De Kock dazzles before rain ruins England v South Africa ODI decider
A crackle of class from the flashing blade of Quinton de Kock was as good as it got for the sold-out crowd at Headingley, with the third one-day international between England and South Africa abandoned after just two hours of play because of rain.
De Kock had stroked his way to 92 not out from 76 balls, and South Africa 159 for two from 27.4 overs, when the second deluge of the day proved terminal and the officials called time at 4.03pm. It meant a series drawn at 1-1, a 50% refund for spectators, and a rather soggy end to England’s 50-over programme this summer.
After a pair of 2-1 defeats to India in the Twenty20s and the ODIs, missing out on the chance to claim a first series win as full-time captain was a blow to Jos Buttler. He bemoaned a lack of intensity from his side during the first hour of play here – wickets for David Willey and Adil Rashid pegged things back a touch – and pointed to the 38-hour turnaround since Friday’s win in Manchester as the likely reason for this.
Indeed the schedule was something Buttler was keen to highlight when assessing his start to life as Eoin Morgan’s replacement. England have three Twenty20s against South Africa in the next week – starting in Bristol on Wednesday – to complete a run of 12 white-ball internationals in just 24 days. Thanks to the rearranged fifth Test against India last month, there has been little respite between fixtures.
This may be a longstanding lament – the type that prompted Ben Stokes to call time on his ODI career – but for Buttler it has been particularly acute, with just one full training day and thus a lack of time to impart his vision as captain. England, previously so dominant with the bat under Morgan, have been bowled out in all five ODI innings and missed a chance to reassert themselves here.
Buttler said: “It’s a frustration of mine that we don’t have any training days. I think those training days are really important for that team cohesion, the energy within the group, the fielding drills, the camaraderie around the guys without the pressure of a game. And they’re really vital to high performance.
“A lot of the time around training is when you do your best work, away from the pressures of the game, having good conversations and having a feel for where the group is at. And not just always in game mode, preparing for guys on the day. To get the highest standard of cricket possible, you need to prepare properly.
“Hopefully that’s something we can look at. As a new captain, just having that time to bed in and do that work around your players and with your coaches. That’s been a frustration to be truthfully honest – it would be nice to have that time to do the work. But we don’t, so you just have to adapt and find the best way.”
While the batting didn’t truly fire across the five ODI innings – Jonny Bairstow topped the averages with 27 and one of the three half-centuries mustered – the chief positive for Buttler was Reece Topley, who claimed 11 wickets at 12 runs apiece from his five appearances. “He’s looked a threat whenever he’s had the ball,” said Buttler, while noting three injury absentees in Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.
England’s planning for the defence of their 50-over crown in India next year can be parked for a spell, however, with their next ODI series not until November. Before then comes a heavy diet of Twenty20 leading up to the shortest format’s World Cup, with the upcoming three-match series against South Africa followed by seven matches in Pakistan and then three more against Australia.
The switch in format sees a handful of changes to England’s squad to face the Proteas, with Dawid Malan and Harry Brook back among the batting options – Joe Root drops out – and Chris Jordan and Richard Gleeson offering a couple of right-arm seamers for a side which finished the ODIs with three left-armers. Buttler stressed the need for players to start grabbing spots in his T20 World Cup starting XI.
Though denied an 18th ODI century by the heavens opening, De Kock’s return to form is ominous. The opener came into the series without any warm-up cricket and started with scores of 19 and five initially. He now has runs under his belt, gliding 13 fours in wonderfully languid fashion, and a Headingley crowd that was hoping for more at least watched a gem of a player in full flow.