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South Africa v England first ODI preview: Jofra Archer return to inspire England

Having excelled in their Test series whitewash of hosts Pakistan in December, England are back in ODI action when they open their three-match series against South Africa in Bloemfontein on Friday.

The Three Lions' last outing in one-day internationals ended in a 3-0 loss in Australia, but that was a strange series in many ways, coming just a matter of days after England had been crowned Twenty20 World Cup winners.

The clashes with the Proteas should offer far more of a pointer as we head towards the 50-over World Cup in India later this year and 3/1 shots England will be eager to kick off the New Year on a winning note.

WhatSouth Africa v England
WhereMangaung Oval, Bloemfontein
When11:00, Friday 27th January
How to watchSky Sports Cricket & Main Event, bet365 Sports Live Streaming
OddsSouth Africa 6/4, England 8/15

Archer return the headline-maker

England are set to finally welcome Jofra Archer back into their side for the first time since March 2021, with the fast bowler having overcome both back and elbow problems to recently feature in the SA20 for MI Cape Town.

And the signs were all good as Archer claimed eight wickets in five matches, with his wickets coming at an average of exactly 18, while an economy rate of 7.57 was respectable given that the player himself described his fitness levels as "about 80 per cent".

Archer has some major targets ahead for the coming months, adding "hopefully it can be a repeat of 2019", when he helped England to home success in both the Ashes and the 50-over World Cup.

His workload for this series is likely to be conservatively managed to avoid any setbacks, with Archer set to feature in two matches out of three at most and he is 10/3 to be Team - Top Bowler on Friday.

With the ball, the main concern for England going into this series must be injuries to their seam attack, with both Reece Topley and Olly Stone also having spent time on the sidelines in the not too distant past.

Should they and Archer stay fit, the tourists are certainly armed with plenty of pace with which to trouble the Proteas and England can be backed at 4/9 to claim a series victory.

Batting issues at the top of the order

England white-ball coach Matthew Mott will also be looking for the likes of Jason Roy and Phil Salt to press their claims for World Cup spots, with Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone all absent from this series, while the possibility of Test captain Ben Stokes re-entering the 50-over fold has also been floated.

Those potential returns mean that there is extra pressure on both Roy and Salt to perform, with the former having missed out on selection for the T20 World Cup and then made scores of 6, 0 and 33 in Australia, while Salt contributed 14 and 23 against the Baggy Greens.

Both will need to do better against the Proteas, with white-ball skipper Jos Buttler and a fit-again Bairstow the partnership England would ideally like to open the batting in India later this year.

However, a reinvigorated Ben Duckett also comes into the reckoning after making a superb return to Test cricket in Pakistan and a good series in South Africa could set him up as a first-choice opener, especially given his prowess against spinners, which is certain to be an asset for the World Cup in India.

The left-hander is available at 11/2 to be Team - Top Batter on Friday, with Harry Brook 9/2 as he prepares for his first outing in ODI cricket following an outstanding Test series in Pakistan - where he made centuries in all three matches.

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Hosts not to be taken lightly

While England will rightly be full of confidence heading into this series, they cannot take anything for granted against a Proteas side who dished out a 3-0 series defeat to India in South Africa almost exactly a year ago.

Wicketkeeper-batter Quinton de Kock made 229 runs at an average of 76.33 in that series and he will be eager to impress, having opted to end his Test career and concentrate on white-ball cricket.

And he has plenty of previous success against England to draw upon, he averages a whopping 64.15 across 15 previous ODI clashes with the Three Lions, while his career average on home soil in one-day internationals is 56.39 from 53 matches.

The classy left-hander is 11/4 to be Team - Top Batter in Bloemfontein and England will know that should De Kock start ticking at the top of the order, then they are in for a tough time with the ball.

Anrich Nortje missed that series sweep of India and he will be a major danger to England’s batters, having emerged as one of the top fast bowlers in the game in recent times.

Nortje is capable of out and out pace that not many possess and he is 9/4 to be Team - Top Bowler on Friday, having taken six wickets in two matches in England in their one-day series last summer.

He also has 28 wickets at 26.28 from his seven Test match outings against the Three Lions, making him the obvious dangerman for the current series.

It is also worth noting that the Proteas have won eight of the last nine ODIs played at the Mangaung Oval, although their lone loss in that run came against England in February 2016 - when the tourists made 399-9 from their 50 overs and both De Kock and Buttler registered centuries.

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