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South Africa vs England: Sense of danger excites Eoin Morgan as journey to World Cup begins

Will Macpherson
·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Yesterday, Jason Roy described England's array of batting options as "frightening".

Today, Eoin Morgan said their training sessions in South Africa, ahead of the three-match T20 series that begins tomorrow, are "dangerous", with white balls raining down from the skies over Table Mountain.

The series represents new beginnings for an established group of players and staying safe is not the only challenge for Morgan and his men.

It is England's first overseas action since the pandemic struck, which has brought its customary issues: a larger touring party, no fans, and a pair of positive tests for South Africa. Both unidentified players will be unavailable tomorrow.

For Morgan this series is the start, in earnest, of the push towards the T20 World Cup in India in 11 months' time. Another edition of that tournament — which has not taken place since spring 2016, remarkably — will follow in Australia a year later in the reconfigured Covid calendar.

It is a very long time since England had their strongest squad available in T20 cricket. Until the summer of 2019, ODIs were the limited-overs priority. No longer, as England look to become the first team to hold both trophies at once. For England, this is an unprecedented time of T20 focus. There are 18 games scheduled before the tournament, including five slated to be in India in March. None can be wasted.

Morgan says England are some way from knowing their best team or, indeed, the best order and combination of their lavish batting talents.

"Training in the past couple of days has been very exciting but also very dangerous," he said. "You look down the order of potential XIs we could put out: sometimes all 11 can hit sixes, sometimes the top 10. You look at the batting order and it is very, very exciting.

"We need to figure out who our best six or seven batsmen are, then the challenge is getting them in roles that best suits them and the team and gives us the best chance of winning."

Part of the challenge is that everyone bar the captain wants to open. Roy and Jos Buttler are likely to get first shot at that in an order also boasting T20 world No1 Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow and recent IPL centurion (yes, opening) Ben Stokes. Joe Root, Sam Billings and Tom Banton — not to mention Liam Livingstone, Ben Duckett and the rest — look on from the outside.

There is much to sort out below that and, in a Covid world, that is more difficult. Jofra Archer has played just four T20s for England but Morgan believes that even if he sits out ODIs over the next year (as he, Stokes and Sam Curran are on this tour), they might still be asking too much of their precious IPL MVP.

Getty Images
Getty Images

"The challenge for him, even if you said play all of the Tests and all of the T20s, I think that's too much of a challenge for guys playing all three formats at the moment, given we don't know the circumstances around getting in and out of bubbles, getting home, getting families on tour with you," said Morgan.

Then there's the No7 spot, where Moeen Ali offers a second spin option but is struggling for form, while Sam Curran seems to grow in confidence and influence with every outing. Morgan certainly seemed impressed with the 22-year-old at the IPL, where he shone in a struggling Chennai Super Kings side.

"He was thrown in in all sorts of circumstances, had all sorts of challenges, and came out the other side glowing. That's great, especially in a side that really didn't compete at all over there."

For now, Morgan believes answering these questions is as important as winning against a strong South Africa side blessed with plenty of pace.

"Winning at the moment would be great but given the luxury of players we have at our disposal it is more important that they get their roles right and they feel comfortable within that," he said. "If we can solve that problem, the results will look after themselves."

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