Afternoon everyone. Well this is mouthwatering. The first game in the series wasn’t just a classic cliffhanger – it has teed up the remaining two by giving the underdog the lead. South Africa’s inexperienced side should never have been able to restrict England to five runs off the last seven balls when there were five wickets in hand, but they managed it by taking four of those wickets, with Lungi Ngidi’s offcutter proving to be the lethal weapon.
South Africa, though, have been 1-0 up twice against England this season, and they lost one of those series and drew the other. England should still have the wit and firepower to win this one, but they can’t afford to make mistakes now, and they made plenty in East London – starting with the decision to drop Dawid Malan, whose T20i record is unreal, for Joe Denly.
It looked very much like a punishment for not running a bye off the last ball after Malan had made a barnstorming hundred in Napier. Without anyone taking much notice, England may just have applied the most surprising penalty since Geoff Boycott was dropped for making a double hundred too slowly in 1967. It’s fair enough for Eoin Morgan to be angry with Malan, but having agreed to keep him in the squad, he should surely be picking him.
The only problem it will cause is an embarrassment of top-order batsmen. In Tests, England have an overcrowded middle order, but in T20s, they have too many players who are at their best in the top three – Roy, Bairstow, Buttler, Malan and Moeen, who is lethal in the PowerPlay for Worcestershire, yet often adrift at the death for England.
Today’s game is at Kingsmead in Durban, where the one-dayer was washed out a week ago, but the forecast is good apart from a large helping of humidity. Play starts at 6pm local time, 4pm in the UK, so join me 25 minutes before that for the toss and teams. Malan, for one, will be on tenterhooks.