England vs Proteas: T20 is no less important

They might not generate much respect in cricket circles but the time for ignoring T20 matches is gone. The “bling” of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has ensured that players take this short format of the game seriously.

Individual excellence is rewarded with lucrative IPL contracts and players already signed up cement their places to be part of the high-paying fanfare in India for another season. South Africa begin their long series against England with a T20 match on Friday, knowing that although it will not influence the Test series, players are out to impress the Asian scouts.

“This format earns the most money for any cricketer and we can expect a storming start to the series,” said Pommie Mbangwa, a cricket commentator.

But he predicts that the series depends on how England begin their tour with the ODIs.
“If they play particularly well in the five one-day internationals after the two T20 games then we will have a good Test series.” History favours the visitors in the shorter version of the game. They have won five of the past six games against the Proteas, with the other game not producing a result after it was rained out.

Fresh in the minds of Graeme Smith and his charges will be the latest 22-run loss to England, which dumped the hosts out of the Champions Trophy in September. Proteas specialist batsman Daryll Cullinan believes South Africa will be too strong for England in both the Test and the ODIs. “I expect England to put up a good challenge but our depth should be too good for them,” he told the Mail & Guardian.

Even with South African-born Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, Cullinan believes England are not the same team that came and conquered here in the 2004-05 series. It is more or less the same bunch of players that lost to the Proteas in their own backyard last year. It was a bitter loss for the British—one Trott, especially, would want to forget. Former England captain Michael Vaughan accused him of celebrating with Smith and his teammates—an allegation he has vehemently denied and would want to put behind him with a good performance in the land of his birth.

Trott and Pietersen should brace themselves for a hostile reception. “They will certainly be in for a traditional South African roasting, but let us not forget that Pietersen has played here before and should be able to handle it,” said Cullinan.

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