The future is looking extremely bright for English cricket. A matter of weeks after crashing out of the ICC Champions Trophy at the semi-final stage, an experimental England side claimed a 19-run win to seal a T20 series win over South Africa.
South Africa went from abject in the first T20 to excellent in the second; in the third they were a mix of the two and it enabled England to claim the win in Cardiff.
England handed a debut to Dawid Malan and whoever made the call can feel extremely pleased with themselves, as the Middlesex batsman produced an innings of out of the top drawer. Malan sized up the South Africa attack and felt it was his for the taking, and he did so in stunning fashion with what proved to be a match-defining 78 from 44 balls. He hit 12 fours and two sixes to lead England to 181 for 8 from their 20 overs.
South Africa have firepower in their batting ranks, but England have great options in their bowling armoury and Jos Buttler – taking over the captaincy as Eoin Morgan elected to step down in order to give youth a chance – shuffled his pack superbly. Tom Curran, Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett made early inroads to leave South Africa teetering at 59 for 3, but they still had AB De Villiers at the crease.
In his final match on tour – De Villiers will not be taking part in the Test series – he looked primed to take his side over the line as he climbed into Mason Crane. He started the 11th over by taking the leg spinner for a four and two sixes. Crane was not fazed, he continued to give the ball air and it reaped its reward as De Villiers – spying the boundary again – did not make full contact with a sweep and picked out Alex Hales on the square leg boundary.
It sparked exuberant celebrations from Crane and England, who knew the importance of the wicket. Without their star man at the crease, South Africa’s chase floundered and they ended the game 19 runs short of their target.
The focus will now shift to the Test arena, with the first match of the series getting underway at Lord’s on July 6th.
With De Villiers going home, and England drafting in the likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes the home side will be overwhelming favourites for success.