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 Eng vs SA, T20 World Cup 2021

Eng vs SA, T20 World Cup 2021


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“If we play in the semi-final on a wicket that maybe is not a 180 wicket, then it is a good learning curve for us”

Sharjah was paradise for batters in last year’s IPL to the extent that there is an Uber pick-up location in the S117 highway that runs next to the ground marked as ‘AB de Villiers’s six vs KKR’. In a dozen games there across the course of the season, there were an average of 8.87 runs per over, and as evidenced by Rajasthan Royals hauling in a target of 224 against Punjab Kings, no total was safe.

But conditions at the ground have changed markedly since the pitches were relaid earlier this year. In IPL 2021, the average runs per over plummeted to 7.00, with a slight increase to 7.33 in the eight matches there to date in this men’s T20 World Cup. For England’s batters, adapting to the low bounce proved tough in their first game there against Sri Lanka on Monday night, and they are expecting a similar challenge on Saturday against South Africa.

“Usually when you rock up at Sharjah, you’re thinking ‘runs’ as a batter,” Dawid Malan, who had previously played at the venue in the PSL and the T10, said on Tuesday. “You’re really looking forward to that one. But the wickets, since they’ve been relaid, have been totally different and it looks really tough to bat on. I only faced eight balls in the last game but it is totally different bounce to what you’re used to.

“We haven’t trained in Sharjah or got used to those conditions in training because all our training had been done in Dubai. Everyone said they used to be 180-220 wickets but we had to adjust. Early on, we probably thought the wicket was better than it was – the new ball probably came on a bit better for the first two overs or so. After that, it got lower and harder to bat on. We have one more game in Sharjah and then if we play in the semi-final on a wicket that maybe is not a 180 wicket, then it is a good learning curve for us.

“The two games we’ve had at Dubai, it didn’t really feel like there was too much dew, but the one at Sharjah was really dewy for whatever reason. We know that if you bat first, if it’s a 150 wicket you probably know you have to get 160 – probably add 10 or 15 runs. In the last game, the bowlers definitely felt that the wicket got slightly better. Whether that was the wicket or the ball because of the dew or the way the ball skidded on slightly more, I don’t know… but it definitely is more of an advantage batting second in these conditions.”

Like several England batters, Malan has had limited time in the middle in the World Cup to date: he was not used against West Indies as England promoted their six-hitters in pursuit of a net-run-rate boost, and has made 28 not out, 8 and 6 in his three innings since.

Malan made a brilliant 99 not out off 47 balls last time England played South Africa, their next opponents but has had a leaner patch of late, averaging 25.83 with a strike rate of 112.72 in his 14 T20I innings since then which resulted in him losing his No. 1 ICC ranking on Tuesday. He said that he would take confidence from his previous success against South Africa – he has three fifties in five innings against them – but said that playing against them in Sharjah would be “a different challenge”.
“The conditions we had out in South Africa and when I played in Cardiff against them [on debut in 2017] are totally different to the ones that we’re going to have here,” Malan said. “They’re obviously a really strong team and they’ve got some fantastic bowlers, especially at Sharjah, with the way that [Anrich] Nortje and [Kagiso] Rabada bowl their lengths when they bowl there. On a slower wicket that keeps slightly low, I think that suits them quite a lot but I hope that what I’ve done in the past against them, I can take that forward into this game with what I’ve learned from facing their bowlers and how I’ve gone about scoring against them.

“I’d have loved to have gone out and batted [against West Indies] but ultimately the aim of this team is to win games of cricket and it doesn’t matter who does that. We got our [net] run rate up there, which was good, we won the game, and that’s all that matter.

“I feel all right. Obviously, the first game I didn’t bat, second and third games just had to finish it and was disappointed I got out in that third game. And then in the last game I had a bit of time to bat so disappointed to miss out there. But I feel like I’m hitting the ball well – I just need to get a bit of time in the middle and get a score to contribute.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98





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