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South Africa v England, 2nd T20I, Paarl

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Eoin Morgan credited England’s experience of holding their nerve in close games as a key factor behind their four-wicket win in Paarl.

For the second game in succession, England clinched a last-over victory after South Africa had appeared to be in the stronger position deep into the run-chase. It gives them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

But although it looked in both games as if England were falling behind their required run-rate, Morgan suggested there were deep reserves of confidence in the dressing room that enabled them to sustain belief even under pressure.

While England have rarely played anything like a full-strength T20 side since the 2016 T20 World Cup, they have enjoyed great success in 50-over cricket utilising a squad with the same nucleus of players. Over the last four or five years, they went to No. 1 in the ODI rankings before sealing their legacy “by the barest of margins” in the 50-over World Cup final.

At the same time, more of their players have gained experience in the top T20 leagues – there were 10 England-qualified players at this year’s IPL – providing them with greater familiarity of the pressures that come with playing on the biggest stages.

“The experience helps,” Morgan told Sky Sports. “Knowing how to win is one thing, but having that experience in our playing XI helps massively. Having been there before, we can hold our nerve.

“We weren’t up with the run-rate but, with a long batting line-up and a short boundary, you’re only one over or two maximums away [from catching up] the whole time. We have guys who can hit boundaries down the order.”

Dawid Malan made a similar point. Malan claimed the player of the match award for his well-paced half-century in a relatively low-scoring match and afterwards expressed the view that England’s experience in white-ball cricket should bode well for their T20 World Cup campaign in India next year.

“The core of the team has played together for the last five years,” Malan said. “They won that World Cup, they have experience of playing white-ball cricket, they play in the IPL and other big tournaments. They’re used to playing on the big stage and getting over the line. That’s a great habit to have as a team.

“There are so many match-winners in that side. If you look at the batting line-up, everyone can win you a game.”

On this occasion – as so often in his recent rise to the No,1 T20I ranking – it was Malan who won the contest, largely by keeping faith in his ability to catch up later in the innings after a tricky start to England’s run-chase, particularly against the wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi. With five overs remaining, he had made 25 from 30 balls but then turned up the tempo to crack 30 from his final 10.

“I found it really hard,” Malan said. “Especially against the spinners. You’re not used to them bowling that slowly in T20 cricket and, with a big boundary to one side and the wind, it wasn’t really an option to take them on.

“But with the short boundary on one side, you back yourself to be able to catch up. You’re always one over from catching up.

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“The core of the team that played in the 50-over World Cup are well-versed in winning. If we can keep winning these tight games, it will put us in good stead ahead of the T20 World Cup.”

The match also represented something of a happy homecoming for Malan. While he was born in Surrey, he was brought up and schooled in Paarl. He made his debut in first-class and List A cricket on this very ground in 2006 and his parents still live in the area.

“I made my first-class debut here,” he said, “so it’s nice to come home and win a game for England.

“Funnily enough, when I was fielding on one side of the ground, my high school coach was one of the guys throwing the ball back. And there was a guy the stands who helps me out by throwing me balls when I come back to South Africa and visit my parents. So there were two guys who have played quite a big role in my cricket at the ground in some capacity.

“It would have been fantastic to get a crowd in. And it would have been nice to have my parents here.”

Both Morgan and Malan also praised England’s bowlers who restricted South Africa to a total Morgan described as “a long way under par”.

“Our bowlers set that game up for us,” Malan said. “And because they set it up, we could take a bit of time.”

“Everyone in the changing room will applaud the bowling unit which helped keep South Africa to a total that was a long way under par,” Morgan said. “Everyone contributed and the wickets were shared around. The bowlers did an excellent job.”



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IPL 2021 – Nathan Coulter-Nile expected his release from Mumbai Indians: ‘They paid overs for me’

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He is hopeful of returning to IPL but is not optimistic about returning to the Australia T20 side

Melbourne Stars fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile was expecting to get released from his IPL franchise Mumbai Indians but the news could not have come at a worse moment.

Coulter-Nile, 33, was on his return to the BBL on Thursday night after missing the last three weeks with a calf injury. He took 3 for 12 from his first 15 balls to put the Stars in a commanding position with the Renegades needing 62 to win from 27 balls.

But he gave up three sixes and two fours in his last eight balls of the game, including 19 runs from the 19th over the match, as the Renegades won with two balls to spare.

Adding salt to the wound, Coulter-Nile found out he had been released from the IPL champions the moment he turned his phone on.

“Yep, that was good,” Coulter-Nile said. “Just got smacked in the 19th [over], get off the field and get told I’m being flicked, get the email.”

Despite the timing, he was not surprised even after he had played in Mumbai’s title, taking 2 for 29 in the IPL final win over Delhi Capitals including the wickets of Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel.



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BBL 2020-21 – Action tweak the key to Andrew Tye’s new found speed

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“It was a bit challenging…felt like I was bowling three or four different balls at times”

Perth Scorchers quick Andrew Tye credits Western Australia and Scorchers bowling Matt Mason as the architect behind an action change that has helped him a yard of pace this season.

Tye, 34, has raised eyebrows as the speed gun has regularly clocked 140kph-plus during his spells for Australia in the T20I series against India and he has even broken the 150kph-mark during the BBL for Scorchers.

