South Africa will be keen to avenge a Test series defeat when they meet England in five one-day internationals, starting at the Mangaung Oval on Wednesday.
“There are no soft series or less important series, they are all important, particularly coming off a Test series loss,” South African coach Russell Domingo said.
Both teams will be looking to build on recent good results following disappointing campaigns in the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
South Africa showed patchy form in the World Cup but reached the semi-finals, where they were beaten by New Zealand. Since then, they have won a home series against the Black Caps and an away series in India.
England had a poor World Cup, failing to reach the knockout stage after losing all their matches against other Test nations. But they then beat New Zealand 3-2 in a home series, lost by the same margin against Australia and beat Pakistan 3-1 in the UAE.
Several of England’s leading one-day players did not appear in the recent Test series against South Africa, including wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler, who hit England’s fastest one-day century off 46 balls in the series decider against Pakistan in Dubai.
South Africa’s one-day specialists include hard-hitting left-handed batsmen David Miller and Rilee Rossouw, all-rounder Farhaan Behardien and leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
South African captain AB de Villiers, the world’s number one-ranked one-day international batsman, will hope for a return to form after making three ducks in his last three Test innings against England.
South Africa added fast bowler Marchant de Lange to their squad following the injury-forced withdrawal of Dale Steyn and the unavailability through injury for the first match of Kyle Abbott.
“Marchant gives us more options with our fast bowlers because there is no Steyn, no (Vernon) Philander, no Kyle Abbott,” said Domingo, who is worried about the workload of Morne Morkel and new star Kagiso Rabada.
“The big concern is the fact that Rabada and Morkel have played a lot of cricket of late and have bowled so many overs, we need to manage them over the next few days,” he added.
All-rounder David Wiese was added to the squad yesterday.
Despite the uncertainty over the make-up of the South Africa side, all-rounder JP Duminy is upbeat on how the side are looking ahead of the series.
“I don’t think we’re weakened. I think the replacements are good enough to stand in for those players,” he said.
“It’s not an interruption in any way for us. We know what’s needed as a squad and it’s important for us to stay unified as a team, no matter who the personnel are.
“The confidence from the one-day cricket point of view has been pretty good ... we’ve won our last two series.
“But we know this is a tough challenge that faces us, and that England have also been playing really well in this format.”
England will give a late fitness test to opener Jason Roy after he was sidelined in training yesterday with a back spasm.
Should Roy’s back problem persist, England’s most obvious contingencies to partner Alex Hales at the top of the order are to either promote James Taylor up a position from No 3 - with Joe Root back to reclaim that spot – or push their World Cup opener Moeen Ali up the order again.
South Africa v England ODI fixtures
Saturday, Port Elizabeth
February 9, Centurion
February 12, Johannesburg
February 14, Cape Town
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport