TELFORD VICE, Newlands
TWICE on England’s tour of SA, Chris Morris has walked to the wicket as the patron saint of a lost cause. Twice, he has won the match.
Last Friday, his 62 blasted SA to an unlikely victory in the fourth one-day international at the Wanderers.
This Friday, Morris’ unbeaten 17 off seven balls took SA home by three wickets in a last-ball thriller of a first T20 at Newlands.
“That was a Monopoly get-out-of-jail card,” Faf du Plessis admitted. “That’s what successful teams do: they get over the line even when they shouldn’t.”
It isn’t often that both teams choke in the same match, but it’s difficult to avoid that conclusion.
First, SA lost four wickets for 21 runs and allowed the required runrate to leap to 15 in pursuit of an eminently gettable target of 135. Then England found a way to concede those 15 runs in the last over.
But Morris might not have delivered another superhero innings where it not for clumsy fielding at the non-striker’s end.
Reece Topley bowled that final over. Kyle Abbott faced the first ball and, sensibly, took a single to mid-off.
That put Morris on strike, and he made a low full toss disappear through the covers for four. Then he sent another full toss arching into the stands beyond long-on for six.
Three balls left … four runs needed …
A dot ball was followed by two runs hit down the ground.
Last ball … two needed …
Topley bowled, Morris swung hard, sent the ball searing towards extra cover – and set off like a mad thing with Abbott doing the same from the other end.
One run. Would they come back for the second? Stupid question.
Joe Root’s throw from the deep to the non-striker’s end was straight, true, and well in time. All Topley had to do was get himself behind the stumps and take off the bails.
Topley was indeed behind the stumps. The ball did indeed arrive when Abbott was still well short of his ground – but Topley missed his swipe at the stumps and Abbott scampered home.
All Topley hit was the air that was suddenly rudely alive with the roars of a crowd who thought they were about to see their team beaten.
Topley’s response was to rip one of the stumps out of the ground. Then he launched the ball into the outfield by way of his boot.
No such drama had seemed likely while Imran Tahir was busy mowing down English batsmen and matching his career-best figures of 4/21 in four masterful overs.
Joss Buttler’s 32 not out was the best of England’s skittish batting in an innings in which no partnership reached 40.
As England captain Eoin Morgan said, “No bowler let himself down; we lost it with the bat.”
But, had the game swung the other way, the same could have been said of SA’s batting, what with Du Plessis’ 25 their top score.
“Neither team played their best cricket tonight, both of them made tactical errors,” Du Plessis said.
SA needed someone to take control at the crease, but Du Plessis was the home side’s only batsman to face as many as 30 balls.
Such a brittle batting display will worry SA as they look to prepare themselves for the World T20 in India next month.
They will have a chance to redeem themselves in the second and last game of the series at the Wanderers on Sunday.