England need KP to go nuts to have any chance
Injury-hit England head to Johannesburg to take on South Africa in the first of five One Day Internationals.
It looks to be a tough ask for Andy Flower's side, especially given the way South Africa blasted the ball all over the park in the last Twenty20.
The main culprit of that explosive batting display Loots Bosman isn't in the ODI squad but with the likes of Graeme Smith (3/1 top SA batsman), Jacques Kallis (10/3) and AB de Villiers (4/1) about you can be sure England's bowling attack will still be in for a peppering.
To be fair to England, their recent record over South Africa in ODI's is good, having won their last six games against the Proteas (five of them in the UK, the most recent victory coming in the ICC Champions Trophy at Centurion), one match was a no result which eliminated the chance of a 5-0 series whitewash in Kevin Pietersen's brief spell as captain.
That man Pietersen's (11/4 top England batsman) return is a huge boost for England as he and Andrew Strauss (3/1) seem to be the only players that offer a genuine level of consistency for England in the 50 over version of the game, and Strauss was only in the recent series against Australia because of KP's bust-up with ex coach Peter Moores.
It puts a great level of pressure on Pietersen to perform in this series as England's bowling attack is so depleted that a score of 300+ in the first ODI is almost a minimum if the tourists are to have a fighting chance of victory; but as previous records show, KP is an absolute machine when it comes to scoring runs against the country of his birth, particularly in the southern hemisphere.
His overall ODI record against South Africa is 592 runs at an average of 98.66 in 13 games, but in South Africa his average is an astonishing 151.33 from seven games; thanks in small part to three centuries and a 50 from the last series on South African soil.
Unfortunately for England that particular series was another example of their reliance on Pietersen as they went down 4-1 despite being 1-0 up after two games.
If Pietersen gets his eye in straight away, and the supporting cast can offer some resistance then England could be with a chance; but at odds of 9/4 you can see that it's a very slim chance, South Africa are deserving favourites available at 4/11.
With the likes of Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann definitely ruled out and James Anderson and Paul Collingwood not 100% fit, it's up to some of England's fringe players to step up to the plate and prove they can be a match for some of the top sides in the world; Graham Onions (7/2 to be top England bowler) would be the spearhead of the attack should Anderson not make it, and Sajid Mahmood (4/1) and Tim Bresnan (9/2) have a lot of question marks over their future in the side so they need a big performance to silence some of their critics.
Sadly for the latter two I don't think they're really up to scratch at this level and it's almost a certainty that by the time Broad and Swann come back into the side (which should be for the 3rd ODI) the series will be as good as over for the tourists.
South Africa are 2/7 to win the series, 11/5 to win it 4-1 which looks appealing, and England are 5/2 to win a second successive series over the Proteas but I wouldn't be putting too much of my hard earned on it.