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White balls are gone...thankfully!

There is plenty of discussion around T20 cricket at the moment and the relevance of that format at international level. Many are saying that it should not be played between countries and only at franchise level.

I disagree. I think it is such an invigorating and popular product that it deserves an international stage. Both can be played in my book, often with terrific capacity in heaving stadiums. Surely the point that people pack stadiums when countries clash confirms that the entertainment is special. Kids love it too and that is very important for sport growth.

However, the last week has surely taught us all something. I understand that players do need to manage their workload but team selections on both sides did not pay any respect to the paying punters or viewers. They are right to expect that the best players are on show representing their respective nations. That’s why they tuned in and turned up. Too many stars opted out of the three T20s in England.

I hear some comments being bandied about that if this happens in the future the ground entry ticket price should be reduced to reflect that the best are not in action. I don't buy that and want to see class compete. Surely T20 games and the travel that accompanies them are not that demanding. I have seen first-hand many players from around the world more than happy to accommodate the endless rigours of the IPL competition. I wonder why?

It is now time to move on to the 'guts' of the England tour. I am certain that South Africa will be more than happy to pack those white balls away! Following the T20 series loss the tourists have continued to cop a shellacking from the media in England and expectations from some are that things will continue spiralling downwards when the whites are donned and the red balls are in action.

Public criticism always affects teams on tour and as much as one would like to not see or read it, one can't escape it, particularly in England. The way that it is handled is important within the squad. I think that the negative English media response should give the squad an opportunity to galvanise, steel up and reset determination levels. After all there is still so much hard graft to be done on this tour.

At this stage, it looks like Dean Elgar will be stand-in captain at Lord's as Faf sits that one out due to the impending birth of his and Imari's first child. Dean, who has had captaincy experience, has been plying his trade with excellence at Somerset and he will be exactly the type of character needed right now to lead the troops. The determination, grit and grunt that he plays with will naturally permeate through his team. This will ensure that mentally this group will be correctly attuned and up for a scrap. They will need to be because this talented England team will have disappointing memories of last time around in 2012 to provide extra motivation to turn the tables.

It will be a brilliant series and to start at Lord's will be captivating. I reckon it is the best cricket ground on the planet. The English public will be supportive and in attendance as they get right behind their team and that will provide spectacular theatre to start the series.

White balls are gone, red balls are out and South Africa pride themselves on their ability to play hard and tough test cricket away from home. Elgar’s troops against the England Lions starting Thursday at Worcester will be an important lead-in game.

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