England’s seven-wicket defeat by South Africa in the first One-Day International on Tuesday caused a bit of a stir, but I don’t think there is anything to worry about.
With the Twenty20 World Cup approaching later this year and improvement in the Test arena an ongoing priority, ODIs have understandably taken a back seat for the time being.
England completed their goal by winning the 50-over World Cup in July and, with the next one not until 2023, they seem to be using the current series in South Africa as a testing ground.
Captain Eoin Morgan has spoken of starting the “next cycle”, which makes sense, although in some ways creates a strange period of flux.
In that context a slow start to the first ODI series since the World Cup was perhaps to be expected.
The regular starters might be struggling for a bit of motivation, while some of the other players are inexperienced at international level.
It was clear after the World Cup that they had one eye on the future. Liam Plunkett, who was brilliant in the tournament but will be 37 by the next World Cup, was left off the central contracts list in September. It was a harsh but realistic move for the long term.
With that in mind, and with the likes of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood and Jofra Archer absent and Adil Rashid rested, two players were given their ODI debuts in Cape Town this week.
Tom Banton came into the middle order, batting at No6 because of the lack of space at the top.
Banton is used to opening the batting for Somerset, but the 21-year-old will have to earn his chance to bat there, with the partnership of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy well established.
Banton is a serious talent, who I think could be even better than Roy in the future, but he has been presented with a different challenge for now. Ultimately it is a good problem to have, as his presence keeps competition for places high.
Matt Parkinson also debuted on Tuesday. As a leg-spinner he appears to be competing against Adil Rashid, who is in the squad but didn’t feature in the first game.
Although Rashid is 31 and could play for a while longer, there is no harm in looking at other options, and now is a good time to do so.
Parkinson is only 23 so has grown up in the T20 era where you can expect batsmen to attack you, but there is increased scrutiny at the top level as well, with people picking apart every facet of your game.
The other issue England will have to think about is who should succeed Morgan as white-ball captain.
The 33-year-old has led the side brilliantly and has said he wants to stay in charge for the next two T20 World Cups. Ultimately it will be a personal decision for him, based on motivation and form, but when you get older other considerations begin to weigh a big heavier.
England appear to be in a strong position in the shorter formats at the moment. Their group looks settled and there is no reason for changes.
One day Morgan will step aside and I’m sure they will have a succession plan in place when that time comes, but right now is a time to prepare for the next tournament on the horizon.