Buttler ready to take star billing in T20 series decider
De Villiers is the dangerman for South Africa
Third T20 international
Sky Sports 2, 2.30pm Sunday
Eleven days after being bundled out of the Champions Trophy by eventual winners Pakistan in Cardiff, England return to the scene of their semi-final exit with their T20 series against South Africa on the line.
That the series will be decided at Sophia Garden looked a highly unlikely scenario when England were sauntering towards a target of 175 at Taunton on Friday, before Jason Roy’s controversial dismissal for obstructing the field sparked a batting collapse.
At the end of the 13th over, England were 124-1 and needed 51 runs off 42 deliveries to seal the series. Three overs later they had added just 11 runs to their total and their required run rate had jumped from 7.28 runs per over to ten.
Chasing in the gloom at a ground without floodlights will have been a factor but credit must go to South Africa’s inexperienced bowling attack for their ability to restrict the hosts in the middle overs.
However, given the dynamic approach England have adopted in limited-overs cricket over the past two years, it would be folly to think they would make the same mistake twice.
Jos Buttler has been left to play second fiddle to wicket-keeping rival Jonny Bairstow in the first two matches of the series but a return to Cardiff, and Bairstow’s unavailability, could see the 26-year-old take centre stage.
In six ODIs at Sophia Gardens Buttler has scored 216 runs – including three half-centuries – at a healthy average of 54.
His brutal 61 not out from 48 balls against New Zealand on June 6 was an exhibition of the innovation and power that has made Buttler an integral member of England’s white-ball squad.
Forced to watch on as Bairstow and Alex Hales chased down the Proteas’ paltry target at the Rose Bowl, Buttler faced just eight balls on Friday.
He has blown hot and cold for much of the summer but back on familiar ground, Buttler return to his destructive best.
South Africa skipper AB de Villiers cut a sorry figure at times during the Proteas’ dismal Champions Trophy effort but he has found England’s attack more to his liking.
After knocks of 45, 52 and 27 in the ODI series, De Villiers has hit 65 not out and 46 in the T20 series and looks a solid proposition to lead from the front again on what will be his final appearance of the tour.
J Buttler top England runscorer
1pt 13-2 Betfair, Paddy Power
AB de Villiers top SA runscorer
1pt 11-4 Betfair, Paddy Power
Since its redevelopment ten years ago, Sophia Gardens has become a regular international cricket venue.
One of the three grounds used for the 2013 and 2017 Champions Trophies, Cardiff has also played host to three T20 internationals – of which England have won all three.
Although a generally fair wicket that has negligible bias towards either bat or ball, chasing teams have held the upper hand in recent fixtures with six of the last nine ODIs won by teams batting second.
Dawid Malan and Craig Overton are hoping to become the latest England players to make their international bows. Malan is likely to slot in at number three after Jonny Bairstow returned to Yorkshire, while Overton could get his shot should England decide to rest one of the four seamers used at Taunton.
South Africa may opt to bring back leg-spinner Imran Tahir
on a wicket that usually aids spinners.
Overcast but dry (18C) with westerly winds of up to 15mph