England v South Africa: Being careful not to jinx it, England look the best team in Twenty20 World Cup

IT’S all going so well.

Too well, don’t you think?

So well that you half-expect it to go pear-shaped at any minute.

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England have played pretty much the perfect competition going into their final group game of the T20 World Cup against South Africa in Sharjah.

England's Jason Roy hits the ball to the boundary during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match between England and Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Even the most mean-minded observer, the most dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon, must be inclined to give them at least a nine out of 10 for their performances, such have been their quality en route to four wins out of four.

West Indies, the current holders? No problem... England bowled them out for 55 in their opening game and won by six wickets with 70 balls left.

Bangladesh, always tricky opponents, especially in conditions such as those encountered in the United Arab Emirates? No problem... England thumped them by eight wickets with 35 balls remaining.

Australia, the old enemy, a difficult challenge under any circumstances, and in any conditions? No problem... Or rather, no dramas, mate... England walloped them by eight wickets with 50 balls to spare.

England's captain Eoin Morgan, left, congratulates team-mate Liam Livingstone after taking the wicket of Bangladesh's captain Mohammad Mahmudullah during the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup match. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

And, last but not least, Sri Lanka – and a different type of challenge after being asked to bat first on a low, skiddy pitch. England beat them by 26 runs despite the handicap of the dew for the side bowling second. They really have been excellent up to now.

After South Africa comes the tournament’s business end – the semi-finals and final. And, as Eoin Morgan and his players will know, all the great work up to now will count for nothing if England sell themselves short in the closing stages.

England want to become double white-ball world champions – nothing else will do. They will certainly never have a better opportunity.

There are no weak links in a star-studded side.

England's Jonny Bairstow, right, talks with Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

At the top of the order, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler are two of the most destructive batsmen in the world. Roy has yet to catch fire in the manner of his partner, but he top-scored with 61 against Bangladesh and helped Buttler to add 66 in the six-over powerplay that carried England more than halfway to their target against Australia.

Buttler looks in the form of his life; he followed an unbeaten 71 against Australia with his first T20 international century (101 not out against Sri Lanka from 67 balls with six sixes and six fours), becoming the first man to score a hundred for England in all three formats.

There were questions surrounding Dawid Malan going into the tournament, specifically 
relating to his rate of scoring at No 3, and the Yorkshire player has perhaps not been able to assuage his critics as much as he would wish.

Malan did not bat in the first game against West Indies – being shunted further and further down the order as England promoted others in an effort to improve their net run-rate – and an unbeaten 28 against Bangladesh is his only “score” to date.

It says everything about England’s remarkable power and strength in depth that Malan is seen by some as the batting’s weak link, but his talent and consistency speaks for itself, while it is surely a mistake to think of anyone who has a strike-rate of 137 as some kind of slouch.

Jonny Bairstow – who interestingly also has a T20 international strike-rate of 137 – will be trying to stamp his authority in the knockout stages.

The Yorkshireman did not have much chance to make a mark in the first match; England were 30-2 chasing 56 when he came in against the West Indies and was out for nine; nor against Bangladesh, when he finished eight not out; nor against Australia, when he finished 16 not out, before a golden duck against Sri Lanka.

One brilliant diving stop on the boundary during that game (England’s fielding has been wonderful throughout) summed up Bairstow’s commitment and the team’s in general.

Eoin Morgan got some runs at last against the Sri Lankans, an innings of 40 doing his confidence the power of good after a lengthy lean patch, and he continues to lead the team with strategic intelligence and calmness under pressure.

Moeen Ali has captured key wickets in the powerplay and bowled with great control also – as has his great friend and fellow spinner Adil Rashid of Yorkshire, who took remarkable career-best figures of 4-2 against West 
Indies.

Liam Livingstone has only batted once in the competition to date (one from two balls against West Indies) but has chipped in with useful wickets with his handy spin.

Ditto Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills – and what rotten luck that injury has once more returned to haunt the latter, Mills having been ruled out of the World Cup on Wednesday with a right thigh strain.

That will necessitate a change in the line-up against South Africa, and the chance for somebody else to make their mark.

In the meantime, Morgan’s England will take some stopping.

It really is going well – just hopefully not too well.