So far, so good. England's much-hyped, highly vaunted new top order may have flopped but it has mattered not a jot. Two warm-up matches before the action proper begins in the World Twenty20 have brought two victories, the second of them yesterday against the highly rated South Africa.
A small target of 126 was reached smoothly after some early discomfort when three wickets went for nine runs. The fourth wicket stand of 71 of which Eoin Morgan was the chief architect repaired the extensive damage. He could have had no wiser partner than Paul Collingwood, who judged the state of affairs quickly and reacted with his usual aplomb.
Still, after they were parted some frenetic hitting and scurrying was required in the final two overs and there were three balls left when Luke Wright struck the winning runs with a huge straight six. Victories like this might not mean much but South Africa, as usual, are much talked about as potential winners and England's odds came down accordingly.
The climax to the match was easily its most alluring part. Nine runs came in the penultimate over, the remaining nine from the first three balls of the last. England will be much heartened.
Morgan, who had a wretched time in the Indian Premier League when he was jettisoned by Bangalore Royal Challengers after a sequence of low scores, looked as though he was back where he belongs. Disturbed neither by the position he found England in, nor by another pitch that a pathologist would probably have established had died a while back, he worked the ball into gaps and hit enough boundaries between to make the chase a formality.
He made a beautifully formed 63 from 62 balls which was sedate by his standards and again reflected the nature of the surface. He was caught on the extra cover boundary attempting his third six.
For England to prosper in the tournament – becoming champions is getting ahead of themselves - their star turn Kevin Pietersen must regain some of his old brilliance. If this sounds like a statement of the bleedin' obvious it is worth bearing in mind continually.
Michael Vaughan, Pietersen's former captain, made the point again yesterday. If Pietersen performs, he said, England have a chance. It was unfortunate therefore that Pietersen was out to his first ball, edging behind. All three of the South Africans who will form England's top order in the competition were summarily dispatched by their former compatriots.
Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, the new opening partnership, were together for four balls, having been parted after 11 in their first outing together against Bangladesh the previous day. These affairs can take time but England do not have much of it.
Twenty20 often gets it in the neck for being no more than an exchange of six-hitting. This is an eminently valid point but it remains more satisfying than the alternative likely to be offered in this tournament, to wit an exchange of slow bowlers on slow pitches.
The truth is that Twenty20 was invented for big hitting (and how to prevent it). That is what brought the crowds in when it began and they will quickly fade away should that cease.
South Africa did well to make as many as 125 after they failed to adjust early on. They tried vainly to get something from the pitch which was not there. J-P Duminy and Albie Morkel salvaged the innings, waiting for the return of the pace of the quicker bowlers.Reuse content