England moved top of the T20 world rankings with a comprehensive 3-0 series whitewash over South Africa in Cape Town, yet Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton believe there is still more to come from Eoin Morgan’s men in white-ball cricket.
Chasing 192 for victory, Dawid Malan smashed an unbeaten 99 from 47 deliveries as the visitors wrapped up a nine-wicket win with 14 balls remaining – which sees the reigning World Cup holders move above Australia at the summit of T20 cricket.
Morgan’s side also occupy top spot in the ODI world rankings, and with the T20 World Cup on the horizon, Hussain insists England are nowhere near the finished article – an ominous prospect for their challengers.
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“The fact that Root can’t get in T20 cricket, and Malan cannot get in 50-over cricket – they are exceptionally strong at the moment.”
Atherton on England’s strength in depth
“They have hard to work hard for their wins and they have had bad periods in the games which they have had to react to,” he told Sky Sports.
“In the last game with the batting – they weren’t quite going to plan and then Malan goes through the gears and Morgan finishes it off.
“Here today with the ball, Morgan will be critical of them. They didn’t quite get it right, they were getting a bit too full towards the end. They didn’t nail their yorkers, they bowled a lot in the slot.
“There’s still plenty to work with – they are far away from being the finished article, but there is so much to work with. It is a great position to be in if you keep winning – then you can work from that position of strength.”
Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran have been rested for the impending one-day series, although Atherton highlighted the embarrassment of riches Morgan still has at his disposal.
“Joe Root is back – Sam Billings is there. They have let one or two go like Stokes, Archer and Sam Curran, because they want to prioritise T20 cricket,” Atherton admitted.
“Morgan wants to play his strongest team in T20, but that’s a measure of the strength of England’s white-ball cricket.
“The fact that Root can’t get in T20 cricket, and Malan cannot get in 50-over cricket – they are exceptionally strong at the moment.
“The likes of Mark Wood will be absolutely busting a gut to get out here and prove themselves and that is the great thing about having the strength that Morgan is talking about. It’s a great place to be in.”
Jos Buttler played an integral role in England’s World Cup triumph in 2019, and he is an equally vital component of their T20 aspirations.
Having shared an unbeaten partnership of 167 with Malan – the highest second-wicket stand in T20I history – he revealed that England were bidding to replicate the same formula that contributed to their one-day success.
“The clarity we had with the 50-over side and having a settled team that, bar the conditions, picked itself was a great place to be and that is what we are trying to build in the T20 side,” said the England wicket-keeper.
“It is mission accomplished to come here with our strongest side and put in three really good performances. It was really pleasing.
“A lot of us have played a lot of T20 cricket but to play as an XI a year out from the World Cup stands us in good stead.
“Jofra Archer was MVP in the IPL and with guys performing well in different T20 tournaments it gives the dressing room confidence and bodes really well for us as a side.
S Africa vs England
December 4, 2020, 10:30am
“It is also fantastic as a side to achieve [the No 1 ranking in the world] – it is a result of us playing really good cricket.”
However, their focus now turns to a three-game ODI series against Quinton de Kock’s side, which gets underway in Cape Town on Friday.
South Africa will be without their talismanic seamer Kagiso Rabada due to injury, and Hussain believes despite their T20 exploits, England will be in unforgiving mood.
“England won’t take a step back, because all those batsmen in the 50-over squad will know that there are people to come in if they don’t put in a performance,” added the former England captain.
“This is not a side that will suddenly say: ‘We will ease back’. England’s white-ball cricket is not easing back, and it’s going to be more hard work for South Africa.”
Watch the first one-day international between South Africa and England on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Friday.
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