England 'showed what we're made of' - 'proud' skipper Lawes salutes series win over Australia

By Sports Desk July 16, 2022

England captain Courtney Lawes hailed the determination of his team-mates after the tourists sealed a series victory over Australia on Saturday.

Eddie Jones' side made it back-to-back series wins Down Under - adding to their 2016 triumph - as they recovered from a slow start to defeat the Wallabies 21-17 in the deciding Test.

The hosts, who won the opening Test 30-28 before they were pegged back 25-17 in the second last weekend, dominated early proceedings at Sydney Cricket Ground, establishing a 10-3 lead thanks to Tom Wright's try.

But England came back before the break through Freddie Steward, while Marcus Smith also crossed in the second half to put the 2003 world champions in control at 21-10 to the good.

Folau Fainga'a went over late on as the hosts set up a grandstand finish, but Lawes and his team-mates stood firm to lift the Ella-Mobbs Cup.

"It really shows what it means for us to play this team," the skipper told Sky Sports. "We had a tough start to this series, but have showed what we're made of.

"We didn't come out how we wanted to today. The message at half-time was to stick together. We knew what we wanted to do. We showed what it means to play for this team.

"We did what we wanted to do to improve week on week. It's a proud moment, for sure.

"We've still got a lot to learn. We can win a game like this where you don't really fire a shot, and you take your chances when you can. We did a lot of defending."

Meanwhile, try scorer Steward also heaped praise on the efforts of Jones' side, saying: "The boys just dug in and gave everything. To win with an effort like that, it was a proper Test match. It's special.

"To come here, dig in with an effort like that at the back end of the season is pretty awesome. It is a great way to end the season especially having been one down is amazing."

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    South Africa registered their second-most productive powerplay in the tournament so far, with Quinton de Kock proving invaluable with 49 runs during that time.

    In England's powerplay, they managed to get just 41 runs, their lowest such tally of the year, and though they pushed late on, they came up just short in the chase.

    Buttler admitted that in hindsight, it was South Africa's start that cost England in the end, despite giving themselves a reachable target.

    "I'd say it was lost in the powerplay," Buttler said. "Quinton de Kock came out and played with really good intent, and we couldn't really match that. I think we were about 20 behind them at the end of our first six.

    "The wicket did slow up, which allowed us to pull it back in the middle, and we were happy to be chasing 160. But yeah, that innings was the difference.

    "It's still a good pitch but a little slower than we probably expected. I'm proud of how we responded with the ball after their good powerplay, and Brook and Livingstone had an excellent partnership there to take us so close.

    "At one stage, we were favourites but T20 cricket is never that simple, and credit to South Africa for closing it out.

    "We know we're still in it. We played well today; we just didn't quite get over the line."

    De Kock, who finished on 65, was named Player of the Match for his impressive turn – he equalled the fastest half-century of the tournament (22 balls, level with USA's Aaron Jones), and broke his own record for the most runs in a powerplay by a South Africa batter at a men's T20 World Cup.

    South Africa remain unbeaten in the tournament so far and have put themselves in a good position to qualify for the semi-finals, and De Kock was pleased with how they got the win on Friday.

    "My plan was to just bat as long as I can and score as many runs I can," De Kock said. "That was pretty much it. I don't really carry or lose confidence; I just get on with my game. So that is what I focused on.

    "I thought we bowled really well, especially in the powerplay. We controlled it really nicely. Overall, we were pretty solid and to defend on 160 on a decent pitch is a good effort."

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    South Africa got off to the perfect start, registering their second-most productive powerplay in the tournament so far, without losing a wicket.

    De Kock hit his half-century off 22 balls, eventually finishing with 65. However, they soon slipped away as England rallied.

    Despite an early over costing him 21 runs, Archer finished strongly on 3-40, helped by some superb catching from Jos Buttler as England eventually limited them to 163-6.

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    His 49 runs in the powerplay is the most by a South Africa batter at a men's T20 World Cup, beating his own previous record of 46 against England in 2016.

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    Gareth Southgate's game management came under fire once again on Thursday, as England produced another underwhelming display in a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

    The Three Lions were second-best for long periods and appeared content to sit back after Harry Kane's 18th-minute opener, with Morten Hjulmand's rasping strike handing Denmark a point – the least they deserved.

    Former England defender Jamie Carragher was among those to highlight the lethargic nature of the display, saying more energy was required from the bench.

    Posting on X as Southgate made a triple substitution on the 70-minute mark, introducing Eberechi Eze, Jarrod Bowen and Ollie Watkins for Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Kane, Carragher wrote: "Pleased Southgate has made changes. By the look of England so far they are going to need real energy from the bench in every game. Disappointed Anthony Gordon wasn't one of those changes."

    Southgate's reluctance to use Gordon was a hot topic on social media, with England again looking lopsided in the absence of a natural left winger or left-back.

    Just 23.3% of England's attacking touches came on that flank, with 44.6% coming on the right-hand side, where Kyle Walker – not renowned for his attacking qualities – often looking like the Three Lions' best outlet.

    One major criticism of Southgate at recent tournaments has been a perceived failure to change games from the bench, but does the data back up that idea?

    As far as the Euros are concerned, yes. Southgate has made 33 substitutions in total at the 2020 and 2024 editions, with those players playing a total of 682 minutes.

    They have just one goal and one assist between them in that time. Both came at Euro 2020, with Jordan Henderson scoring in a 4-0 quarter-final win over Ukraine and Jack Grealish assisting Kane's header against Germany in the previous round.

    In 97 games under Southgate overall, England have scored 19 goals via substitutes, a paltry figure given the Three Lions have netted 207 times during his reign, playing 35 qualification matches against largely inferior opponents.

     

    Those goals have come via 13 players, with nobody netting more than two (Tammy Abraham, Danny Welbeck, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Grealish and Kane).

    Notably, only two of those 13 players – Kane and Watkins – are in England's squad for this tournament. Rashford (32) and Grealish (21) have 53 substitute appearances between them under Southgate but were the two most high-profile omissions from his party.

    Carragher also believes Southgate must recognise "football is about picking the best team, not the best players".

    While Foden has appeared frustrated while stationed on the left-hand side, Trent Alexander-Arnold has struggled to aid England's ball progression in an unfamiliar midfield role – only eight of his 40 attempted passes against Denmark were into the final third.

    Carragher wrote for The Telegraph: "Unfortunately, two of the best Premier League footballers – Trent Alexander-Arnold and Phil Foden – will have to be sacrificed now.  Introducing Alexander-Arnold into midfield in a major tournament was always a risk. 

     

    "It is a more physically demanding position than full-back, and, on the evidence so far, Alexander-Arnold has more time and space to utilise his passing range when he is in the hybrid role.

    "Nobody loves watching Foden more than me. But for England to come up with a system that works and complements everyone, he cannot operate in the starting XI with Jude Bellingham and Kane if they are all trying to occupy the same space and positions."

    Foden did not have a single touch in the attacking third within the width of the six-yard box against Denmark, and when it came to making changes, Southgate preferred to stick with a below-par Bellingham rather than shift the Manchester City star infield.

    Southgate's substitutions will be key if England are to grow into this tournament, and the data suggests he has improvements to make in that area.

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