Despite losing his domestic contract with Western Australia last summer, Tye was given the opportunity to train with their squad last winter as he prepared for Australia’s limited-overs tour of England and the IPL.

It allowed Tye to work one-on-one with Mason, who has been a key figure in helping Cameron Green and Jason Behrendorff remodel their actions to avoid further back problems.

With Tye, who was coming off elbow surgery last year, Mason challenged him to find an extra yard of pace through a tweak to his load up to create a wider and faster arm arc that would make his stock ball quicker and his well-known slower balls more effective.



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AUS vs SA 2021-22 – ‘Australia’s tour at this stage is going ahead’

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Details set to “be announced in a week or so” but arrangements conditional on the “changing” Covid-19 pandemic

Cricket South Africa is confident Australia’s visit for three Tests will go ahead, with details set to “be finalised and announced in a week or so”, according to acting CEO Pholetsi Moseki.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the full series will be played on the Highveld, with matches divided between SuperSport Park and the Wanderers, and the Irene Country Club will be used as the teams’ biosecure base, as was the case for the Sri Lanka series over the festive period. While dates are yet to be confirmed, former Australia fast bowler Ryan Harris, speaking on SEN radio last week, suggested that the Australian team will depart their shores on February 24, with the Tests to start in early March. All these arrangements are conditional on the ever-changing situation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Australia’s tour at this stage is going ahead. I had a chat with the chair of Cricket Australia about a week ago and we agreed that the tour is going to go ahead,” Judge Zak Yacoob, chairperson of CSA’s interim board, said. “We agreed that we are going to ensure that our facilities are as good as possible, as good as necessary. We also agreed we learn every day but that is not on the basis that we did anything wrong when England was here because you know that none of the English were affected. That’s the bottom line. They all flew back and that was fine.

“But the learning in relation to this virus changes all the time and as it changes things must change. We agreed that as professionals neither he [CA’s chair] nor I know anything about this. We have doctors, we have experts, who lead us through this process and what we have adopted is an approach that as long as the experts on both sides, true professionals in relation to coronavirus and health, agree that the facilities are fine, we go on the basis that the facilities are fine. So far there is between the chair of CA and myself no doubt that the series will go ahead, but we have agreed also that the coronavirus is so changing, that we cannot predict what will happen. If things suddenly go down for the worse and we really can’t do it and our experts say we can’t do it and the other experts say we can’t do it, we won’t be able to.”

South Africa have already hosted two international series this summer, first against England, who were based in Cape Town, and then against Sri Lanka, who were in Johannesburg. England were due to play three T20s and three ODIs but left without playing the 50-over matches after concerns over the integrity of the biosecure environment. Three South African players and two hotel staff tested positive for Covid-19 over the course of the three T20s, as did two England players before the ODIs, though those tests were later proved to be false positives, while both teams were allowed out to play golf. CSA tightened protocols ahead of the Sri Lanka series, with neither team allowed to leave the base except to go to the ground, and that series took place without incident.

Given the success of the Sri Lanka series, that there are two Test venues on the Highveld and that it is more affordable for CSA to create a biobubble at the Irene Country Club than Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel (where the players were housed for the England series), the Australia Tests are more than likely to take place in upcountry rather than at any of the coastal venues.

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South Africa 'desperately' need teams to tour

South Africa ‘desperately’ need teams to tour

The only factor that could cause concern over hosting the series in the Gauteng province is the rising number of Covid-19 infections. South Africa are deep into the second wave of the pandemic and daily case numbers range between 10,000 and 20,000. The Gauteng province, where many festive holiday-makers have returned, is expected to see a continued rise in cases and there is concern that the healthcare system could be overwhelmed. Restrictions are in place countrywide, which include a 9pm-to-6am curfew and a ban on alcohol sales, but interprovincial and international travel by air is allowed. Despite that, several airlines, including Emirates and KLM, have temporarily suspended flights to and from South Africa.

In all likelihood, the Australian team will have to arrive by charter flight, but will not need to enter a strict quarantine on arrival. It is likely they will train in small groups at first and as a squad within a few days, as Sri Lanka did. CA has been in touch with the staff at the Irene Country Club to request extra facilities – such as a makeshift gym – and it is understood further negotiations concern the logistics around players’ families joining them on the tour.

CSA is expected to try and be as accommodating as possible to Australia given the financial importance of the tour. After losing USD 1.5 million from the postponed England ODIs, the Australia tour is the last opportunity for CSA to earn money this summer, and could also impact the negotiations for their new broadcast deal, which will be finalised in April. The deal is expected to be worth less than the previous one due to both the economic climate and the team’s declining fortunes, but a more competitive South African side that plays against top opposition regularly could bump up the value.

Australia, too, will be keen to play. After losing to India at home, they need to win two Tests in South Africa and draw the third in order to leapfrog New Zealand on the World Test Championship table. Australia have only lost one series in South Africa since readmission, in the 2017-18 summer. They have returned to play ODIs in the country since then and were whitewashed 3-0 last March, but this will be the first time their Test team plays in South Africa since the ball-tampering scandal.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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