Eoin Morgan’s T20 charges are coming across as a crack outfit‚ even though they are still trying to find their feet.
They are a side that while chasing in the T20 series found different ways to beat South Africa in the first two matches at Newlands and Boland Park.
Quinton de Kock’s battered team will have to face the music one more time at Newlands in the last of the three T20s before the action shifts to the 50-over format on Friday.
As the 50-over World Champions‚ England are an already formidable unit and they’re starting to have the same look in the shortest format.
The same can’t be said of SA‚ whose teething process is going on for longer than expected under coach Mark Boucher.
Here are five things they need to take in fast, to plan and prepare for the next T20 World Cup.
1. Sustaining momentum
The thing with T20 cricket is that while there are only 120 balls to play with‚ teams have batsmen who know how to use them effectively. SA’s top three are capable of that‚ especially Faf du Plessis and De Kock‚ as are Reeza Hendricks and Temba Bavuma.
It’s what comes below them that is an issue. Reasonably quick starts have been wasted‚ while England have shown that they can not only resuscitate themselves from bad starts‚ but increase the tempo as and when it’s required. England have the personnel to do that‚ SA doesn’t.
Jonny Bairstow is a limited overs opener by trade‚ but when dropped down to number four to fit the team’s needs‚ he looked the part. There was a fair bit of conjecture with regards to Du Plessis dropping one down to number four on Sunday‚ but it showed an inflexibility of thinking that’s invaded SA, while England are happy to move players around to fit a particular need at a particular time.
3. Middle to lower-order lack punch
As the Indian Premier League showed‚ the bulk of India’s best batsmen bat in the top four. This leaves the number five and six slots largely unoccupied by locals and used by their overseas stars. This has affected them in a way where players now have to drop down and bat in unfamiliar spots without the requisite match experience for the particular batting slot.
SA have a slightly similar problem in that the bulk of the blue-chip batters are top order strikers and haven’t always given themselves an opportunity to adapt to lower order batting. There’s next year’s Franchise T20 tournament in which to sort that out.
4. David Miller must be referred to in the past tense
To highlight the plateauing and stagnation of David Miller‚ one needs to look at Morgan’s rise as a limited overs batsman. Morgan is three years older than Miller and started his career earlier.
One thing they have in common is that they’re the most senior players in each squad‚ but with massively contrasting returns. Morgan’s been every bit a senior player‚ even when he’s not contributing with the bat.
Miller’s been a passenger and the fact he was sparingly used by the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL spoke volumes of how far his stock has fallen. It’s no longer about reputations now. Deliverables are everything and Miller’s not up to scratch in this department.
5. Clarity of thought leads to clarity of action
When it comes to the bowling department‚ De Kock’s got the armoury‚ but there’s a steep learning curve ahead in knowing when and how to use it. There have been bright sparks‚ especially in the use of George Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi‚ but the meagre totals he’s had to defend have pushed him into corners.
He’ll learn over time‚ despite his batting responsibilities, that the conviction of thoughts and actions lead to better results. Sometimes the ideas are there and execution isn’t‚ but England’s rail-roading batsmen can and will disrupt plans. The process will be painful for De Kock‚ but if he sticks to it‚ it will work out eventually.