England are experimenting with a system of coded information passed from analyst Nathan Leamon to captain Eoin Morgan during play, says Jos Buttler.
A series of letters and numbers were hung from the dressing room balcony during South Africa’s innings in the third Twenty20 win in Cape Town.
England called it a “live informational resource”.
“It’s a little help, a suggestion and what match-ups are going on,” said vice-captain Buttler.
The information took the form of a number and a letter, for example “C3”.
“Eoin and Nathan work closely on analysis. It’s just a little bit of an experiment,” said Buttler, who struck 67 not out and Dawid Malan an unbeaten 99 as England chased 192 for the loss of only one wicket with 14 balls to spare.
“Eoin is one of the best captains in the world, a fantastic, instinctive captain, and there’s a nice balance going on.”
Victory at Newlands completed a 3-0 series clean sweep for England and sent them to the top of the International Cricket Council T20 rankings less than a year before the World Cup in India.
An England spokesperson said the numbers and letters are “intended as a live informational resource that the captain may choose to use or ignore as he wishes. They’re not commands or instructions, and all decision-making takes place on the field.”
England cleared the use of the communication with the match referee and anti-corruption officials.
It had echoes of South Africa’s use of earpieces during the 1999 World Cup, when captain Hansie Cronje and fast bowler Allan Donald wore devices that allowed coach Bob Woolmer to communicate with them during a match against India.
All types of electronic communication have since been banned, but England’s code system does not breach any regulations.
“I’m not against it,” England fast bowler Tymal Mills told the Test Match Special podcast. “I’m for anything that progresses and advances tactics.
“You do have to be careful as to what information is being given from the sidelines.
“In theory we should never know what the code means, because that is the advantage England are trying to get.”
‘The captain calls the shots’ – analysis
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
It’s an interesting move. Decisions in cricket have always been made on the field by the captain and it’s only in fairly recent times there have been coaches in the background at all.
Clearly, coaches want to have some sort of influence. It’s difficult for them to sit on the sidelines just watching from afar and supposedly not being able to have any input.
T20 is so frenetic that maybe the thought is even more at the forefront of the coach’s mind that they want to be able to do something to help the captain, who could easily get a bit befuddled with everything going on
But, let’s face it – Eoin Morgan has got no issues from that point of view. He’s a pretty cool customer.
I don’t know what the codes meant. I saw one say C3. I did joke that that was the next seat that the South Africans were going to smash the ball into, because whatever cards were being held up didn’t seem to have any impact at all on the way that England bowled or South Africa batted.
People will say that for T20 it doesn’t really matter – and I must admit that’s probably fair enough.
However, it’s important to maintain the overall tradition of the captain being in charge of the game – he calls the shots and he does so without interference.