England remain to be the better team on paper but South Africa will feel they did well to test them throughout the game. But ultimately, they would be disappointed not to cash in the opportunity to lead 1-0 in the series in Cape Town.
It came down to lack of experience. Beuran Hendricks conceded 28 runs in the 17th over when South Africa had pulled things back with a couple of tight overs. Earlier, South Africa allowed only 34 runs in the Powerplay while cleaning England’s top three. But then squandered 62 runs in five overs in the middle-phase to let the visitors roar back in the contest.
Similarly, with the bat, South Africa might think they could have posted more than 180 given England’s bowling was not at its best. Once again, the lower-order batting lacked experience after Rassie van der Dussen at number four.
This has been South Africa’s major issue. A major chunk of their star cricketers have retired and the transition period has not been kind to them. Either they have been blown away from very beginning in the game or they have failed to keep the pressure on the opposition.
Now they have a relatively new coaching staff as well, aiming to build a side for the T20 World Cup next year.
England, on the other hand, have completely different dynamics. They possess players who can stage come-from-behind victories as in the series opener. Their only problem is the problem of plenty with multiple people auditioning for one role.
They have not lost a T20I series since July 2018 and seem on course to add another win to their tally on Sunday, when they will take on South Africa in the second T20I in Paarl.
England’s rejigged batting order
Jonny Bairstow relished his new role in Cape Town. A renowned opener slotted at four, he took the chase by the scruff of its neck when the top three floundered. He recorded his best T20I score reigniting England’s run chase.
To accommodate Bairstow at four, Eoin Morgan has moved to six. It actually is a a great tactical move given Morgan’s excellent strike-rate at the start of his innings.
Ben Stokes, who occupied the fifth spot in the batting order, has gone at a strike-rate of 114 in the first 10 balls of his innings in T20Is since 2018.
South Africa’s inconsistent bowling attack
While England’s rejigged batting order can only be an experiment for this series, it sets up brilliantly against South Africa. Since 2019, they have the highest economy rate at the death amongst Test playing nations - 10.3 runs per over. They are not great during the Powerplay either, going at 9.4 runs per over - again the highest amongst Test playing nations.
Kagiso Rabada won the Purple Cap in IPL 2020 but his wicket-taking form for South Africa has gone through ups and downs. Hendricks has been preferred consistently because of his left-arm angle but turned out to be the weak link in Cape Town. Tabraiz Shamzi has been a regular feature for the Proteas over the last couple of years but has not sealed his spot yet.
South Africa will need all their missing pieces to come together to shut England. George Linde’s brilliant debut was the biggest positive for them in Cape Town.
The new venue
Boland Park in Paarl will be the 11th T20I venue in South Africa. Quinton de Kock missed the services of an extra restrictive spinner and asked Heinrich Klaasen to bowl. But the past record in T20 cricket at Boland Park suggests he won’t face the same issue in the second T20I.
In T20s since 2019 in Paarl, spinners have picked only 35 percent of the wickets. Pacers have trumped their spin counterparts even in the middle-overs - a phase where spinners are expected to be dominant.
Overall, the track at Paarl tends to be flat and another high-scoring game can be expected.
After failing to defend 180, Anrich Nortje is expected to play with the series on line. There are also question marks on de Kock’s opening partner. Temba Bavuma might get another chance. An inclusion for Jon-Jon Smuts could also be on cards given if he can roll his arm over if required.
Quinton de Kock (c/wk), Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Heinrich Klaasen, Pite van Biljon/Jon-Jon Smuts, George Linde, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi
The only change in England’s XI could be a game for Mark Wood at the cost of Tom Curran. Although, Curran picked two for 14 in the intra-squad warm-up T20 game in Paarl which may work in his favor to get another chance.
Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Curran, Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood/Tom Curran