England came into their Twenty20 International series with South Africa out of practice in the format, confident, but not entirely sure about the specifics of their route to this year’s World Cup.
Through their mastery of the 50-over format over the last four years they knew they had the players and attributes required to be the first side to lay claim to both white-ball trophies simultaneously.
But, because the focus had quite rightly been elsewhere, this series would provide the first opportunity to begin to put it all together on a competitive stage.
With a 2-1 series win now under their belts, coach Chris Silverwood and captain Eoin Morgan can reflect on a job well done in the most exciting of fashions.
A total of 1,207 runs across the three matches made this the highest scoring T20I series of this length ever.
Played on a flat pitch and at altitude, Sunday’s series finale at Centurion was not a match for the bowlers. Both sides flexed their muscles, but after 448 runs were bludgeoned in three-and-a-half hours of play, it was England who came out on top, chasing the Proteas’ imposing 222-6 with five balls left.
After smashing an unbeaten match-winning 57 from 22 balls Eoin Morgan described the series as “hugely productive”. While some questions remain unanswered, the overriding feeling is one of excitement.
It was Morgan who ultimately got them over the line in Johannesburg, but England can legitimately say they have a batting line-up full of match-winners.
It took him two games to get going, but Jos Buttler’s talent, which his captain compared to T20 great AB de Villiers, came to the fore on Sunday. Buttler’s freakish gifts – fast hands, huge power off a tiny pick-up, fantastic invention – are undeniable. The question is: where are they best utilised?
England’s answer for now is at the top of the order, facing as many balls as possible, and we saw why as he got them off to the flying start they needed with 57 from 27 balls.
Jonny Bairstow, the one-day international opener, did not find his role was diminished, as he came in at No3 and peppered the legside boundary. His 64 from 34 was just as good, but the real strength of England’s side was shown by the fact that his wicket at 140-3 did not derail the mammoth chase.
Morgan was joined by Ben Stokes and, under immense pressure, their partnership of 61 in just 27 balls broke the back of the task.
Morgan’s ability to clear the rope is unparalleled and he seemed spurred on by his uncharacteristic failing in the one-run defeat in the first T20I.
“No score is big enough for us,” said Moeen Ali after he struck the winning runs. And he is right: England have the most destructive batting line-up with the most depth in international cricket.
With eight months left to work out what order squeezes the most out of them, quality back-ups available in the event of injury, and bouncy wickets to look forward to in Australia, they are right to be confident.