England play it safe with Lord’s line-up after clinching ODI series

Englands players celebrate their victory over South Africa at Ageas Bowl on Saturday that gave them an unassailable advantage in their three-match Royal London Series (Picture: Scott Heavey/PA).
Englands players celebrate their victory over South Africa at Ageas Bowl on Saturday that gave them an unassailable advantage in their three-match Royal London Series (Picture: Scott Heavey/PA).
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England will rest Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali as injury precautions in the final Royal London Series match against South Africa at Lord’s today and have brought Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones and Liam Dawson into their squad.

It is understood there is no significant concern as yet about the availability of any of the first-choice trio for England’s opening Champions Trophy match against Bangladesh at The Oval on Thursday.

Key all-rounder Stokes, who hit his second one-day international century as England took an unassailable 2-0 series lead over South Africa at the Ageas Bowl on Saturday, has managed to bowl only five overs in two matches this past week.

It is expected he will have a second round of scans – probably tomorrow – to establish the cause of pain in his left knee, after initial checks proved inconclusive, but indicated no recurrence of the injury that required surgery 12 months ago.

Frontline seamer Woakes was a surprise absentee at the weekend, having felt muscle tightness in his right thigh, and will play no part as England seek to complete a series clean sweep at Lord’s.

Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen will also be missing because of a groin niggle.

There may be an unexpected opportunity, therefore, for either Finn or the uncapped Roland-Jones on their home ground, or for slow left-armer Dawson to add to his solitary ODI appearance to date on the back of his eight-wicket match haul in the Specsavers Division One victory sealed by Hampshire over Somerset at Taunton yesterday.

Finn returned to England’s one-day international fold on the successful tour of the West Indies two months ago, taking four wickets in that 3-0 series victory.

The 28-year-old Middlesex seamer was retained in the squad to face Ireland in two matches at the start of this month, but, with Woakes and Stokes available again after their maiden Indian Premier League campaign, he was then not chosen against South Africa or for next month’s Champions Trophy.

On Saturday, Stokes had cashed in on his remarkable early fortune as his century helped England set South Africa 330-6 at the Ageas Bowl. He was dropped first and second ball. The all-rounder then equalled his career-best 101, hitting 11 fours and three sixes from 79 balls.

There were some typically brutal blows, all a far cry from two tentative edges on the forward-defence on nought and four, with ODI debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj the unlucky bowler.

On a day of six dropped catches by South Africa, it was Stokes who made them pay most heavily with his second one-day international hundred – along with Jos Buttler’s 46-ball 50 and telling runs too from Eoin Morgan.

After they had been put in under heavy cloud cover, Jason Roy’s lean run continued when he was done by Kagiso Rabada’s pace.

Alex Hales had just been dropped when he edged an attempted cut behind to Quinton de Kock, standing up to Dwaine Pretorius’s medium-pace.

Joe Root batted with great confidence, but was then cut off in his prime, run-out backing up after Pretorious deflected a straight-drive on to the stumps at the non-striker’s end.

Maharaj endured three of the dropped catches off his bowling, Stokes badly put down first by Hashim Amla at slip – the ball going straight through the fielder’s legs for four – and then by De Kock next ball.

Morgan escaped half-chances on 16 and 22 while a direct hit from cover would have run him out on 24.

The fourth-wicket partnership was worth 95 by the time De Kock did gather a low catch off the returning Rabada in the 33rd over.

Stokes completed his hundred with a scampered two only to hole out at long-off, giving Maharaj a wicket at last in his final over.

Buttler (65no), who had a close umpire’s call for lbw on eight, hit four of five fours in one over off Phehlukwayo as he and Moeen Ali took England’s predictable big finish to 111 in the last 10.

In his first over Stokes had Amla driving low to cover where Morgan was safe.

Faf du Plessis tried to steer off-side runs off Liam Plunkett (3-64), but managed only to edge behind.

After De Villiers had joined De Kock in another significant stand. Plunkett did the trick a second time, with a short ball that followed the South Africa captain as he tried to leave and ran off his glove for a second caught-behind.

De Kock then got a faint edge behind off Moeen, but Miller responded with a fine half-century from just 34 balls.

It seemed England might succumb when South Africa narrowed the challenge to 10 needed from 10 balls. But only singles followed as Miller and Morris ran out of steam.

Steve Pitts, project manager for Caddick Construction Ltd, and a Castleford Tigers fan, surveys work being carried out at Emerald Headingley Stadium. PIC: James Hardisty

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