The perfect preparation for November? Quite possibly. Eoin Morgan and Quinton de Kock will have wanted their sides to be thrust into pressure situations ahead of the series, and that’s exactly what happened in all three fixtures.
South Africa edged one, then England edged another before securing the series victory in a blockbuster to end all blockbusters. The series had it all–bowlers holding their nerve, fielders throwing themselves after lost causes, and some serious range hitting.
England’s white-ball stars all turned it on at some stage over the course of the three-match series. De Kock and Temba Bavuma kept the bowlers on their toes throughout, too, as the pressure situations that both captains craved presented themselves in abundance.
Up for grabs?
Missed our round-up of the 3rd T20? Check it out here…
It was clear from the very beginning of this series that England were taking things seriously. They appeared to select what they believed to be their strongest sides for each game but a couple of spots are yet to be claimed.
Firstly, there’s the question of the extra batsman. The top five looks settled and Moeen Ali appears to be all but on that plane to Australia but there are a few players vying for that final spot. Joe Denly held it for the first two games before his illness gave Dawid Malan an opportunity in the decider. Neither scored the runs they would have liked to and will hope for more opportunities over the coming months.
The third name in the hat–a potential ‘wildcard’ selection, if you will–is Tom Banton. The Somerset man was inspired in last summer’s Blast and this winter’s Big Bash, dispatching some of the best bowlers on the circuit with an arrogance rarely seen in English sportsmen. Just as England went with Jofra Archer on the even of the 50-over World Cup, could they decide to plump for Banton as the 20-over edition draws nearer?
The second question concerns Jos Buttler. To be clear from the outset, we’re not even beginning to suggest that the guy shouldn’t be in this side. His presence is essential. Exactly whether he should be opening up, however, is slightly less clear cut. It almost feels as though England have three players for two spots; Bairstow will be keen to open up alongside his 50-over partner in crime, Jason Roy, while Buttler’s performance in the series finale underlined just how damaging he can be in the powerplays.
In the grand scheme of things, however, England are in an amazing position if that’s the biggest concern the selectors have.
The bigger picture
The T20 side looks in pretty good shape, if we’re honest. The bowling department does contain a few areas for improvement but with over six months still to go there is plenty of time for fine-tuning.
Winning the World T20 in Australia will require a monumental effort by any visiting side, but England (and, it must be said, South Africa) have shown that they’ve got the tools to compete. The pitches will be quick and the temperatures high, and whoever comes out on top will need to churn out a series of dynamic performances.
We said before the first of these games that T20 can prove to be a leveller, and so it has proved. Three close games later, we’ve had our suspicions confirmed: England and South Africa will both fancy their chances of going deep in the tournament later this year.
A fitting end
After an incredible Test series, these three T20 romps have capped off a quite brilliant tour for England. It’s fair to say that the overall picture is a lot brighter as the squads depart South African shores and with three very winnable series next on the calendar, few would bet against this England side going from strength to strength.
It’s just over a month until the Test side is back in action in Sri Lanka–get those countdowns set for March 19th, folks!