What began as a terrific tour for England has not quite gone according to plan for the visitors in the last few days. A 2-0 lead was converted into a 2-3 defeat in the ODIs and what, at one stage, seemed like a certain victory for England, turned into a defeat in the first T20 at Cape Town. Sunday will mark the end of a long tour for the Englishmen, and they will be keen to finish off on a high. It has been a mixed tour for England so far, but if they return home with a Test victory and a drawn T20 series, it would mean that they go back with more gains than worries.
A lot of attention will be centred on Reece Topley in the wake of what transpired in the dying moments at Newlands. Success and failure are part of parcel of the game, but how he comes out of the bad experience could define his future in the sport. There is no doubt that Topley is a talented pace bowler, and it was only a moment of over anxiety that caused him to fumble the ball at the last minute. It has happened to the best in the game. But, it will not be easy for Topley to forget that last over at Newlands since he also conceded many runs, and played a huge role in the team’s defeat.
It will be unfair to blame one person for that loss though. The bigger issue in the first match was that England did not get enough runs on the board. Apart from Alex Hales and Jos Buttler, no one made any significant contributions with the bat. With this being England’s last T20 before they head towards the World T20, it will be significant for the likes of skipper Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes to get among the runs. On the other hand, England should be pleased with their bowling effort. Chris Jordan stood out at Cape Town even as spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid chipped in nicely.
South Africa, on the other hand, will be elated with the result they achieved on Friday. The victory meant they now have achieved four wins on a trot against the Englishmen. Imran Tahir’s bowling effort would please them no end. His 4 for 21 completely dismantled the England batting. More than the number of wickets, it were the batsmen he dismissed that were significant – Hales, Morgan, Stokes and Ali. It was a good bowling performance all round with Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada and David Wiese all chipping in.
While the Proteas did end up triumphant in the first T20, they would know deep down that it was a match they should have won much more comfortably, than the crawl which eventually took them over the line. Had it not been for Chris Morris’ belligerent hitting in the last over, and a panicky Topley, the result of the T20 could well have been different. South Africa thus must not be too overjoyed with the result. They have some work to do in the batting department. The top and middle order will need to show better resolve, and the South African skipper Faf du Plessis will be aware of the same.
--By A Cricket Analyst