I thought we’d won it. I really did. When South Africa were reduced to 210-8 I wrongly assumed that the game, and therefore series, were in the bag. And then Chris Morris finally proved why IPL teams pay so much money for his services. He stole the game away from England with a flurry of mighty blows that left our players completely crushed. I take my hat off to the bloke.
Now the dust has settled, however, I think South Africa’s thrilling one wicket win was probably a fair result. England did not play well. The fact that the Proteas almost screwed up what should’ve been a simple run chase shouldn’t disguise that uncomfortable truth. From the moment our middle-order was blown away by Imran Tahir and Kyle Abbott – yet another reality check I’m afraid – we were up against it. Only Joe Root’s classy 109 and late cameos from Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid dragged the score up to respectability.
Even after posting a rather modest 262, we still had enough chances to win. Unfortunately however our fielding was below the normal standards. When Rashid dropped Chris Morris before he was set – a somewhat tricky chance but one he’d probably take eight times out of ten – he effectively dropped the match. Our bowlers also showed worrying fragility in the face of Morris’ onslaught.
I rarely criticise Eoin Morgan but he also dropped the ball yesterday. His captaincy when the pressure was on left a lot to be desired. After Morris had hit a couple of sixes, and the run rate was no longer an issue, the skipper should’ve attacked. Taking wickets was the only way England were going to win at that point. Unfortunately however, Morgan’s mind seemed scrambled. I can understand keeping the field back for Morris, but he should’ve put in a couple of slips immediately when Abbott came on strike. He failed to do so.
Unfortunately I felt as though Morgan let the game drift away. The seamers weren’t doing the job so he should’ve turned to Adil Rashid, who must have been smarting after dropping that catch, a lot sooner. When South Africa needed just one to win, Rashid (who is probably our best wicket taker) had only bowled six overs. When Morgan belatedly threw him the ball, he dismissed Morris with his very first delivery. What a shame that the game was already up. Hmmmm.
So now we all move on to Newlands for the decider. If England win it will be the first time South Africa have lost both the test and ODIs series at home for fourteen years. There will be pats on the back all round. However, if England lose their third game in a row, questions will be asked. I can’t help the feeling that we started to believe our own hype a little prematurely. How’s that 5-0 looking now Mr Topley?
Perhaps I’m being a little too downbeat though. This has been a really entertaining series – the skills developed in T20 have really breathed new life into the tired 50 over format – and England have certainly played their part. Yesterday’s game was a brilliant spectacle and it’s great to see cricket in such rude health and doing its bit for charity too.
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