England cruise to 9-wicket win over below par South Africa

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jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales put on an unbeaten 62-ball 98-run stand for the second wicket
 

Ahead of the T20I series, AB de Villiers had said that he wanted to put the ghosts of South Africa’s disappointing Champions Trophy campaign behind and start afresh. But traces, and more of it, were found at the Rose Bowl on Wednesday (June 21) as South Africa went on to put on a lackadaisical show against England.

Let’s summarise what worked for South Africa. Batting? No. Bowling? No. Fielding? No. Basically, nothing. They were emphatically outplayed by the hosts, who cruised to the 143-run target with nine wickets in hand and 33 balls to spare. All they needed were three batsmen – two of whom were far from their fluent best – to finish off the formalities in the run-chase.

The tone of this defeat was set from the first ball itself. South Africa, having won the toss, elected to bat. With both teams resting several of their top players and allowing some inexperienced players to get match time, it was an ideal opportunity for them to showcase their talent and put some pressure on the first team players. For South Africa, JJ Smuts and Reeza Hendricks, who opened the innings, failed to create that impact. While Smuts dragged the first ball of the match on to his stumps, Hendricks’s stay lasted two deliveries, second of which was pulled to David Willey at mid wicket. Within seven balls, both the openers were back in the dugout.

AB de Villiers and David Miller – the two-most experienced batsmen in the side, but out of sorts – began to resurrect the innings. The skipper took his time to settle in, but on couple of occasions, brought out a few inside-out shots for boundaries over the infield. Just when the partnership looked good to resurrect their innings, Miller edged Mark Wood’s skiddy delivery to the wicketkeeper. With three wickets down in 25 balls, South Africa were in desperate need of some consolidation – a timely one coming with Farhaan Behardien’s arrival to the crease.

The 33-year old allrounder got off to a lucky start – edging his first delivery for a boundary, but thereafter cut down the risks. In company of his skipper, he steadied the South African innings. While steady was what the tourists would’ve liked at that point of time, the boundaries too began to dry up. They struggled to find gaps on the field, and in the next 89 balls only four fours were hit, with as many sixes. The only consolation they probably had during the course of their partnership was England’s inability to take half chances in the field. There were several balls that fell short of the fielders, but more often that not, the fielders made the chances look far more difficult than they actually were.

In the last five overs, the batsmen threw their bat at virtually everything, but failed to time the ball well. While the bowlers were pretty disciplined with their lines, the miserly scoring rate had more to do with the rustiness of the batsmen. Even de Villiers, who began well, struggled as his innings progressed. He had spoken about how comfortable he was with his batting despite a string of low scores, but his show with the bat, barring the last over scoop over fine leg for six, didn’t proved enough to testify his talks.

Behardien and de Villiers stroked their respective half centuries and also stitched a record fourth-wicket partnership for South Africa in T20Is – 110 – but they could only manage to take the team total to 142 for 3 in 20 overs. With de Villiers having stayed at the crease for 119 balls, facing 58 of them, the team total left Eoin Morgan with little to complaint about to his bowlers.

Much like with the bat, Smuts was also given the responsibility to open the attack with the ball. Given out of form Jason Roy’s poor record against spinners in the Powerplay, it was a sensible gamble to hand the ball to the slow left-armer. Smuts did manage to trouble the English opener early on, and even keep Alex Hales quiet, but he couldn’t get the breakthrough that South Africa wanted to make the chase tougher. Roy broke open against the pacers and sped his way to 14-ball 28 before being trapped legbefore by Andile Phehlukwayo.

Even as South Africa had managed to score at nearly 10 an over in the powerplay, the wicket was a much-needed breakthrough for the visitors. However, in a bizarre move, Phehlukwayo was not brought on for another over, till the 15th in which England were left needing only five runs. De Villiers unleashed his spin twins – Imran Tahir and debutant Tabraiz Shamsi on the English pair of Hales and Jonny Bairstow. Even as Hales struggled to score initially, Bairstow had little trouble in dealing with the spinners. He kept the big hits coming and ensured England moved along smoothly in the chase. His strokemaking ensured the hosts were left needing runs at less than six even before the first 10 overs. By then, Hales too found his touch and joined his partner to make the ride to the target smoother and faster.

South Africa’s below par show on the field, including the dropped catch of Hal;es by Tahir in the 13th over only added to South Africa’s misery as they were afflicted with a crushing defeat. They are left with too many issues to address before the Friday encounter, which is a must-win for them to keep the series alive.

Brief Scores:

South Africa 142/3 in 20 overs (AB de Villiers 65*, Farhaan Behardien 64*; Mark Wood 2-36) lost to

England 143/1 in 14.3 overs (Jonny Bairstow 60*, Alex Hales 47*) by 9 wickets