South Africa v England, 1st T20I, Cape Town February 20, 2016

Nearly defending 134 a 'huge plus' - Eoin Morgan


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 compliment 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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on February 21, 2016, 12:07 GMT

    @JG2704 - du Plessis comments (for me) are a nonsense because they (SA) should have been able to knock off 135 easily. Added to which we were one fumbled return from a super over and one misjudged catch from winning. To try and turn all that into "We want to put some scars mentally into England etc etc" is pushing it a bit. We could do with winning the toss today - I think we've lost 5 in a row...

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:34 GMT

    @YORKSHIRE-86 - clueless as ever

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:30 GMT

    @ROHAN024 ON FEBRUARY 21, 2016, 8:35 GMT - Don't think Morgan had any input in the KP decision

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:28 GMT

    @BLAHBLAH1234567 ON FEBRUARY 21, 2016, 3:15 GMT - Yes he maybe should focus on negatives as well and maybe he does that behind closed doors or maybe he feels enough folk on here do it for him , but they had actually won 6 in a row in this format before the last game so maybe it's not quite as flawed as you make out?

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:24 GMT

    @HUSNAJ - Before that over Topley was going at 6RPO. It's very easy to say "I'd have done this or that" but the facts are that while Jordan and Stokes did very well yesterday and the latter seems to be an improved SF bowler , that both could have gone for the same runs in the last over and unless you're a proven death bowler (which I'm not sure we have) then I'd have continued bowling the guys when they have a rhythm etc. Anyone who has watched Jordan in SF has seen that while he has the ability to bowl demon yorkers he also has it in him to bowl a number of freebies in a row inc wides. Topley missed his length against the most destructive/in form late order batsman from both sides and that's what happens. FYI (albeit from only 3 games) Topley's stats are better than both Jordan and Stokes. Before that over his ER would have been 1RPO better than Jordan's and 1.5 better than Stokes. Also a low full toss is often harder to get away than any sort of length ball

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:21 GMT

    @POPEGREGORYIX ON FEBRUARY 20, 2016, 19:32 GMT - I think the main thing is that this is a T20 game and far more established bowlers that Topley have gone for runs at the death and you'd have probably backed him vs any lower/middle order batsman than Morris. Comms re him not playing for England again because of 1 over are just ridiculous although predictable on here. Surely every bowler - esp one who has just turned 22 - has it in them to learn and develop their game with experience. Re Faf comms - not sure what you're referring to but they look fair enough to me , unless you're thinking that he's coming across that SA are a successful side. I think in any sport successful sides will find a way to get results when not playing well. Cheers

  • Rohan on February 21, 2016, 8:35 GMT

    Eoin Morgan instead of talking about Kevin Peterson's future and that he won't let him play again for England would do better off talking about his own game and justifying why exactly is he getting a chance to play for England. A total of 75 runs in his last 6 matches, doesn't exactly justify his own place in the team, forget about commenting about others.

  • blahblah1234567_9F5B2346-4AB1-446E-A1A0-77E2268CE43B on February 21, 2016, 3:15 GMT

    maybe if u focus on the negatives and fix them u could actually win a game

  • Jeff on February 21, 2016, 1:18 GMT

    @peteroxinford - but you have a point, we are a batsmen light and have too many bowlers. 5 out and out specialist batsmen, keeper, then 5 allrounders/bowlers is a much more balanced lineup than 4 batsmen, keeper and 6 bowlers/allrounders. In T20 a bowler need only bowl 4 overs and the batsmen only have to bat 20, so the need for 'extra bowling options' and to 'bat deep' is foolish. If your top six cant regularly bat out 20 overs, pick a top six that can. Taylor or Bairstow for Jordan and Pietersen for Roy strengthens the team vastly - imagine Hales, Willey, Pietersen, Root, Morgan, Taylor/Bairstow, Buttler (flexible), Stokes, Rashid, Topley, Ali - and yes I would have Ali at 11, he is batting that terribly. 5 bowlers, which is how many you need, with Root or KP as the emergency option. And no, not picking your best batsmen because you have 'moved on' is unprofessional, unacceptable, against the spirit of cricket, and should result in a gross misconduct charge against Strauss and co.

  • Peter on February 20, 2016, 19:32 GMT

    @JG2704 - Spot on. And I agree with you - especially - about Dawson. If he's going to the WC T20 he HAS to be involved here. Getting selectors to think in a joined up line is beyond the wit of man it'd appear. To be fair to Topley (and I agree about using the rather sticky pitch rather than trying to hit the blockhole) he's got to bowl to his field - which I'm sure he agreed with Morgan - so he needed to bowl full because fine leg was up. The result was two low full tosses... Frankly though - and as Jordan pointed out in his interview - the bowlers nearly won it for us - the batters were below par. Shame because we'd won 6 T20s in a row up til then and been brilliant in really tight finishes in the UAE. Which make du Plessis's comments a nonsense.

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