Dismal England left with plenty of ponder after T20 series defeat against South Africa

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

England finished their first white-ball summer under Jos Buttler and Matthew Mott without winning a series. The last of their four series saw them thrashed by 90 runs in a T20 decider against South Africa at the Ageas Bowl.

After a 2-1 defeat in each format against India, followed by a rain-affected 1-1 draw in the ODIs against South Africa, England were left with just one series to pinch a positive result.

They started with what captain Buttler felt was an excellent all-round performance in Bristol, before two drab defeats in Cardiff and Southampton. In both games, they were outplayed in all three facets, and they saved the worst performance until last. The vast margin was the joint-largest home defeat by runs in T20s.

It means that, with a World Cup looming, they have failed to win a home white-ball series for the first time since 2013.

They have plenty to consider before they pick their T20 World Cup squad, not least the form of Jason Roy, who failed to get going in England’s pursuit of 192. He made 17 from 18 balls – with his only boundary coming from overthrows – which takes his tally in T20s this summer to 78 runs from 96 balls. Roy at his best is so important to England, but he is way off the pace.

England have seven matches in Pakistan in two months’ time to iron out some of their issues, but those conditions are far removed from Australia, where the World Cup takes place, and a couple of all-format stars are certain to be rested.

The performance in the decider was pretty limp. On a good batting surface with vast boundaries, Buttler chose to chase again, which England have not won a game doing this summer. With the ball, they failed to follow up an excellent start, and their chase was very flat. At one stage, they went more than eight overs without a boundary.

England have had a poor summer with the ball but, in that department, are at least under strength. That makes the batting perhaps more worrying, because the likes of Roy, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone have been quiet. So has Buttler, who was the first man to fall again here, with his and Roy’s partnership malfunctioning.

It was South Africa’s spinners who did much of the damage on a turning surface. Keshav Maharaj had Buttler caught at short third man the ball after he edged past him, Aiden Markram had Moeen Ali brilliantly taken by the diving Tristan. Stubbs in the covers, then Tabraiz Shamsi gutted the lower half of the order to finish with career-best figures of five for 24. Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran were caught in the deep, then David Willey was bowled first ball. He dismissed Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid too, but by then it was far too late.

Jonny Bairstow got stuck in, but was not fluent as things crumbled around him, and eventually was last man out to Maharaj.

Willey, into the team for Richard Gleeson, had given England the perfect start. With the game’s third ball, he forced Quinton de Kock to chop on, and went on to complete a wicket maiden. At its end, England reviewed an lbw against the dangerous Rilee Rossouw that was just going over thee stumps.

Rossouw put in a powerful performance to take South Africa to 53 for one in the powerplay. He was particularly brutal to Jordan’s sixth over, which was flayed for four boundaries.

Buttler brought Moeen on to bowl at Rossouw, and the match-up immediately paid dividends. It was a beautiful ball that fizzed passed his outside edge and into off-stump, but England’s desire for match-ups meant he was not seen again, due to South Africa’s right handers. Given the performance of South Africa’s spinners, that did seem strange.

Rossouw’s departure slowed the game down. Either side of a rain delay, with Adil Rashid twirling away and Curran bowling short, South Africa went six overs without a boundary, but Reeza Hendricks and the recalled Markram also barely allowed England a dot ball.

The shackles were broken when Jordan returned, and a string of boundaries followed. Hendricks moved to his third fifty of the series, from 42 balls, but by the time he was dismissed slogging Jordan, he had raced to 70 from 50.

Out strode David Miller, who crunched his first two balls through backward square for four and his third went to the fence, too. Markram responded with a spectacular pair of his own off Reece Topley, reverse-scooped, and flicked behind squad. It was a tougher day for Topley, England’s white-ball player of the summer, with his four overs sent for 46. Jordan also took tap, conceding 52.

It took until the 19th over, Jordan’s last, for a six to be hit, a biggie from Miller, but South Africa had already built a formidable score. Miller and Tristan Stubbs fell in the last over, from Willey, who finished with three for 25, which helped limit the damage. Alas 192 was far too much.

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