The emergence of a new generation of big-hitting batsmen has been the defining feature of England’s white ball cricket of late.
Hopes are high that Liam Livingstone could be the next muscular cab off the rank if he makes his debut against South Africa in Wednesday’s opening T20I in Southampton.
The 23-year-old Lancashire player is one of five uncapped players in the squad for the three-match series and after smashing 129 from 83 balls for the Lions against South Africa A earlier this month, many within the game are excitedly talking of unearthing the new Kevin Pietersen.
Livingstone is joined in the squad by fellow newbies Mason Crane, Dawid Malan, Tom Curran and Craig Overton. England have opted to rest Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Adil Rashid, Joe Root and Ben Stokes after their recent exertions in the Champions Trophy but despite the significant changes in personnel, the home side are nonetheless favourites to come out on top at the Ageas Bowl (at 37/50 while the Proteas are 11/10 for the win).
Livingstone’s chances of marking his potential international debut with England’s top score on the south coast are rated 8/1 while Jason Roy is 7/2 to rediscover his form after his recent travails at the top of the order and post the team’s highest individual total.
The perennially destructive Alex Hales is 11/4 to give the South African attack the most punishment.
While Middlesex’s Malan is 4/1 to make an immediate impression on the international stage with the bat and top score.
The imposing Liam Plunkett was England’s most prolific bowler in the Champions Trophy with eight wickets and the big Yorkshireman is 13/4 to continue his fine form with the ball and claim the most victims in Southampton.
His erstwhile Durham team-mate Mark Wood is the same price while possible debutantes Curran and Crane are 4/1 and 5/1 respectively to make the most inroads into the Proteas batting.
Like England, South Africa have opted to give some of their leading lights a break which means Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock and Kagiso Rabada will all be conspicuous by their absence this week but AB de Villiers has been retained and will captain the side.
The skipper was uncharacteristically unconvincing with the bat in the Champions Trophy, scoring just 20 runs in his three innings.
Nevertheless, the 33-year-old remains a class act and is 5/2 to rediscover his mojo in Southampton and top score. Reeza Hendricks is 13/4 to emerge as the tourist’s top batsman with JJ Smuts is rated 15/4 to impress in what would be only the fourth T20 appearance of his embryonic international career.
Despite the absence of Rabada, the Proteas’ bowling looks strong with Imran Tahir 3/1 to inflict the most damage on the England line-up with his leg spin.
Seamers Morne Morkel and Chris Morris are both 7/2 to take the most wickets while Wayne Parnell is 4/1 to claim the most scalps.
The potential power in the England batting however is impressive and the home side are 4/5 to bludgeon the most sixes in Southampton with South Africa 7/5 to clear the ropes more regularly.
For more cricket odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s cricket betting.