With less than a year to go until the T20 World Cup, there isn’t too long for sides to get themselves prepared for the big tournament in India.

Both England and South Africa will be favoured to go far in the 2021 tournament and with few matches left until it gets underway, they’ll be keen to gain momentum and confidence ahead of it.

The Proteas host England for a three-game T20 series starting on Friday and here is our preview of the opening encounter in Cape Town.

Proteas seeking consistency

The past few years have very much been a transition for South African cricket with a number of established names departing. The likes of AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel retired in recent years, paving the way for a younger crop to come through. That’s not to say this is a team which has lost all its stars, though – you just have to look back to the IPL to see the damage Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje can do.

Given the transition period, it’s perhaps unsurprising that South Africa’s results in T20s over the past couple of years have been mixed. They won four series in a row during 2018 and 2019 and got a more than respectable draw away to India in September last year, but have lost the last two to England and Australia. In the most recent series against the Aussies, batting let the Proteas down badly as they were bowled out for just 89 and 96 in the first and third T20s. Such failings with the bat highlight how important captain De Kock is to this side and they’ll need him to fire if they are to have a fighting chance in this series. The 27-year-old is 2/1 to be his country’s top-scorer in the opening match on Friday.

Despite being on their home turf, South Africa head into the series as the underdogs at 11/10, while they are 6/5 to win the first contest in Cape Town.

Visitors on a roll

Much like their performances in ODI cricket, England have improved dramatically in recent years in the shortest format of the game. Since the start of 2018, they have played in nine series, winning seven, drawing one and losing just once to India. That impressive sequence has seen them move up to second in the ICC T20 world rankings – three places above South Africa – is and a large part of the reason why they are 8/11 to win this series.

Their batting, in particular, is full of destructive operators who can take any attack to the cleaners, with captain Eoin Morgan often leading from the front. Interestingly, though, of all their players it’s Dawid Malan who has become their go-to player with the Yorkshire batsman really making the most of his recall to the side. In 16 innings for his country, he’s scored seven 50s and one hundred at an average of over 48.

His impressive form has seen him become the number one-ranked batsman in the world in T20s and he’s 3/1 to be England’s top run scorer in the opening match on Friday. His country, by the way, are the strong 4/6 favourites to get their tour off to the perfect start.

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