Friday, 13 November 2009

South Africa 0, England 1. Thank you, Rain Gods.

AH the joy of a soaking great win for England to kick off the helter-skelter winter of war against South Africa. Did I say great? A one-run edge on Duckworth Lewis when the rain came down after 13 overs was just enough, with plenty of clues as to how the next nine games over 11 weeks between these two nations is going to go.
The Proteas needed 129 when the Rain Gods shouted a thundery "Game Over". They had 127-3. Ouch.
But this was a game which showed the world's top Test playing nation to expect a fight. This contest could keep us on the edge of our seats until the last day of the last Test back at the Wanderers on January 18 next year.
Middlesex's Irishman Eoin Morgan, currently a one-day specialist but surely destined for Test success in the future, produced a masterclass of improvisation and courageous hitting to put England in a winning position with a career-best 85 off 43 balls. Captain Paul Collingwood backed him up with an equally brave 57 off 32 and England got to 202-6 off their twenty overs.
Together they put on 93 in nine overs, slamming nine sixes with every shot in the book as England reached their highest ever Twenty20 total. Brilliant.
Loots Bosman, the late-blossoming opener (he's 32, from unfashionable Kimberley, look him up), got stuck in for the hosts with 58 off 31 balls and the Wanderers became the blood-thirsty bull-ring as South African captain Graeme Smith (41) joined him for a magnificent opening stand of 97 off eight-and-half overs which put England on the back foot.
We won't talk too much about the way England bowled early on (Tim Bresnan and Sajid Mahmood will be out in the nets the minute it dries out in the morning), but once Smith and Bosman were gone, England got their noses in front... and stayed there as the Highveld storm rolled in. England 1, South Africa 0. Collingwood, who took a magnificent catch to get rid of Bosman, the nearly-selected Test captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower will take that quite happily.
Smith, so critical of Strauss's reluctance to play the shortest form of the game yesterday, chose to focus on the imminent arrival of Kevin Pietersen to the fray afterwards.
He said: "Kevin brings a spice, an interesting facet to the tour. It's great to have him over here."
Do we believe him? Last time KP arrived to play his former homeland, the reception was very different. But Jonathan Trott, another ex-Japie, avoided confrontation and scored a quietly competent 33 to put England on their way tonight. With Pietersen nearly fit after his Achilles operation and claiming "I'm refreshed and ready to go", this could be quite a winter tour.
Collingwood purred: "We've shown we're a very good team when we play well. It was a great performance.
"The way Eoin Morgan played and executed his shots and the power hitting gave us a great total and we were putting them under pressure.
"We don't play a lot of international T20 so it's good to get experience."
Smith goes to Centurion on Sunday with a drawn Twenty20 series his best possible result but as he said: "It was a disappointing way to finish but a quality way to start the summer.
"Collingwood and Morgan took the game to us but we fought back nicely and there are lots of positives to take into Sunday.
"There's lots of cricket to be played this summer and if it's played like tonight then it's going to be exciting."

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