Test for Topley as SA eye further gains

Match facts

Sunday, February 21
Start time 2.30pm local (1230 GMT)

Play 02:00

Psychological advantage at stake in final T20

Big Picture

One day Reece Topley will be able to look back and laugh about it. He need only chat to his senior team-mate Stuart Broad – albeit no longer a regular in the short formats – for advice on how to get through a high-profile T20 blooper or two. Broad missed a crucial last-ball run out on a much bigger stage, against Netherlands in the opening game of the 2009 World T20 at Lord’s, as well as getting taken for six sixes by Yuvraj Singh in the previous tournament, but that didn’t prevent his rise to the top.

Topley’s 13th England cap was not a lucky one and he will probably have been aged by the experience. Appropriately, when he plays his next game he will be a year older. His 22nd birthday is on Sunday and he would love to help level the series as a gift to finish the tour. There has been little to separate England and South Africa over the last two months but the hosts now lead 5-4 head-to-head over the Tests, ODIs and T20s, with one more to play.

A tie in Cape Town would probably have been a more fitting result, after England’s bowlers put the squeeze on so impressively. Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes produced the best displays of their fledgling T20 international careers but a second successive Super Over finish was not to be after Topley’s handling error. It is likely to be more of a batsmen’s game at altitude in the Bullring as the teams lock horns for the final time.

Faf du Plessis had talked about preparation for the upcoming World T20 being more important than winning against England (and Australia, who visit next month) but, after Chris Morris again conjured up victory from inside a seemingly locked box, he was quick to change tack. “We want to try and put some scars mentally into England,” he said, with their group meeting in Mumbai in mind. South Africa have experienced a season of trauma but they now feel in a position to inflict pain on others.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWWLW
England: LWWWW

In the spotlight

Morris had them dancing in the aisles but South Africa’s victory was based around the infectious moves of Imran Tahir. The scuttling leggie will be key to his team’s World T20 chances – the 4 for 21 he took on Friday equalled his previous best, which came during the last tournament in Bangladesh – and he is bound to give England another searching workout against spin. The question is, how many wickets will his son predict this time?

Reece Topley first came to fame when he was hit on the head by a Kevin Pietersen drive while bowling at him in the nets as a 15-year-old. He has to bounce back again after conceding 15 off the final over at Newlands and then dropping the ball with a run-out begging. Topley wears his heart on his sleeve – among the tattoos – and he was ticked off by the ICC for smashing the stumps afterwards. His response will instructive.

Team news

Du Plessis hinted at changes and it could be that Farhaan Behardien comes into the middle order for Rilee Rossouw. Aaron Phangiso’s left-arm spin is likely to be required in India but it is hard to see who he would displace in Johannesburg.

South Africa (possible) 1 AB de Villiers (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Rilee Rossouw/Farhaan Behardien, 6 David Miller, 7 David Wiese, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Kyle Abbott, 11 Imran Tahir

Eoin Morgan has been set on England playing their best XI, so it seems likely the same group of players will be asked to improve on their Cape Town display with the bat and in the field.

England (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 David Willey, 11 Reece Topley

Pitch and conditions

The ODI in Johannesburg provided another dramatic finish, the surface offering something for the bowlers even as the thin atmosphere encouraged Morris to clear the ropes. The ball tends to fly in T20s at the Bullring, scene of the first international hundred and the highest run chase, and a 30C forecast should ensure the final match of England’s tour is a sizzler.

Stats and trivia

  • The highest successful T20 chase came just over a year ago at the Wanderers, as West Indies overhauled South Africa’s 231 with four balls to spare.
  • England’s one previous T20 in Johannesburg ended in a one-run Duckworth-Lewis win over South Africa.
  • More T20 hundreds have been made in defeat at this ground than any other – Chris Gayle scored 117 in the opening match of the 2007 World T20 and du Plessis made 119 against West Indies last year.
  • Morgan is set to equal Broad as England’s most-capped player in the format, while Alex Hales needs 39 runs to overtake Kevin Pietersen as England’s second-leading run-scorer.


“We’ll take a lot of confidence from that. We didn’t play as well as we can but still got across that line – which is a huge credit to us.”
Faf du Plessis was happy to get the job done in Cape Town

“We brought the game really close, and as a bowling unit we’re pretty confident within ourselves. We were a bit under par with the bat, but we’ll look to put that right on Sunday.”
Chris Jordan hopes England can still make amends

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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