England T20 decider against South Africa ideal preparation for World Cup pressure as Buttler aims for statement

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Frustration: Jos Buttler is still searching for his first big performance as England’s white-ball captain (Getty Images)
Frustration: Jos Buttler is still searching for his first big performance as England’s white-ball captain (Getty Images)

On Sunday, England’s home white-ball summer finishes where it started, the Ageas Bowl. They are still searching for a first series win since Eoin Morgan’s retirement, and to finish a patchy set of performances with positivity.

After a 58-run defeat here in Cardiff last night, they face a decider in the T20 series against South Africa, which represents perfect preparation for the autumn’s World Cup.

Captain Jos Buttler and his key bowler Chris Jordan agreed that the “pressure” of a “final” scenario would be good for England.

“The more we play those types of games, the more we find out about ourselves, both individually and as a unit,” said Jordan. “Especially for the World Cup where every game is pretty much a must win game. We are ­definitely looking forward to the challenge.”

Either way, England will finish with more white-ball defeats than wins in the intense programme that has brought 12 games in 25 days, and seldom allowed pause for thought or time to train. Their form has been inconsistent in both formats, with 2-1 defeats in each to India, then a 1-1 draw in the ODIs against South Africa due to rain. To fail to take any of the four series would be a significant disappointment.

Buttler, who is still looking for a statement display with the bat in a side that has been bowled out eight times this month, believes they are still finding their feet.

“You want to win every series that you play,” he said. “We haven’t won a series yet this summer, and that’s something we’re not accustomed to as a group. We’ve done well in the last few years.

“But this is a start of a new cycle of a team. A few changes — a captain and a coach, and I feel like that’s showing a little bit. We’re still working ourselves out and gelling as a group and we need to do that quickly. Winning a series would be great for that and pulling people together.”

Surrey bowler Reece Topley impressed for England again in Cardiff on Thursday (AFP via Getty Images)
Surrey bowler Reece Topley impressed for England again in Cardiff on Thursday (AFP via Getty Images)

There have been areas of that team that have grown this month, with Reece Topley having another strong game last night, while Jordan has made telling contributions at the death in both games this week.

His three-run 18th over at Bristol on Wednesday sealed England’s victory, while going for just four in the 20th last night gave the batters a chance they could not grasp. Jordan says he feels quicker – regularly clocking 90mph – and a doubling down on the use of the yorker at the death have helped. Richard Gleeson has brought another option, although he has found South Africa trickier opponents than India and looks more at home on big grounds.

Jason Roy has struggled for timing and cut a disconsolate, frustrated figure, perhaps knowing that he is running out of chances

Jason Roy remains a significant concern. He received the strongest backing from Buttler – who said he would remind the opener that opponents are “scared to bowl to him” – and Jordan, who said his team-mates had his back “250 per cent”.

While his ODIs were beneath his usual standards but merely middling, his T20 returns have been ugly: 59 runs from 80 balls. This week, he has followed eight from 15 in Bristol with 20 from 22 in Cardiff. Roy has struggled for timing and cut a disconsolate, frustrated figure, perhaps knowing that he is running out of chances.

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