From today: With Archer on form, England can show they’re the Twenty20 team to beat in South Africa
I’m looking forward to seeing England in South Africa over the next fortnight, with a three-match Twenty20 series up first.
This is about building for next year’s World T20 and, on paper, I’d certainly pick the tourists as favourites for the series, which starts in Cape Town on Friday.
With fans still absent it’s not quite tournament conditions, but it’s better than nothing and England will relish competitive cricket
England have focused harder on white-ball cricket in recent years and they came really close at the last World T20, only losing to the West Indies in the final.
We are established among the top two or three T20 teams in the world and on our day I think we’re the best – especially if Jofra Archer is on song.
Archer can be scary on South African pitches
Archer was named most valuable player in the Indian Premier League, which finished earlier this month.
And if he bowls like he did in the IPL on those flat South African pitches, which if anything may have a bit more pace, he could be scary.
After earning praise for helping England win the 50-over World Cup last year, more recently Archer has had some criticism.
It’s true that while he can be absolutely brilliant, at times he is a bit off. But that can be down to injury, perhaps too much cricket, and in the IPL he looked physically and mentally fresh.
Archer seems to really enjoy that environment and it gets the best out of him. The same is true of England’s one-day side.
When he goes back to the Test team he doesn’t quite look at home.
It may be that until more senior bowlers like Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson retire, and Archer can take the reins and lead the attack, we won’t see the best of him in that format.
In one-day cricket he knows he’s the best bowler. He takes the new ball, he bowls at the death, he’s comfortable with his role and he knows how good he is.
For me, Archer is only going to get better and that MVP award in the IPL will have sent him to South Africa full of confidence.
Versatile Curran can be one of England’s best
Sam Curran also shone in the IPL and he’ll be keen to make an impression on this tour.
The one-day and T20 sides are so difficult to get into but England are also looking to the future.
Despite playing a key role in the World Cup final last year, Liam Plunkett has been let go
England are looking to the next generation. They did that with Ben Stokes, starting in 2013 or 2014, and look where he is now.
Curran is not quite as talented as Stokes but he has certainly got the same sort of competitive edge.
He’s still finding where he bats best, but as a bowler his left-arm action offers England a slightly different dynamic.
He can bat, bowl and field – there aren’t too many players who can do that – and he’s still only 22. He’s still growing and looks like he’s filled out a bit.
Give him a couple of years and he could be one of England’s best. If they can squeeze him into some of these games and he keeps improving it’s exciting.
South Africa rusty but dangerous
South Africa haven’t played white-ball cricket since March so they will probably be rusty and take time to get into the series.
England are often like that in Test cricket: terrible in the first match and then they come back and win the second, third and fourth Tests.
It can also go the other way. Sometimes you haven’t played for a while but come back really fresh and play with a nothing-to-lose attitude, which can pay off.
South Africa have a few less familiar names now but they’ve still got Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, David Miller. Those guys on their day are still very dangerous.
Add in some younger players with no fear and they’re still going to be a team to be reckoned with in their own conditions.
It’s been a strange year for everyone, so getting any sort of cricket is good for the players and fans.
Some wondered Test matches behind closed doors would be boring. And although it wasn’t the same without fans, just having cricket on TV was great.
I enjoyed watching the IPL, which was done really well and turned out to be a great spectacle.
England had a pretty good summer of cricket. They’re a squad who have been together a long time and have a way of playing T20 which works for them.
A young opposition can always be dangerous but unless South Africa’s big guns really fire I can’t see them coming too close to England.