England Battled Away by South Africa

AFTER England’s diabolical performance at the Cricket World Cup last year, Coach Trevor Bayliss insisted his side would embrace the new, fearless brand of one-day cricket proving to be so successful for other nations.

Since then, England have recorded one-day series victories over Pakistan and World Cup runners-up New Zealand as well as slim defeats to World Cup winners Australia and recently South Africa. England had also won all five T20 Internationals they had played against the first three of those opposition in this time. However, despite their recently good performances, the 2-0 T20 series loss against South Africa has shown England still have a long way to go.

Opposition captain Faf du Plessis elected to field first in the opening match in Cape Town, where openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales appeared to get England off to the perfect start. Having raced to 38-0 early on however, the exceptionally bright young talent of Kagiso Rabada removed Roy for 15. Leg spinner Imran Tahir then removed Hales (27) to begin the rot. England’s middle order failed to make an impact and were soon found floundering at 81-6 in the 13th over, Tahir finishing with four wickets. A neat cameo from England’s Jos Buttler (32*) ensured his side finished on a defendable 134-8.

Chris Jordan struck first for England in the second innings as dangerman AB de Villiers was removed cheaply for seven. The story of the top order for the home side was remarkably similar to the previous innings as Hashim Amla (22), du Plessis (25) and JP Duminy (23) all managed starts without being able to kick on. England’s commendable attempt at defending their low score was looking good as Jordan removed big hitter David Miller with the first delivery of the penultimate over. Jordan kept the over tight to concede a mere six off the over, leaving South Africa requiring 15 off the last over, a tall order for any side. Unfortunately for England, all-rounder Chris Morris (17 off seven balls) smashed a four and a six off consecutive Reece Topley balls before sealing the victory on the last ball for South Africa.

Once again England were put in to bat in the second T20 International in Johannesburg and a big total looked on the cards after flying starts from Joe Root (34), Eoin Morgan (38) and Buttler (54) guiding their team to 157-3. However, a miscued Buttler drive was caught before calamitous running the very next ball saw the end of Morgan as well. None of England’s remaining batsman made it close to double figures as the South African seamers bowled extremely tight lines to bowl England out for 171, with England losing their remaining seven wickets for a measly 14 runs. Once again Tahir bowled well for the Proteas, as his pressure meant the quick bowlers picked up the bulk of the wickets.

The second innings followed the pattern of the end of the first – a disaster for England. A batting masterclass from the ridiculously talented de Villiers (71 off 29) and the majestic timing of Amla (69* off 38) saw South Africa canter to victory within 15 overs. The victory ensured a 2-0 series win for the home side and saw them move into second place in the T20I rankings just ahead of the World Cup.

The loss showed that England still have a long way to go in the one-day arena, but are on the right path nonetheless. With an average age of 24 in their World Cup squad and no players over the age of 30, one can only think this England side will thrive on the experiences next month in India and be competing for the major trophies in the future. Whilst South Africa, on the other hand, surely go into the finals as one of the tournament favourites and could finally pick up the long-awaited silverware that has been so notoriously elusive. Then again, we say that every year about them.

Matt Norman

Featured image: The Independent 

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