South Africa's AB de Villiers looks on during Wednesday's defeat to England. Photo: Reuters / Jason Cairnduff

DURBAN – AB de Villiers congratulated England on their outstanding display with the bat and admitted to being outplayed in Wednesday’s ODI.

"England did phenomenally well with the bat. Credit to Morgs (Eoin Morgan), he did a great job," De Villiers offered.

Credit goes where it is deserved, and England's ferocity at the end of their innings deserved a lot of credit. They were brutal, and exposed South Africa at the business end.

And yet, anyone who observed the Proteas capitulate, from 145 for one to 267 all out, would attest that the defeat had as much to do with the Proteas as it did their conquerors.

On another day, Hashim Amla’s leg-before may not have been referred and he may have gone onto a serene century, and his team to a comfortable victory.

Instead, his departure triggered an incredible collapse, as South Africa lost their last nine wickets for just 122.

Within those wickets were some very ordinary shots. They were shots that handed the initiative right back to England, even when they still feared what South Africa's extensive middle-order may yet deliver.

England and South Africa employ similar selection policies; bat deep, and trust one of your top-order stars to be the common thread around the thrashers.

Morgan did that with his century, and Moeen Ali feasted at the other end. They gave South Africa the blueprint, but the visitors contrived to chuck their lot into the fire, and flattered England with the margin of victory.

What had been expected to be a thrilling chase quickly turned into a procession, and the only good thing with such a reverse is that there is not much time to dwell on it.

The matches come thick and fast in the lead up to the Champions Trophy, and South Africa simply have to respond on Saturday, in Southampton.

They have to respond for the series' sake but, much more than that, for the Champions Trophy's sake. England, on home soil, are one of those juggernauts that takes some stopping once they get on a roll.

Morgan's men had braced themselves for a ferocious scrap from the top-ranked ODI side, and you can imagine their pleasant surprise when they barely broke a sweat in victory.

They hardly required the all-round services of Ben Stokes, and the dangerous Jos Butler didn't get going.

England and their fans will take heart from that, and a patriotic Britain will rally behind them strongly, especially after the events in Manchester earlier this week.

There was a national outpouring of pride in Manchester United (hitherto passionately disliked by most neutral fans) winning the Europe League. It was a win for Britain, they said.

Football is now out of the way, and the British and Irish Lions are yet to take centre stage with their tour to New Zealand.

So, cricket will get the lion's share of goodwill, which will swell to gusto with every victory, and reach fever pitch by the latter stages of the Champions Trophy.

It truly becomes a juggernaut, so South Africa's cricketers must respond immediately, lest they want to deal with smug hosts for the next two months.

Independent Media

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