Eoin Morgan: “We created chances and opportunities to win the game. It’s a huge credit to our bowling unit.” © Getty Images
The shot that shaves the crossbar, the ball that pops onto the same the side of the net as the person who hit it, the second place in the photo finish. There’s one thing in common with all of them: there is no celebration. Almosts are not a cause for joy in sport, but Eoin Morgan has taken some joy from England’s narrow defeat to South Africa in the first T20 at Newlands.
“We created chances and opportunities to win the game,” Morgan said. “It’s a huge credit to our bowling unit. We came very close to defending that score. Looking at it from that point of view, it’s a huge plus.”
England’s inexperienced attack kept them in the game until the last ball. The visitors could have even forced a tie and a Super Over had Reece Topley gathered the throw to run-out Kyle Abbott. With two needed off the last ball, South Africa’s batsmen were going to run no matter where and how the ball went. Chris Morris hit the ball to long-off and ran across for the second. South Africa were aided by a fumble from Topley even though Joe Root’s throw from the deep was accurate.
The 21-year-old left-arm seamer was furious with himself. He even slapped a stump and drop-kicked the ball to third man, but Morgan believes Topley will learn from it. By Sunday, when the second match takes place, Topley will be a year older and perhaps a little wiser. “Reece will handle it,” Morgan said. “He is obviously really disappointed at the moment, but he has huge character and resolve. That’s the reason he plays for us. He has a great amount of skill and he keeps delivering. We see a huge amount of potential in him.”
And if England find themselves in the same situation in the second T20, Morgan has said that he would be happy to toss the ball over to Topley again. “The biggest complement I can pay him at the minute is that if we played the same game tomorrow and he had to bowl the last over, I’d have every faith in him.”
Morgan would probably say the same about the rest of the England attack, which collectively kept puncturing South Africa and pumping up its own self-belief in the process. Chris Jordan, England’s leading wicket-taker from the first match, has also said that his side will draw confidence from their bowling display on Friday.
“If people look at it, people will say our batting is our strongest suit,” Jordan said. “To keep building on those kind of performances as a bowling unit and bringing games that close, we can only take confidence from it, going into the World Cup. We’re pretty confident within ourselves, as a bowling unit.”
Jordan plucked two of South Africa’s biggest names, AB de Villiers and David Miller, to add to the wicket of David Wiese. Even as he made inroads into South Africa’s batting line-up, Jordan was wary of the hosts’ T20 experience and expertise.
“We know how difficult it was to score on the wicket so we thought if we could make early inroads into their line-up we could bring the game quite close and we did,” he said. “I thought we had a good chance, but a lot of guys in this South Africa team play a lot of IPL cricket and are put those sort of situations often so it’s never done until it’s actually finished.”
South Africa stepped up and eventually found a way to seal the deal in a tight finish. “Successful teams get over the line even though at times they shouldn’t,” captain Faf du Plessis said. He was, however, quick to concede that his team should not have won the match and warned England that losing in pressure situations could come back to haunt them when the World T20 starts next month. South Africa will open their campaign against England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on March 18th.
“It becomes a habit when you can win games when the other team looks like they can win it. We take a lot of confidence from that,” du Plessis said. “For England, it’s been a long tour and something like that can knock the wind out of you because they should have won that game. For us, it’s mentally a step in the right direction. We want to try and put some scars mentally into England because we are going to see them in the first game of the World Cup.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo