England’s one-day team have “earned a lot of respect” after recovering from hitting “rock bottom” in 2015, says South Africa captain AB de Villiers.
The Proteas face England in three one-day internationals, the first of which is at Headingley on Wednesday.
Hosts England are one of the favourites to win the 2017 Champions Trophy, starting on 1 June, having exited at the group stages of the 2015 World Cup.
“They did really well to come back from that,” said De Villiers.
Eoin Morgan’s side have lost just one one-day series at home, against world champions Australia, since defeat by Bangladesh knocked them out of the World Cup.
“They are a really talented group of players – the way they came back from that earned a lot of respect around the world,” added De Villiers.
“They must be one of the favourites, in their home country and playing some really good cricket of late.”
South Africa are top of the ODI rankings but De Villiers, 33, said his side will be wary of facing England’s “stand-out player” Ben Stokes. All-rounder Stokes, 25, scored his maiden Twenty20 century for Rising Pune Supergiant in the Indian Premier League, also taking 12 wickets, but will not play in the final after being recalled by England.
“He’s definitely got something special about him,” said De Villiers.
“A lot of guys lose their way in the IPL, and others find the next level in their game – Ben Stokes definitely lifted his game and I think it would have done him the world of good.”
South Africa also take on England in three Twenty20 internationals and four Tests this summer, but De Villiers has ruled himself out of the Test series in order to rest. “I haven’t retired – but I’m not going to change my decision,” he said.“I’ll look indecisive, but it’s important that I’m feeling physically and mentally healthy, and that’s what I decided on.”