South Africa v England, 2nd T20, Johannesburg February 20, 2016

Test for Topley as SA eye further gains


Match facts

Sunday, February 21
Start time 2.30pm local (1230 GMT)

Big Picture

One day Reece Topley will be able to look back and laugh about it. He need only chat to his senior team-mate Stuart Broad - albeit no longer a regular in the short formats - for advice on how to get through a high-profile T20 blooper or two. Broad missed a crucial last-ball run-out on a much bigger stage, against Netherlands in the opening game of the 2009 World T20 at Lord's, as well as getting taken for six sixes by Yuvraj Singh in the previous tournament, but that did not prevent his rise to the top.

Topley's 13th England cap was not a lucky one and he will probably have been aged by the experience. Appropriately, when he plays his next game he will be a year older. His 22nd birthday is on Sunday and he would love to help level the series as a gift to finish the tour. There has been little to separate England and South Africa over the last two months but the hosts now lead 5-4 head-to-head over the Tests, ODIs and T20s, with one more to play.

A tie in Cape Town would probably have been a more fitting result, after England's bowlers put the squeeze on so impressively. Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes produced the best displays of their fledgling T20 international careers but a second successive Super Over finish was not to be after Topley's handling error. It is likely to be more of a batsmen's game at altitude in the Bullring as the teams lock horns for the final time.

Faf du Plessis had talked about preparation for the upcoming World T20 being more important than winning against England (and Australia, who visit next month) but, after Chris Morris again conjured up victory from inside a seemingly locked box, he was quick to change tack. "We want to try and put some scars mentally into England," he said, with their group meeting in Mumbai in mind. South Africa have experienced a season of trauma but they now feel in a position to inflict pain on others.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa: WWWLW
England: LWWWW

In the spotlight

Morris had them dancing in the aisles but South Africa's victory was based around the infectious moves of Imran Tahir. The scuttling leggie will be key to his team's World T20 chances - the 4 for 21 he took on Friday equaled his previous best, which came during the last tournament in Bangladesh - and he is bound to give England another searching workout against spin. The question is, how many wickets will his son predict this time?

Reece Topley first came to fame when he was hit on the head by a Kevin Pietersen drive while bowling at him in the nets as a 15-year-old. He has to bounce back again after conceding 15 off the final over at Newlands and then dropping the ball with a run-out begging. Topley wears his heart on his sleeve - among the tattoos - and he was ticked off by the ICC for smashing the stumps afterwards. His response will be instructive.

Team news

Du Plessis hinted at changes and it could be that Farhaan Behardien comes into the middle order for Rilee Rossouw. Aaron Phangiso's left-arm spin is likely to be required in India but it is hard to see who he would displace in Johannesburg.

South Africa (possible) 1 AB de Villiers (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 JP Duminy, 5 Rilee Rossouw/Farhaan Behardien, 6 David Miller, 7 David Wiese, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Kyle Abbott, 11 Imran Tahir

Eoin Morgan has been set on England playing their best XI, so it seems likely the same group of players will be asked to improve on their Cape Town display with the bat and in the field.

England (possible) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 David Willey, 11 Reece Topley

Pitch and conditions

The ODI in Johannesburg provided another dramatic finish, the surface offering something for the bowlers even as the thin atmosphere encouraged Morris to clear the ropes. The ball tends to fly in T20s at the Bullring, scene of the first international hundred and the highest run chase, and a 30C forecast should ensure the final match of England's tour is a sizzler.

Stats and trivia

  • The highest successful T20 chase came just over a year ago at the Wanderers, as West Indies overhauled South Africa's 231 with four balls to spare.
  • England's one previous T20 in Johannesburg ended in a one-run Duckworth-Lewis win over South Africa.
  • More T20 hundreds have been made in defeat at this ground than any other - Chris Gayle scored 117 in the opening match of the 2007 World T20 and du Plessis made 119 against West Indies last year.
  • Morgan is set to equal Broad as England's most-capped player in the format, while Alex Hales needs 39 runs to overtake Kevin Pietersen as England's second-leading run-scorer.


