EOIN MORGAN evoked the classic cliche that you learn more in defeat than you do in victory after England pressed the self-destruct button in a dramatic start to their T20 series in South Africa.
Morgan admitted that England should have “won easily” after reaching 132-2 in the 15th over in pursuit of South Africa’s 177-8 in East London in the opening game of the three-match series.
But he claimed that their one-run defeat after losing four wickets in the final seven balls to finish on 176-9 was an invaluable learning curve with the T20 World Cup just around the corner.
England will be bidding to become double world champions in white-ball cricket at the tournament in Australia in October/November after winning the 50-over World Cup last year.
Morgan, whose own dismissal to the final ball of the penultimate over triggered the collapse with just seven more runs needed, said: “Experiences like this, particularly with the World Cup around the corner, are just so valuable to the team.
“In terms of actually improving, I think it’s great for us.
Whether there is any lingering feeling from that episode is unclear, but the suspicion that Malan’s face does not fit was hardly allayed.Chris Waters
“We were in a very commanding position, and we need to be more clinical, but, full credit to South Africa, they clawed their way back into a game I thought we should have won easily.”
Morgan holed out to long-on off left-arm pace bowler Beuran Hendricks one delivery after reaching a fine 33-ball half-century.
He had struck Hendricks’ previous three balls for boundaries and it was perhaps a needless attempt at another big shot when he might have been better trying to keep the strike for the final over.
But Morgan and his team live by the sword and, occasionally, die by it too – part of the reason why they are so exciting to watch and also such a formidable outfit in the game’s shortest formats.
Even after Morgan’s dismissal England should have won.
However, Tom Curran, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were unable to finish the job as right-arm pace bowler Lungi Ngidi bowled a superb final over to finish with 3-30.
Earlier, Jason Roy smashed the joint second-fastest fifty for England in T20 internationals, reaching the mark from 22 balls and going on to the top score of 70 from 38 deliveries.
Jos Buttler also struck a 22-ball fifty against Australia at Edgbaston in 2018, with Morgan’s 21-ball effort against New Zealand in Napier last November the fastest for England in the 20-over format.
Morgan’s record-breaking innings on that occasion came during a partnership of 182 with Yorkshire’s new signing Dawid Malan, whose omission from yesterday’s match does not bode well for his international future.
Morgan criticised Malan after that Napier game for not taking a bye off the final ball, implying that the 32-year-old was protecting his average as he finished unbeaten on 103.
“If we get guys who are not running off the last ball of the game because they want to get a not out, there’s something to address,” Morgan had said.
Whether there is any lingering feeling from that episode is unclear, but the suspicion that Malan’s face does not fit was hardly allayed by the selection instead yesterday of Joe Denly, who averages 10.55 in T20 internationals and has a strike-rate of 97 runs per 100 balls against Malan’s average of 57.25 and strike-rate of 156, with five fifties and a hundred from his nine appearances.
Malan’s chances did not seem improved either when, referring to the top-three department in which Malan usually bats, Morgan said last night: “Our top-three at the moment is probably three of the finest batsmen in white ball cricket we’ve ever produced.”
Temba Bavuma top-scored with 43 for South Africa, who were eyeing 200 at one stage only to be dragged back by some good bowling at the end from Chris Jordan and Mark Wood.
Jordan finished with England’s best figures of 2-28, while spinners Moeen (1-22) and Rashid (1-23) were impressive.
England were not at their best in any department and will be seeking a quick response in the second game in Durban tomorrow. The series concludes in Centurion on Sunday.