England and South Africa begin a three-match T20 series on Wednesday. It's a classic contest between two teams at different stages of their development.
One in a state of flux with possibly their best days behind them, the other potentially about to launch a powerful bid for a world title.
The hosts are, of course, the side with most question marks. They have a new coach and a new captain. The steady hand of Eoin Morgan is still more of a distraction than a memory.
Ben Stokes has been rested. Key bowlers like Mark Wood and Jofra Archer remain injured. It leaves precious little preparation opportunities for the T20 World Cup in October, a tournament they looked primed for before major disruption.
England's price for the World T20 on the exchange has begun to tick up. South Africa's is starting to tick down. England are now third-favourites at 4.707/2 with South Africa at 12.50.
South Africa have a more settled vibe, despite losing skipper Temba Bavuma to injury. It should prove to be a blessing in disguise.
There are few bettors out there who don't hope that South Africa, finally, release the handbrake and let their talented individual batters play with reckless abandon.
Proritise the bat or ball?
Just as the ODI series appeared to be a clash between two well-matched outfits, we expect more of the same. England are looking mighty skinny at no better than 1.654/6 for the first game at Bristol on Wednesday, a surface which should also provide a decent contest between bat and ball.
Games two and three at Cardiff and Southampton could do likewise. Yet as much as England may be grateful for surfaces which assist their weakened bowling attack, one senses the desire for a pitch which enables them to reclaim their identity as a white-ball destructive batting force.
Not once this summer have they looked like their old selves. And we're not including the farce against the Netherlands.
Jason Roy personifies it. Roy has been the best barometer for England's mojo. When England were without him in the World Cup in 2019 they lost their way. This summer in white ball against India and South Africa he averages 19 with a strike of 87. It's the latter figure which suggests something's off.
A death or glory opener, Roy is supposed to be inconsistent. So far he has been consistently poor. Only once in eight innings has he done his job. with the 41 off 31 in Manchester against India a slim return.
At a time when Roy might be under pressure, he looks like being a fixture. So too Dawid Malan. Let's be clear, we think Malan should be one of the first names on the teamsheet because of his top-bat record but there have been grumblings for sometime that he slows down England.
Malan is increasingly important. With the loss of Morgan and absence of Stokes, England desperately need left-handed options. Malan could well be paired with Moeen Ali at Nos 4 and 5. Moeen is an early bit of value at 12.011/1 for top England bat in game one.
An array of talent
South Africa have a strong recent record, winning 10 of their last 13 over the last 12 months.
Yet they didn't make it out of the group in the World T20 (although they beat England), paying a heavy price for an inexplicably cautious chase of 85 against Bangladesh in their last game. Australia's superior net run rate saw them qualify instead.
Since that tournament, they successfully chased 211 against India in Delhi before twin timid batting displays enabled the home team to escape with a 2-2 draw. There is a lesson there for the Saffers. Will they learn?
Their selection in terms of batting talent suggests so. Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Rillee Russouw and Tristan Stubbs match up against any individual in the world.
Getting the combination is simple (Rossouw and Stubbs probably miss out). The challenge to the six who do play: just smash it.
If South Africa get that right, their bowling seems superior. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje were a mean pairing in IPL. Spin pair Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj are impressive. That's 16 overs to further undermine English confidence.