England’s white-ball home summer ended as it began — with a sobering T20 defeat in Southampton. And if the first of those matches, against India, suggested a change of era, the second, against South Africa, confirmed it.
In 12 white-ball matches squeezed into 25 days, Jos Buttler’s side have fallen dismally short of the standards set under Eoin Morgan. Four games have been won, seven lost. If rain had not ruined the deciding ODI against the South Africans at Headingley, the ledger would have been worse.
Put simply, the days when England’s white-ball teams expected to win are a thing of the past. They have gone from contenders at this autumn’s T20 World Cup in Australia to outsiders. It is not the journey anyone had in mind.
Jos Buttler’s England have fallen dismally short of the standards set under Eoin Morgan
Four games have been won, seven lost, the latest of which against South Africa in Southampton
At the Ageas Bowl, they had a chance to give Buttler his first series win since replacing Morgan. Instead, they lost by 90 runs, the joint-biggest defeat in their T20 history. Yet the manner of the loss was even more galling than the margin. Chasing 192, they seemed determined to repeat familiar errors.
Jason Roy again battled inner demons as much as the bowlers, obliging Buttler to take undue risks. Sure enough, the captain fell for 14, skewing a Keshav Maharaj ball to short third man.
Roy was then caught behind off the pacy Anrich Nortje for an 18-ball 17 that was boosted by four overthrows from Maharaj and summed up his state of mind. Six T20 innings this summer have brought him 76 runs off 98 balls.
If England take him to Pakistan for a seven-match series in late September, they’ll be doing so out of hope as much as expectation.
While the South Africans hit 10 fours in their six-over powerplay, with opener Reeza Hendricks compiling his third half-century of an excellent series, England managed just two. The pressure on the rest of the order was predictably unbearable.
But England’s failure to find the boundary between the fourth ball of the fourth over and the last of the 13th was a reflection of more than well-judged bowling, with left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi collecting a five-for. It was the work of a team who keep espousing a philosophy of aggression but have mislaid the conviction to carry it out.
South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi(left) gave an excellent performance taking five wickets
Jason Roy again battled inner demons as much as the bowlers, obliging Buttler to take risks
‘With the bat, we never imposed ourselves, never put pressure back on the opposition,’ said Buttler.
‘That bit of timidness is the thing we’re frustrated with most. We want to be renowned as a team for being braver and taking risks. There’s a lack of confidence right now.’
Sections of the crowd even began booing. ‘It’s the first time I’ve heard that for a very long time,’ he said.
Twice in a row, England have been bowled out in 16.4 overs — or 100 balls. If nothing else, they are getting into the spirit of the Hundred, which starts on this ground on Wednesday.
Jos Buttler’s white-ball heartaches continue with another defeat as England captain
For Buttler and the new coach Matthew Mott, headaches loom. Phil Salt and Harry Brook feel instinctively like the fresh blood the team needs, but they are being kept out by bigger names with diminishing returns — Roy, Liam Livingstone and even Moeen Ali among them.
The bowling, too, has been off the boil. Reece Topley has enjoyed a heartwarming comeback and David Willey was superb on Sunday, beginning with a wicket maiden after he bowled Quinton de Kock with his third delivery.
There is also mitigation in the fact that several members of the frontline attack are injured — principally Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.
But South Africa’s total of 191 for five was the second-lowest England have conceded in their six T20 games this summer, leaving an out-of-form batting line-up repeatedly facing huge totals.
Long before Jonny Bairstow was last out in England’s wafer-thin reply of 101, spectators had drifted away to find a TV to watch the Lionesses at Wembley.
England’s bowling has been off the boil but Reece Topley has enjoyed a heartwarming comeback