England v South Africa
Thursday 29 July, 18.30
TV: Live on Sky Sports
England's batting fires
England returned to their destructive batting form in white-ball cricket for only the second time this summer. It was hugely impressive and served as a reminder that no team can live with them when in such a mood.
What was impressive about England's work was how they got their batting order spot on. They split the right-handers and left-handers as best they could, resulting in Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali dovetailing and taking South Africa apart.
Bairstow was just shy of a ton but those who took big prices about Moeen for top bat will be sore considering the Yorkshireman was shelled a few times.
His 52 from 18 balls was eyewateringly good. It was frustrating that top-bat pickers had to watch him collect the match gong instead.
One wouldn't expect change in personnel after such a dominant display. There were pricey bowlers but Richard Gleeson and Chris Jordan were superb and deserve billing alongside Bairstow and Moeen.
Probable XI: Buttler, Roy, Malan, Bairstow, Moeen, Livingstone, S Curran, Jordan, Rashid, Gleeson, Topley
South Africa brain drain
South Africa's big challenge in this series is to match England's mentality of aggressive batting. It is frustrating, then, that they made some odd decisions with their selection.
There was no Aiden Markram for example. Markram has been their most consistent and destructive batter in the last two years. One can only hope for their sake that he is injured, otherwise it was a decision which made no sense whatsoever.
Without Markram, South Africa were down to five bowlers. This meant new skip David Miller had to use Tristan Stubbs' part-time spin.
Stubbs' one over went for 20. It is worth wondering how bad things could have been without Lungi Ngidi's five wickets.
There was no Rassie van der Dussen, either. An eyebrow-raiser considering the form he'd shown in the ODI series. Dwaine Pretorius was also an easy pick ahead of Andile Phelukawayo.
Possible XI: De Kock, Hendricks, Markram, Klaasen, Miller, Stubbs, Pretorius, Maharaj, Rabada, Ngidi, Shamsi
In six first-innings which have not been reduced by rain this season in the Blast there have been only two scores of 160 or more. In 2021 there was only one from five. That trend for bowlers dominating was apparent in the previous two T20 internationals.
Sri Lanka could manage only 111 and 129 batting first. On both occasions Adil Rashid caused major problems. There has been evidence of spin and pace-off being difficult to get away in the Blast, too.
We therefore have to be wary about getting carried away with the runscoring in game one. As much as South Africa left their smarts at home, their run rate of 9.6 was very strong indeed.
A shrewd unders play could be in the offing, then. It could be that there are very cheap lays indeed on under 170 or 180 if England bat first. The first-innings runs line is here. Cloud cover will not be bad news either for bowlers. No rain is forecast.
England are 1.548/15 with South Africa 2.8415/8. That's a chunky drift on the tourists. Value-seekers, as ever, will have been hugely disappointed with South Africa's chosen XI. There is no guarantee that they get it right in Cardiff. Bet the match odds here
Had we known that South Africa were going to pick only five bowlers and leave out tu one of Markram and Van der Dussen, we'd never have touched them at 2.407/5. Them's the breaks making a call so far in advance.
The advice is to wait for the toss. If they pick the XI listed above, we'll bet them for a small stake particularly as a bowler-friendly pitch could reduce that batting gulf.
At they very least they need to have six bowling options. And that means Markram has to play considering he has been so useful to them in the past in that regard.
Quinton de Kock and Jos Buttler have been boosted for top team bat by Sportsbook to 11/4 and 3/1 respectively. Both are likely to prove popular wagers.
Bairstow is 4/1 for a repeat with Moeen pushed out a point to 12s. Liam Livingstone is 7/1 despite him batting below Moeen. You can pin a wager on that alone.
Stubbs at least impressed with the bat and as the new breed of Saffers hitters it was good to see him produce a destructive innings. His 72 from 28 shows what South Africa can do when they un leash aggression. He is 9/1.