By Kieran Wellington

  • England share series with hosts South Africa after nervy third ODI win in Johannesburg
  • Spin twins Ali and Rashid return to fold at The Wanderers
  • Joe Denly performs with bat but questions remain of his place in England’s attacking blueprint
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Despite rescuing the series against South Africa, how did world champions England rate ahead of three T20 clashes with the Proteas?

 

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Jason Roy – 6/10 – 53 runs at 26.5, SR 100 – Roy’s two innings in this series were unsatisfactory in nature, in terms of consistency. Surrey man got himself in, played a few audacious strokes, laid a nice platform with Jonny Bairstow, and then when cruising at a run-a-ball and without needing to press the gas pedal too much harder, got himself out with ugly, mistimed shots, particularly in last Sunday. Will be interesting to see where, or even if, he is required for the T20s with Tom Banton, Jos Buttler and Bairstow all pressing the issue for an opener’s slot in the shortest format.

Jonny Bairstow – 7/10 – 62 runs at 31, SR 129.16 – Bairstow may not be able to buy a run in Test cricket – much like his opening partner – but it is great to see the pair of them in full flight opening the batting in white ball cricket. With the fielding restrictions meaning many areas are unguarded in the first ten overs, Bairstow’s fearless attitude can lead to some breathtaking cricket. If anything has been garnered from this series – if one had not known the fact already – it’s never go and make a cup of tea during the first hour of England’s innings; You are bound to see action. Bairstow epitomised that in the final ODI, bludgeoning the ball to all parts at a strike rate of 186.95. None came close to matching throughout.

Joe Root – 7/10 – 66 runs at 33, SR 90.41 & 2 wickets at 40.5 – Always comfortable at the crease, two unusual dismissals prevented Root from cashing in in his normal fashion. His power over South Africa’s star batsman and captain Quinton de Kock was one of the talking points of the entire series, with Root castling South Africa’s new skipper twice in succession before a slight dip with the ball in Johannesburg.

Eoin Morgan – 4/10 – 20 runs at 10, SR 62.5 – A series with the bat which won’t live long in the memory, Morgan’s new challenge with his world champions is to re-energise his old guard while trying to integrate new faces into a unit which demands bravery coupled with ice-cold decision making. Tough to juggle all these duties for a man who turns 34 this year? Perhaps. But Morgan is an unflappable character, and those critical of England’s performances should be reminded England were without three, arguably four, match winners for the entire series in Buttler, Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, and Mark Wood.

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Joe Denly – 8/10 – 153 runs at 76.5, SR 84.06 – The unexpected top run-getter in England colours and by a distance too. In the absence of normal middle-order mainstays Stokes and Buttler, who bat with such authority and aggression in one-day cricket, Denly knew he would have to go about his innings in a different manner if he was to impress. His gutsy 103-ball 87 in Cape Town saved England from being embarrassed in the opening match and his good form continued with a more fluent 66 in Jo’burg which included three maximums and six boundaries. The only criticism is he could’ve made England fans sweat a whole lot less if he hadn’t tried to force the issue with England four wickets down requiring only another 25 runs to win. How did England only win at the Wanderers by two wickets, again?

Tom Banton – 5/10 – 50 runs at 25, SR 90.90 – Banton showed flashes of the promise that has his supporters comparing his swashbuckling, 360 degree batting style to Kevin Pietersen, but will be frustrated at making two starts and getting out. Was name checked by captain Morgan after the third ODI for showing great maturity in compiling his run-a-ball 32. Plenty more to come from the Somerset opener, especially if he’s given extra responsibility by being shunted a few places up the order.

Sam Curran – 2/10 – 7 runs at 7, SR 38.88 & 0 wickets – A series to forget for Curran Jr. who extracted little swing out of a Newlands wicket played in bright sunshine and didn’t fare any better in the washed-out affair in Durban. Didn’t bat with the conviction and counter-attacking attitude he’s shown at Test level. Must improve.

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Chris Woakes – 6/10 – 40 runs at 40, SR 95.23 & 1 wicket at 57 – Ever reliable with bat or with ball, the Warwickshire seamer constantly creeps under the radar with important contributions in tricky situations. His partnership with Denly – worth 91 – was the main reason England had any score to defend in Cape Town, and removed opener Reeza Hendricks with a good nut before South Africa strolled home. Rested for the Johannesburg victory.

Tom Curran – 4/10 – 20 runs at 20, SR 74.07 & 0 wickets – Looked slightly off the pace after a hectic Big Bash where he starred for eventual winners Sydney Sixers. In fact, his performances in the BBL  almost won him the Player of the Tournament. Whether he didn’t adapt to the different conditions or the format quickly enough, the eldest Curran brother didn’t provide enough threat with bat or ball to worry the South Africans. Despite this, his economy of 4.94 was an encouraging sign that he didn’t let the lack of wickets frustrate him. ‘TC’ is sure to establish himself in an England shirt soon enough.

Chris Jordan – 5/10 – 1 run, SR 20 & 2 wickets – His performance with bat, ball and in the field can often be dynamic, but Jordan, like many of England’s players, underwhelmed. He missed his yorker length when trying to contain David Miller in the third ODI, and his economy (6.27) remains a concern. However, has a handy knack of getting well-set batsmen out, as Temba Bavuma can certainly account for.

Matt Parkinson – 3/10 – DNB & 0 wickets for 63 runs in 10.4 overs – England’s next big spin hope didn’t do much to lift spirits. In admittedly a poor all-round team performance, the Lancashire twirler looked toothless and bowled too slowly to get any assistance from the surface or rush batsmen into errant decisions. Leg-spinners are often inconsistent, especially when they break onto the international scene, so England fans will hope there’s more to come. Perhaps telling he was dropped for the must-win match in Joburg.

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Moeen Ali – 7/10 – 17 runs, SR 106.25 & 1 wicket at 42 – On his first appearance since his enforced break due to declining form, the all-rounder contained de Kock and South Africa’s middle order effectively, took the wicket of Rassie van der Dussen with a quicker, flatter delivery that totally deceived the in-form batsman, and hit the winning runs. A pretty comprehensive comeback performance. England’s side, with both red and white ball, is more balanced with the inclusion of Moeen. The sooner he feels ready to be reintegrated in all formats, the better. His speech to present spin twin and best mate Adil Rashid with his 100th cap was heartwarming too.

Adil Rashid – 8/10 – 2 runs at 2, SR 20 & 3 wickets at 17 – Recovered from a persistent shoulder injury to look a class apart. On a helpful Wanderers wicket, Rashid bowled noticeably quicker than in the World Cup meaning his variations were harder to pick and harder to keep out. Was unfortunate not to pick up the wicket of van der Dussen who was originally given out lbw on-field and with South Africa burning their review on Rashid’s previous lbw victim, Bavuma. Should’ve walked but for a farcical loss of a functioning DRS reprieved South Africa’s new no.4. England look a different side in the field with Rashid’s ability to take wickets at any point in the innings.

Saqib Mahmood – 7/10 – DNB & 1 wicket at 17 – Opened the bowling with Tom Curran in Johannesburg and settled remarkably for a man on debut. Was surprisingly not entrusted to return after his opening five overs went for just 17 runs, including the wicket of Reeza Hendricks, clean bowled.

 

The first T20 international between South Africa and England takes place on Wednesday afternoon at Buffalo Park, East London.

 

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