Ed Hawkins reckons South Africa are in with a shout batting first in East London on Wednesday...
"South Africa are [2.64] with England [1.59]. That's some gulf when the head-to-heads have them with three wins apiece in the last six meetings."
South Africa v England
Wednesday 12 February, 16:00
Live on Sky Sports
South Africa call on Steyn
South Africa, buoyed by holding England to a series draw in the ODI, will fancy their chances of an upset in three T20s. That's largely because of a recall for Dale Steyn, who is set to play his first game in the international format for more than a year.
Quinton de Kock will lead the side with Faf Du Plessis rested. One suspects if De Kock does a good job then Du Plessis might struggle to get back into the XI. Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, JJ Smuts and David Miller are their power hitters. Temba Bavuma will play the 'busy' role if required. If South Africa make a fast start he will likely slip further down the order.
Unfortunately there is no Kagiso Rabada but one from Lungi Ngigi and Sisanda Magala should still form a potent pace partnership with Steyn. Tabraiz Shamsi is a threat in this format with his turn.
Possible XI De Kock, Hendricks, Van der Dussen, Bavuma, Miler, Smuts, Phehlukwayo, Pretorius, Shamsi, Steyn, Ngidi
England's top order puzzle
England have ended Joe Root's international T20 career and when you consider the embarrassment of riches they boast for the opener's slot alone it is easy to see why. One from Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Tom Banton and Jos Buttler could be asked to bat at No 3 depending on the combination they go for.
From a selfish point of view we'd plump for a Malan-Buttler axis because of top-bat win rates. We suspect England's propensity for muddled thinking could pair Roy and Bairstow. The big mistake will not be giving Buttler the potential to bat for a full 20.
Buttler joins Ben Stokes and Mark Wood as part of a returning Big Three. England are looking to put their foot down with only nine games to hone their best XI before the World Cup begins.
Possible XI Roy, Buttler, Bairstow, Stokes, Morgan, Ali, T Curran, S Curran, Jordan, Rashid, Wood
Find out why Ed thinks England are his bet of the week to hit most sixes in the first Twenty20
Tricky wicket possible
There have been only two T20 internationals played at Buffalo Park, producing scores of 160 and 165. In all T20s in the last two years only 35% of side have busted 160 or more. It might be folly to expect this one to be a road. In all 72 matches, the average score is 141. That does look on the low side because, obviously, it includes games when the format was in its infancy. An average run rate of bang on eight in the last three years gives a more accurate reflection. The weather forecast is for a breezy, sunny day.
Hosts need help from deck
South Africa are [2.64] with England [1.59]. That's some gulf when the head-to-heads have them with three wins apiece in the last six meetings.
Still, the return of Stokes and Buttler is significant. As is the view that England are much stronger with the bat. That is justified. In the last two years no side has batted with more fluency or brutality than England, striking at a cumulative 145. South Africa are much weaker at 134.
South Africa are going to need the Buffalo wicket to be tricky then. If they can accept that 160 is going to be a challenging score, they should bat first and put England under pressure in the chase under lights. We're not keen on the hosts chasing as they have a burgeoning reputation as poor chasers.
Buttler could be stand out
If Buttler opens - as he should - the 7/2 offered by Sportsbook for top England runscorer is going to look monstrous. Like us, though, the layers reckon England will go with the tried and trusted ODI axis of Roy-Bairstow, who are 13/5 and 11/4 respectively. Malan and Banton are 9/2 and 4s. Only six times in their last 17 has the top bat for England come outside the opening slots.
De Kock, as expected, heads the list for South Africa at 23/10. Hendricks is 7/2 and Van Der Dussen (don't be fooled by his safety-first Test efforts) 4s.
Value for top South Africa bowler will probably be revealed by game two as we're keen to see whether they go with three pacers (Steyn, Ngidi and Magala) or two. As it stands Steyn looks a certain starter. It's just a question of whether he has two rivals for a death bowling slot. Sportsbook go 3/1.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back South Africa bat first [2.64] (1pt)
Back England most sixes 5/6 Sportsbook (2pts)