ENGLAND plan to risk their first one-day international series defeat for three years by deliberately not picking their strongest team to face South Africa tomorrow in Johannesburg.
The World Cup winners have not lost an ODI series since falling to a 2-1 defeat in India in early 2017.
Their hopes of winning the ongoing three-match rubber against the Proteas were ended in Durban yesterday when rain permitted just 11.2 overs play in the second one-day international before the match was abandoned.
England lost the opening fixture in Cape Town by seven wickets.
Having already rested World Cup stars Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood for this series, and with their main white-ball focus on the subsequent three-match T20 series against South Africa ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia in October, England intend to stick tomorrow with their primary objective.
Namely, that of using this series as a chance to find out more about young players such as batsman Tom Banton and leg-spinner Matt Parkinson and resisting any temptation to bring back established men such as Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali in a specific attempt to level the series.
“If they do come back (Rashid and Ali), it won’t be to play our strongest team,” said captain Eoin Morgan after South Africa reached 71-2 in the limited action in Durban.
“It might be to get them some cricket under their belt; we don’t have a T20 warm-up game, our priority is T20 cricket, and those two guys will come into contention for our best XI.
“If they do play, then that will be the reason behind it, not because we want to level the series.
“I think we would have played them today (in Durban) if we were trying to kick on (and win the series).
“We’re looking to know more about people and present opportunity. Yes, we want to win, but we also want to know a lot more about other guys come the end of the tour with a longer-term plan in place.
“I think it gives a platform for them to stake their claim for T20 and 50-over cricket because we’ve identified them as being the future and potential England cricketers for the next 10 years.
“It’s not about immediate results, it’s about investing time in those guys.”
Despite the long-term objective of trying to build for the next 50-over World Cup in India in 2023 and beyond, Morgan was left frustrated in Durban, where he looked to have secured an important advantage by winning the toss with the bad weather around.
It is much easier to chase than to set a target when Duckworth-Lewis-Stern calculations come into play, with the contest first reduced to 45 overs per side and then 26.
Joe Root took the important wicket of Quinton de Kock, whom he bowled as the South Africa captain tried to force him through the offside.
After de Kock’s departure for 11, fellow opener Reeza Hendricks hit 35 not out and Temba Bavuma 21 before the latter was lbw to Chris Jordan for 21 after England reviewed umpire Aleem Dar’s original not out verdict from what proved to be the game’s final delivery.
Meanwhile, Lancashire pace bowler James Anderson has set his sights on returning from a rib injury when England play two Tests in Sri Lanka next month.
Anderson broke down during the recent Test series in South Africa but is confident he will be fine if England choose to pick him in conditions that do not usually favour pace men.
“It’s good, it’s all healed,” he said. “I’ve been training for a few weeks now, getting my bowling back up to speed, and I feel really good.”
The news is less encouraging for fellow pace bowler Archer, whom England announced on Thursday is set to be sidelined for around three months with a low grade stress fracture of his right elbow.
Morgan feels an enforced absence could be a blessing in disguise for the 24-year-old after a demanding first winter on international duty.
“Jofra hasn’t had a serious injury for some time now and I don’t think this is a major issue,” said Morgan. “It allows him time – particularly when it’s in his elbow – both to spend some time at home and get away from the game but also recondition exactly what he’s built to do.
“We play a lot of cricket and stepping back from it sometimes, you reap the rewards and the benefits later down the line.”