Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Venue: Mumbai Dates: Saturday, 21 October Time: 09:30 BST

Coverage: Ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website.

Saturday’s meeting takes on extra meaning for England and South Africa.

This World Cup had struggled to capture the imagination until their dual giant-killing at the hands of Afghanistan and the Netherlands respectively this week.

Given those two victories, the fact there are only 10 teams in this tournament is a travesty.

That is thankfully being rectified in the next version in 2027, where there will be 14 teams.

A tournament with fewer group games, more jeopardy, and more knockout games can only be a good thing in a competition that needs all the help it can get when looking to capture the public’s interest.

For England, this is a chance to get back on the wagon – to find the formidable form and confidence that has been present sub-consciously for so long in white-ball cricket, leading to them being double world champions.

But consciously finding this is very difficult, especially when you have been beaten so resoundingly in two of your three games.

The messaging between games by coach Matthew Mott has been designed not to cause panic within the dressing room.

But it feels as though England are still working out what their best combination of players is three games in to the tournament. Ben Stokes’ impending return should at least aid England in fielding their best team.

For South Africa the old question has resurfaced, rightly or wrongly.

Can they handle the pressure of the ‘potential champions’ tag that they have struggled so much with in their history?

Having slipped under the radar in the build-up to the tournament, only putting the world on notice with their victory in the series against Australia preceding this World Cup, two roaring victories against Sri Lanka and Australia brought them to the forefront of people’s thinking.

Inside their dressing room will be a feeling of ‘oh no, not again’ after their defeat by the Netherlands.

The jeopardy around South Africa’s game is that they rely so heavily on their top three batters to set a platform for numbers four, five and six to explode from.

With little substantial batting below that, early breakthroughs are crucial to exposing their only real weakness as a team.

This is where England are going to have to decide what shuffling, if any, to do with their line-up.

Outside of Reece Topley’s opening burst against Bangladesh, England’s new-ball bowling has looked ineffective and was brutalised by Rahmanullah Gurbaz to take Afghanistan to 81-0 from the initial 10-over powerplay in their previous game.

Chris Woakes has been the subject of much debate.

He has looked uncharacteristically out of rhythm in the three games so far. But, for me, he is still an integral cog in this team.

He is the only opening bowler that bowls right-arm outswing in the squad – Gus Atkinson is more a hit-the-deck style middle overs bowler and Mark Wood prefers bowling outside the powerplay.

The swinging ball has been dangerous inside the first 10 overs so far this tournament.

Looking to move the ball away from the right handers in order to find the outside edge and provide a threat to a top order that has four out of five right-handers is going to be crucial in exposing the weakness in this South African team, as the Netherlands did on Tuesday.

This is a perfect opportunity for Woakes to find the rhythm that led to him being player of the series in the men’s Ashes and a new-ball record with the white ball that is the envy of every team in the world.

I found myself out of rhythm many times in my career.

I was susceptible to believing that I had to work harder and harder to find that rhythm. I strained every sinew in training to try and find that one delivery that would click me back in to gear.

When you are chasing your tail like that it can be counter-productive, you groove bad habits. I wish I could tell the 24-year-old version of myself that now.

For me, using methods of practice such as visualisation are helpful. Reconnecting with good spells you’ve bowled and the physical and mental sensations that come with them can aid the process.

Remaining calm and confident in your ability will also help shorten the process of searching.

This team does not seem to be lacking in spirit and camaraderie and these qualities will mean his team-mates will be getting around him in between games, reminding him this.

Simplifying gameplans in your head are also crucial to making sure your energy is channelled into hitting a good length around off stump – something that has garnered Woakes so many wickets inside the powerplay.

Topley’s opening spell against Bangladesh was impressive for its simplicity, England would be well served reminding themselves this in these conditions.

England go in to this game with their confidence and tournament hanging somewhat in the balance.

My fear is that South Africa merely underestimated the Netherlands after having them 82-5 and could be coming in to this game with extra determination.

But, the Netherlands victory has opened a small wound within their batting line-up that a confident England, on it from ball one, can capitalise on at a ground that statistically favours seam bowling over spin.

Woakes can be crucial in this.

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