Proteas vs England T20 decider: Another thriller?
Take away the creepy chaps dressed up like the sponsors' logo, and the opening two T20 games between England and South Africa have been exactly what this format is about. Big blows, spectacular fielding, bowlers showing off skill, players on both sides under pressure, and crowds enraptured. Who needs 100 balls per innings when the format with 120 isn’t broken huh?
“Both teams are playing really good cricket at the moment,” Quinton de Kock remarked after the last ball thriller at Kingsmead on Friday night.
Tickets for SuperSport Park for the final T20 today were sold out a week ago already and all of those spectators will hope that the drama of the first two matches will be replicated.
For both teams, this series has provided excellent preparation for the T20 World Cup later this year. Naturally, World Cup pressure is different to the kind of pressure created in a bilateral series, but for many of the players who’ve not been to a World Cup this has been a useful exercise in how to deal with those nerves and the intensity.
Technically and tactically England captain Eion Morgan felt the sides got more out of the mayhem of Friday night’s 400-run spectacle than the game in East London, even though nerves had been shredded there too. Morgan likened the Buffalo Park match to the kind often experienced in the West Indies - with a slow pitch and a howling wind - while Durban, where the ball came onto the bat better, was more akin to the kind of conditions everyone is expecting in Australia later this year.
“That was a bit like the Adelaide Oval,” Morgan remarked of conditions at Kingsmead. “If they produce the same at Centurion it will be good for us. Wickets in Australia tend to be more bouncy and if they produce that (today) then great.”
South Africa’s technical faults were with the ball on Friday. They didn’t do the necessary adjustments to the quicker Kingsmead surface from the sluggish one on which the first match was played. In East London, slower balls and cutters were more difficult for batsmen to face, in Durban, the South African bowlers overused the change of pace, limiting its capacity for surprise.
“Our ‘death’ bowling was not good,” said Rassie van der Dussen. England scored 79 runs in the last five overs of their innings compared to the 57 South Africa managed in the same period of their chase. The difference for Van der Dussen, who finished not out on 43 off 26 balls, was obvious. “Landing good yorkers, it was really tough to score and England did that very well.We got a little predictable with the change-ups. If we’d landed our yorkers more, then the change-ups would've become more effective.”
Hopefully that’s a lesson the SA bowlers will heed for the decider. SuperSport Park can be a difficult venue for bowlers who err in line or length and off-speed balls not precisely executed will be severely punished in conditions where the ball flies quickly through the thin Highveld air or sprints to the boundary on the slick outfield.
Today’s game starts at 2.30pm.