"We'll take a lot of confidence from that. We didn't play as well as we can but still got across that line - which is a huge credit to us."
Faf du Plessis was happy to get the job done in Cape Town

"We brought the game really close, and as a bowling unit we're pretty confident within ourselves. We were a bit under par with the bat, but we'll look to put that right on Sunday."
Chris Jordan hopes England can still make amends

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ESPN on February 21, 2016, 14:09 GMT

    I have to say it Rubbish from England 7 wickets lost for not many runs in a couple of overs

  • Devinderpal Singh on February 21, 2016, 13:08 GMT

    @lmaotsetung: What is actually funny is how, in a preview for a T20I, you talk up an incredibly awful limited-overs bowlers in Broad, and brush off his LACK OF SKILL by talking about the format at the opposite end of the spectrum, Test cricket. The funny thing is that Yuvraj has a World T20 winners medal, and a World Cup winners medal, having contributed in BOTH tournaments, and in terms of the latter, he won 4 Man of the Match awards in successive World Cup matches, and went on, unsurprisingly, to win the Man of the Series award for the World Cup too. Meanwhile, Broad can't get into England's limited-overs team, without being fast-tracked.

    When there is a relevant Test preview, talk about Test cricket and Broad...In this T20I preview, your references to Tests merely perpetuate the idea that Test cricket can only be the standard to judge a player. You, and like-minded people, are wrong as you miss the point completely.

  • Devinderpal Singh on February 21, 2016, 13:01 GMT

    @Gardner: "but that did not prevent his (Broad's) rise to the top". Incorrect. Broad failed in limited-overs cricket in those years, and years late, at his supposed best, he is still a failure in limited-overs cricket. Success in Test cricket is no longer the pinnacle; achieving success across formats is, so you are wrong.

    Still...there is so much attention on Topley's gathering of the ball on the 120th delivery, but no focus on Root's awful throw on the 119th delivery, both of which prevented a run-out chance. I wonder why...

  • John on February 21, 2016, 10:23 GMT

    Topley will not be a year older. His age will be a year greater, which is not the same thing.

  • Dennis on February 21, 2016, 8:17 GMT

    If you look at this SA bowling line-up, it's clearly their second string attack. England need to be wary about only Rabada and Tahir. Strategy should be to see off their first spells and attack them for the next while Abbot, Morris and Wiese can be taken for plenty if the attack is planned properly. God help England when Steyn, Morkel and QDK return. Suddenly the bowling looks formidable and batting like sledge hammers with no weak links. England should also rest Ali for this game given the pitch and he's due too. Root can be asked to pitch in his absence with off spins. If England loses Roy or Hales early, Willey will be a best bet to be sent as pinch hitter rather than wasting him for later. Also, Vince should come in at 4 and Buttler at 5. while Morgan and Stokes should come to in to bat from 15th over onwards. This way, we have hard hitting at the top, consolidation in the middle in case of collapse and let it rip at the end. Finally, the fielders should back the bowlers for once.

  • paul on February 21, 2016, 4:36 GMT

    As much as I rate Topley, both he and Willey shouldn't be bowling at the death. Jordan at the death has actually done ok, as much as I don't think he should be there, and Plunkett would be a fantastic death bowler as well. Its a clear weakness for this England team unless some changes are made

  • blahblah1234567_9F5B2346-4AB1-446E-A1A0-77E2268CE43B on February 21, 2016, 3:06 GMT

    people seriously need to stop saying that sa didn't win but England gave it away. yes they bowled very good and so did south Africa to limit them. sa batted as poorly as England some might say worse some might say better but in the end the difference was sa bowled better at death, morris handled the pressure very well and their fielding was better. Give the credit where it is deserved if England can't take these simple chances they don't deserve to overshadow the winning team.

  • Jeff on February 21, 2016, 1:07 GMT

    Willey needs to bat above Rashid, Jordan, and the terrible Moeen Ali. He is a recognised opener, not a number ten.

  • Phil on February 21, 2016, 0:24 GMT

    Time to move David Willey up above Jordan and Rashid - he's a far more accomplished batsman than either of them and is forever being left to face an over or less totally wasting his batting skills. Looking forward to him opening for Yorks with Travis Head!

  • John on February 20, 2016, 23:49 GMT

    India fans love to bring up Yuvi's 6 x 6 off Stuart broad from time to time but the funny thing is that the latter is now the #1 Test bowler and a future England great while the former is merely and also ran who has failed to lived up to his talent.

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