You can’t win them all. When you’re playing a quality opponent, occasionally they’re going to play very well and beat you. C’est la vie, right? Well, maybe. But I don’t think it’s quite that simple in England’s case. Yes we were beaten by Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, two superb batsmen in good form, but I can’t help feeling that yesterday’s heavy defeat was a bit of a reality check.
Too many people, including certain members of the England team, had started to imply that this new squad were world beaters – the finished article if you like. Even Sky’s pre-match montage struck a celebratory note. It suggested that England now possessed all the ingredients a champion side needs.
Eoin Morgan seemed uber confident before the toss. Although he tried to say the right things, and conceal any cockiness, his message seemed somewhat supercilious: ‘we don’t need to make any changes because we’re good … and we’ve got some bloody good players who can’t even get in the team’.
The real culprit, however, was Reece Topley, who couldn’t resist talking about five nil victories in his presser on Monday. It seems that Topley thinks rather a lot of himself. He said England were confident they’d win the game (after which they’d aim for a whitewash) and that he’d done everything he could to force his way into the World T20 squad. He came across as smug. All his words would’ve done is fire up South Africa. Silly boy.
Topley needs to choose his words more carefully and remember that’s he’s won nothing in his career to date. When Glenn McGrath talked of 5-0 victories, he already had world cups, numerous Ashes triumphs, and hundreds of international wickets to his name. Hopefully Topley can learn a little humility. England’s attack (like Topley himself) shows some promise but it’s far from the finished article.
Whereas our batting has come on leaps and bounds over the last year – we’re unrecognisable from the complete shower that embarrassed us at the World Cup – the bowling still lacks quality. It’s a long, long way short of world class. There are too many rookies, too many medium pacers, and although the addition of Rashid and a couple of left-armers provides extra variation, it’s hardy like we’ve unearthed the new Shane Warne and Wasim Akram. We haven’t even found the new Wahab Riaz, Trent Boult or Mohammad Amir yet.
As I was watching Amla and de Kock milk our bowlers it was clear just how much we’re missing the likes of Broad (who must play the next game), Finn and Wood. These guys have a bit of extra pace and aggression. I’m afraid the likes of Topley, Willey and Jordan will scare nobody. They’re all useful bowlers who can do a job, but they’re not going to run through teams. Ditto Moeen Ali. Although Eoin Morgan jumped at the chance to bat first yesterday, the current side might feel more comfortable chasing. The batting sure has more firepower than the bowling.
When England scored 318 I initially thought it would be enough. Joe Root scored an excellent century, Alex Hales played fluently and looks like he’s finally building some confidence, and Stokes also batted nicely. However, our bowling was so toothless that a Proteas win looked inevitable after the first ten overs. Next time I suggest England win the series before they start looking too far ahead.