Eoin Morgan’s England find new heights in clinching series win over South Africa at Centurion
Feb. 16, 2020
“IF YOU’RE in the crowd, you’re in the game. This ball’s flying around!”
The deciding T20 international between South Africa and England was moments old when David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd made his remarks on the television commentary.
Indeed, it was immediately clear that there was more chance of spectators catching the ball at SuperSport Park in Centurion than the fielders, such was the frequency with which it was biffed into the stands from the get-go.
A combination of brilliant batting, a belting pitch and high altitude meant that this was no game for bowlers of any sort, England winning by five wickets with five balls remaining after chasing 223 to take the three-match series 2-1.
For the record, there were 28 sixes struck (15 by England, 13 by South Africa) to go with 34 fours (19 by England, 15 by South Africa).
The match programme should rightly have come with a free tin hat and a warning to keep an eye on the ball at all times. Certainly this was no day for taking a Sunday afternoon snooze in the stands; why, if you did that, you might never wake up with batsmen like these freeing their arms. England’s run-chase – their second-highest in T20 internationals after they scored 230-8 against South Africa at the 2016 World Cup in Mumbai – was led by their irrepressible captain Eoin Morgan, who clubbed 57 not out from 22 balls.
The Irishman dealt only in sixes on the boundary front – he hit seven maximums and no fours – in a superlative exhibition of blistering hitting.
In reaching his half-century from 21 balls, Morgan equalled his own record for the fastest T20 international fifty by an England batsman, which he set against New Zealand in Napier only in November.
Only a fool would bet against him leading England to the T20 World Cup title in Australia next winter, where his side will be aiming to become double white-ball world champions and, on this evidence, will take some stopping.
Faced with such a daunting target, after South Africa had scored 222-6 after choosing to bat, Morgan could not do everything on his own and he had brilliant support from Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes in particular. Buttler got the innings going with 57 from 29 balls, Bairstow kept the side firmly on course with 64 from 34 deliveries and Stokes contributed 22 from 11 balls.
Buttler reached his own half-century from 23 balls and Bairstow his fifty from 27; the crucial partnership was between Morgan and Stokes towards the end (61 from 27 deliveries) as England not only won but almost at something approaching a canter. Earlier, Stokes played his part with the ball, capturing 2-35 and Tom Curran 2-33 amid the carnage of South Africa’s imposing total. Heinrich Klaasen, a hard-hitting 28-year-old, was recalled to add oomph to their batting, which he duly supplied by top-scoring with 66 from 33 balls with four fours and four sixes.
Temba Bavuma chipped in with 49 from 24 before limping off with a hamstring injury towards the end of the England run-chase, while the former Yorkshire batsman David Miller lashed an unbeaten 35 from 20.
Quinton de Kock, the South Africa captain, also chipped in with 35, England coming back well after a difficult start to the game before South Africa pulled away once more towards the end of their innings.
This England side never know when they are beaten, a side that looked to have better balance with Dawid Malan returning in place of the ill Joe Denly.
Improvements can still be made in the six T20 internationals this summer (three against Australia, three against Pakistan), which serve as final preparation for the World Cup, but Morgan and his men are all hunky-dory.
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