England beat Proteas in Centurion thriller to win series

South Africa 222/6

England 226/5

England won by 5 wickets.

England win series 2-1

PRETORIA – England topped off what has been a fantastic tour for them, with another thoroughly entertaining win here Sunday, against a game South African team, but one that needs to learn how to execute some fundamentals better and more consistently. 

In all three formats on this tour, England have comeback after being 1-0 down, a show of their resilience and also great experience. The lessons for South Africa’s very inexperienced players – across all the formats – will hopefully be heeded, once their frustration has subsided.

This was definitely a game they should have won. A target of 223 was a hefty one, the result of some punishing hitting. But England have plenty of players capable of smashing the cricket ball hard too – Jos Buttler rammed his critics’ words down their throats with crafty 29-ball half-century, while Jonny Bairstow did a fair impression of wood-chopper playing cricket, by scoring 64 off 34 deliveries. 

The England captain didn’t bother with fours in his superbly crafted unbeaten 57, that came off 22 balls, smiting 7 sixes to take his side over the line with five balls to spare. 

South Africa’s bowlers missed their mark too often towards the latter stage of the innings. The wickets of Dawid Malan and Bairstow had slowed England momentarily and created some pressure, but when the situation demanded Andile Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi to nail their yorkers in the 17th and 18th overs they both failed. Morgan and Ben Stokes took advantage, scoring 35 runs in those two over, hitting fours sixes between them in the processes. 

This was another horrible encounter for bowlers again. After the teams shared 400 runs in Durban, here the split 448 runs over course of 39.1 overs with 34 fours and 31 sixes struck during the four or so hours of entertainment.

De Kock won the toss and chose to bat, in front front of a full house here – they were packed in like sardines on the grass embankment – and his opening partner Temba Bavuma crashed the first ball – a ‘nothing delivery’ – from Moeen through the off-side for four. 

That set the tone for the power play and the rest of the South African innings. Forget subtlety, this was bruising hitting from start to finish. 

South Africa got to 50 in the fourth over – five sixes twatted mainly over the leg side at that stage – and by the time the power play ended the run rate was well above 10 an over. It wasn’t a one man show like in Durban either, where De Kock notched up the fastest half-century by a South African in this format. Here he and Bavuma took it in turns to punish the English and in fact Bavuma out-scored his more flambouyant partner for large parts of their partnership. 

He lost his wicket to Adil Rashid’s googly, but that fact his innings of 49 took just 24 balls, may give his critics some food for thought. 

Heinrich Klaasen one of two changes to the team that lost in Durban continued the onslaught after the openers were dismissed within four balls of each other. He epitomised South Africa’s overall approach – muscling the ball all over the show. One strike off a yorker by Chris Jordan – carved behind square – was purely a result of many hours pumping iron in the gym.

He dominated a stand of 64 for the fourth wicket with David Miller, scoring 66 off 33 balls, bludgeoning four fours and the same number of sixes. 

Miller, after taking 11 balls to make 10, topped off the innings with some sweet strikes finishing not out on 35 off only 20 balls. 

Given the carnage wrought by batsmen all day Tom Curran’s 2/33 and Stokes’ 2/35 were exemplary displays – the former varying his pace and hitting his yorker consistently while Stokes mixed up his length very well too. 

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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