Skipper Eoin Morgan believes the way England adapted to a challenging St George’s Park pitch bodes well for the future in one-day international cricket.
The tourists, and in particular Alex Hales, successfully adjusted their approach to batting on a slow surface during their chase of 263 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Renowned as a free-scoring opening batsman, Hales showed another side to his game with a patient innings that set the platform for Jos Buttler to blast England over the line with 48 not out from just 28 balls.
A patient Hales grafted his way to 99, the second time he has fallen one short of three figures in international cricket, and was ably assisted by Joe Root and Morgan following the early loss of Jason Roy.
“It was very important,” Morgan told ecb.co.uk. “The surface that we played on today was a completely different challenge for us as a side.
“Over the last three series we have probably only played on one surface like this and we did come out the other side of it, but it was a completely different challenge to what we are normally used to and to come out of that challenge with a win, against a strong side, is very pleasing.
“To get momentum and get started was quite difficult. The ball did reverse swing and it did turn a little bit, which made boundaries hard to come by, but certainly having Alex’s innings to base ourselves around was brilliant.
“He didn’t seem to take any risks at any stage and that allowed guys around him to take their own risks and play in their own individual way.
“That is very important in a run-chase on a wicket like this. You are never really out of the game but Jos Buttler took the game away from South Africa. He was top class.”
Hales anchored the innings superbly, hitting eight fours in a 124-ball knock, but missed the opportunity to reach his second ODI ton when an attempted pull cannoned off his thigh pad and brushed his bat before looping up to Quinton de Kock.
“Halesy is pretty relaxed,” Morgan said.
“He knows he should have tucked it off his hip for one, he maybe got a little bit greedy and went to pull it, but he has been there before and knows hopefully next time he is in that position that he can kick on and get a hundred.
— Jos Buttler (@josbuttler) February 6, 2016
“But, ultimately, he is the making of us winning the game.”
On the day when he was signed by Indian Premier League franchise Mumbai Indians, Buttler displayed all of his talent to hurry England to victory with 22 balls and five wickets to spare.
The destructive right-hander smashed three sixes in consecutive Imran Tahir balls in the 46th over to end South Africa’s hopes of taking the game to the wire.
“He only got one of them and hit it up into the second tier,” Morgan said. “It was huge.
“He was bought in the auction this morning and they are getting an absolute bargain. They are getting a top, top quality player.”
England’s victory was built on an impressive bowling performance after AB de Villiers opted to bat, Reece Topley helping to restrict the Proteas to 262 for seven with career-best figures of 4-50.
“He was brilliant,” Morgan said. “We are very lucky that we have two exponents of swing bowling.
“And when it did swing this morning, I thought Will (David Willey) and Reece were outstanding. They were aggressive, looked to swing it both ways and caused a couple of issues early on which was brilliant.”
Morgan was delighted to see England move 2-0 ahead in the series with only three matches left to play.
“It means a hell of a lot,” Morgan added. “This game was certainly in the balance for the majority of the day and could have gone either way, until Jos came in, because it was tricky.
“They (tight games) show a lot of character within the group and what everyone is made of under pressure and if they come out the other side, how they react. Today, I’m very proud of how we handled it.”
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) February 6, 2016