THANK goodness England didn’t play like this in the World Cup.
In their first 50-over match since that historic day at Lord’s last July, England produced a terrible performance full of careless batting and insipid bowling.
Admittedly, several players were absent but it should not mask the fact that the second-string were completely outplayed. South Africa won by wickets with 14 balls to spare.
England are treating this three-match series as a chance to look at some emerging players and the message is clear - they are a long way behind the big guns.
Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are being rested and Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali were on the bench.
England might have thought their total of 258-8 in 50 overs would challenge the Proteas on a pitch that made fluent strokeplay difficult.
But new captain Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma turned the run chase into a doddle and suddenly the surface seemed straightforward for batting.
'WAY OFF THE MARK'
De Kock made his 15th one-day international century and Bavuma fell two short of his first.
Joe Denly held together England’s innings with 87 and Chris Woakes kept him company during a stand of 91 and then took a wicket during a probing early spell. Otherwise, England were woeful.
Captain Eoin Morgan said: “We were way off the mark, put in an average performance and South Africa completely outplayed us in all departments.
“We have no excuses and we didn’t adapt to the conditions. It was a wicket that exposed our style of batting so we’ll have to work harder and adapt quicker to get back into the series.
“This was an experimental side and getting players experience at this level doesn’t happen overnight. We have to give them time and opportunities. We want to use winning the World Cup as a chance to grow as a squad.”
England fielded their World Cup top four in the batting order and made a rapid start. But then some slapdash shot slowed their innings. Jason Roy holed out to long-on and Jonny Bairstow gave mid-off an easy catch.
When Joe Root was run out by a direct hit from square leg after a mix-up with Morgan, and Morgan himself caught at slip in the same over, England had descended from 51-0 to 83-4.
Tom Banton, on his 50-over debut, and Sam Curran were both out trying to sweep left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi and it was only when Woakes joined Denly that England’s innings recovered.
SENSIBLE AND IMPORTANT
Their seventh-wicket stand realised 91 and took England to what they believed would be a competitive total. It turned out to be nothing of the sort.
Denly’s 87 came an incredible 3,789 days after his previous one-day fifty for England, an innings of 53 against the Aussies on September 20, 2009.
It is the longest between ODI fifties for a man playing for a Test nation.
Denly struggled to slog in the closing overs but the Kent batsman’s contribution was sensible and important.
Whether, at the age of 33, he has a long-term future in England’s white-ball teams is another matter.
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Woakes, in his 100th ODI, made 40 before failing to clear mid-off with one of his favourite drives.
When the Proteas batted, Woakes had Reeza Hendricks caught behind but then de Kock and Bavuma put on 173 almost as they pleased.
England’s bowling was a huge disappointment. Neither Curran posed much of a threat, Chris Jordan found his radar only when it was too late and leggie Matt Parkinson bowled too slowly and struggled to find a length.