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8th March 2016

South Africa throw a spanner into the works of England’s World T20 preparation

England Men can remain strong contenders for the tournament while England Women won their series in South Africa 2-1

England’s men were humbled by a rampant South African side who whitewashed the tourists in the T20 series 2-0. In the final regular tour Twenty20 International series before the World T20 they displayed the same aggressive style that has been the trademark of Eoin Morgan’s captaincy, but they were simply outplayed by stronger opposition. While elements of bad luck did affect both England matches, South Africa showed more consistency and played out both games superbly. England’s women fared much better, beating the Proteas 2-1 and cementing their place as a firm favourite to regain the title they won at Lord’s in 2009.

The men’s first match was certainly a more encouraging affair for Eoin Morgan’s team, with the game going down to the final ball. Although Reece Topley will certainly look back at his failure to run out Kyle Abbot and wonder what might have been, England as a whole performed well at Newlands in a game that was far from a thrashing. Taking South Africa to the edge of defeat looked like the continuation of a run of good T20 form that had seen Morgan’s men remain undefeated since May 2014.

In contrast, England were trounced at the Wanderers in match number 2 and must be bitterly disappointed that they let a game that was well within their grasp go away from them so quickly. Lancashire’s Jos Buttler showed his superior class in the game by smashing a 40-ball 54 and put England in a strong position to take the game away from the Proteas at 157-4. However, the loss of Morgan soon after wards—in the unluckiest of fashions—precipitated a spectacular batting collapse, and England finished on 171 all out just three overs after Morgan fell. South Africa then proceeded to successfully chase the score set by England in just 14.4 overs and with the loss of just one wicket.

As far as England’s chances of success at the World T20 goes, the men’s team is still strong and there are match winners there. Jos Buttler, Adil Rashid and skipper Eoin Morgan have proved themselves as one day specialists, with Buttler fetching £385,000 in the IPL auction and Rashid the top wicket-taker in the Big Bash League group stages. They have also proved that they can play to the death in big games, beating Australia by 6 runs in Cardiff last year and India by 3 runs the year before.

The coaching pedigree behind the England side is the best in the world, Head Coach Trevor Bayliss has won all the major franchise cricket trophies in the world. Big Bash and Champions League wins with the Sydney Sixers and an IPL with Kolkata Knight Riders—along with a World Cup final with Sri Lanka in 2011—shows the white-ball knowhow guiding the squad through the World T20 is second-to-none and gives this England team a little something extra that could be the difference that wins the title in India.

However, they must bounce back quickly in the warm up matches if they are to have the momentum to win what would be England’s first major championship since the 2010 World T20. Within two days, England have gone from being undefeated in two years to being on the end of a whitewash in the first series of the year, which will be a massive blow to their confidence. The scale of the collapse and the failure to adapt to a sudden change in game situation will be concerning, but it will feel well within the grasp of this squad.

On a more positive note, England’s women will go to India with much more confidence, having comfortably defeated South Africa 2-1. Sarah Taylor impressed with a third consecutive fifty and joined Charlotte Edwards in the exclusive club of women to score 2000 career runs in Twenty20 internationals, and is now behind Edwards in second on the all-time list of run scorers in the format. That meant that England consolidated their second place in the ICC team rankings and go into the tournament as the favourites to topple world number 1 side Australia in India.

Andrew Strauss’s new regime at the ECB will be tested for the first time since the Ashes, and consistency will be key to whether either England side can vindicate his approach of allowing both sides to play expansive and exciting cricket.

England Men start their campaign on March 16th against the West Indies and England Women against Bangladesh on March 17th.

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