallis expects his team to bounce back strongly from their humiliation at Trent Bridge.

"If he played another game, [the elbow] could tear properly and that would require surgery. It's just not worthwhile."
South Africa's coach Mickey Arthur explains why Graeme Smith has played his last game of the tour.