It was Public Enemy who warned against believing the hype and while they were wise words, the upcoming three-match England and South Africa ODI series is one which definitely justifies the build-up.
The two old foes have been locking horns for the past 128 years and with the ICC Champions Trophy starting next week, what happens in this series has real significance.
Eoin Morgan’s side and the Proteas are in separate groups for what is in essence cricket’s mini World Cup, but form and momentum going into the tournament are king and psychological blows are there to be struck.
The buzz around England at the moment is palpable with many boldly proclaiming it’s the best 50-over outfit the country has ever produced. Of course, South Africa are the number one ranked ODI team in the world and if the home side are to finally break their Champions Trophy duck, a series victory over the Proteas would be the ideal launch pad.
Recent ODI history between the two sides makes encouraging reading for the visitors.
They beat England 3-2 in South Africa in February last year thanks to an avalanche of runs from Quinton de Kock while the last time they were in Blighty in the summer of 2012 they came away with a 2-2 draw.
England, however, have the luxury of all of their IPL players back in the fold for Wednesday’s clash at Headingley, not least man of the moment Ben Stokes.They are 81/100 to kick-off the series with a victory while the Proteas are evens to draw first blood in Leeds.
Both sides boast a battery of big hitters but despite the potential power on display it is the relatively delicate Joe Root (13/2) who is favourite to top score on his home ground. The Yorkshireman hit two centuries against South Africa last year and averaged over 100 in the ODI series against Ireland earlier this month.
Openers Alex Hales and Jason Roy are both 15/2 to be England’s leading batsman on the day while Stokes, fresh from his maiden T20 century for Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL, is 20/1 to continue his rich vein of form with the willow.
For South Africa, the opening pair of de Kock and Hashim Amla, as well as skipper AB de Villiers, are all rated at 7/1 to do the most damage at Headingley. The captain is the number one ODI batsman in the current ICC rankings and needs exactly 101 runs to overtake India’s MS Dhoni and become the highest scoring limited overs player on the planet.
The odds suggest that South Africa possess the more potent bowling attack.
According to the latest ICC rankings, spinner Imran Tahir is currently the best ODI bowler around and fresh from taking 18 wickets in the IPL for Rising Pune Supergiant. He is 6/1 to do the most damage to English hopes in Leeds. Young team-mate Kagiso Rabada is the same price while old stager Morne Morkel is 13/2 to spearhead the Proteas attack and add significantly to his career haul of 176 ODI wickets.
Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid was England’s top wicket taker in the two-match series against Ireland with six, including a first ever ODI five-for in the first match in Bristol, and is 13/2 to continue to mesmerise batsman with his leg spin at Headingley this week.
Seamer Chris Woakes missed the Ireland series due to his IPL commitments but is the same price as Rashid with the ball while another Yorkshire star, David Willey, is 7/1 to make the most of the familiar surroundings and make the most inroads into the South African batting line-up.
For more cricket odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s cricket betting.