London - Eoin Morgan is hoping the return of three key
players from the Indian Premier League will help England defeat top-ranked
South Africa in their upcoming one-day international series.
A three-match contest between the sides starts with a
day/nighter at Headingley on Wednesday, with the series given added spice by
the fact it acts as a warm-up for next week's Champions Trophy tournament in
England and Wales.
That competition will see England trying to end their
42-year wait for a maiden major International Cricket Council ODI trophy, with
the 2010 World Twenty their lone global short-format title.
All-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, together with
wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, were all given permission to miss England's opening
two ODIs this season against Morgan's native Ireland and instead extend their
Stokes and Buttler, who played for Rising Pune Supergiant
and Mumbai Indians respectively, might have been in opposition in Sunday's
final had they not been recalled to an England training camp in Spain.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen told Sky Sports the
decision was "an absolute shambles".
"What are they going to Spain for? To field a couple of
balls? They should be playing in the IPL," he said.
Stokes - paid a record $2.16 million to play the eight-week
IPL season - was instrumental in Pune reaching the knockout phase after a
brilliant debut campaign in the lucrative Twenty20 competition.
The 25-year-old left-handed batsman and right-handed pace
bowler scored 316 runs in 12 matches, with a highest of 103 not out, and took
Nasser Hussain, like Pietersen a former England captain,
defended Stokes's recall to national training duty by saying: "The reason
he got an IPL deal was because of how wonderful he has been for England.
"When they tell you to turn up to a training camp you
turn up to a training camp to prepare for a tournament that we have
underachieved in for 20-30 years."
Morgan, himself an IPL player, was simply delighted to have
several key men back on board.
"It's a huge benefit having three match-winners come
back into the team having watched them contribute so much to the IPL,"
Morgan told reporters at Headingley on Tuesday.
"Ben Stokes comes back as the competition's MVP (most
valuable player) and it's great to see him performing so well in what is the
biggest domestic tournament in the world.
"Jos is one of the best in the world as well and Chris
has been an important part of Kolkata Knight Riders' road to the final
Stokes found himself playing in the same IPL side as
Australia captain Steve Smith, who'll be a determined opponent when England
travel 'Down Under' later this year in defence of the Ashes.
"I remember doing a batting session with some power
hitting towards the end where the guy who I will actually be playing against in
the Ashes (Smith) was helping me, which is something that you would never be
able to fathom when you are playing against each other," said Stokes.
"It was really good actually."
While Stokes returns to bolster England, the fact South
Africans such as Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw, Dane Vilas, Stiaan van Zyl and
David Wiese have all cut short their international careers in favour of the
financial security of county contracts has been brought into even greater focus
now the Proteas are in England.
"It's part and parcel of what we are confronted with in
recent times," said South Africa captain AB de Villiers at Headingley on
"We can't stop guys from going where they want to and
playing where they want to play."
De Villiers added, however: "We've no reason not to be
"We've beaten Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand
recently so we're confident, we're not harping too much on what we've lost
because we'd rather focus on what we've gained in the last few months."