CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s captain AB de Villiers stated at the toss prior to the start of the first ODI at Headingley that “we'd like to play everyone at some point during the series."
But once England amassed 339/6 after being sent in by De Villiers it is clear that paceman Morne Morkel needs to return to the Proteas ODI attack sooner rather than later.
Morkel hasn’t played any white-ball cricket for the Proteas since last July in the Caribbean due to a severe back injury and needs the final two games of this series if he is to be at his best during the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
South Africa’s attack was not particularly poor, but the trio of all-rounders – Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris and Andile Phelukwayo – all lack the genuine pace and bounce that Morkel extracts from even the most placid of surfaces.
England’s captain Eoin Morgan, who habitually struggles against fast short-pitched bowling, benefitted most from Morkel’s absence to strike his 11th ODI century.
The South African bowlers tried to attack Morgan with the short ball during his innings, but there simply was just not enough pace to trouble the gritty left-hander. It was fitting that Morgan actually went to his century with sweet hook shot that sailed over long leg off Kagiso Rabada. Morgan eventually departed for 107 off 93 balls (7x4, 5x6).
South Africa’s young tearaway struggled with his rhythm in his first international on English soil, especially in his opening spell. Rabada over-stepped the frontline on three occasions, which gifted Englandopener Alex Hales the opportunity to get his innings underway with a couple of free hits.
Hales was unperturbed by the early loss of his opening partner Jason Roy, who fell for just one when he edged behind off Parnell’s first ball of the innings. The right-hander struck a composed 61 off 60 balls (8x4, 1x6) during a 98-run partnership with England’s Test skipper Joe Root that got the home team’s innings underway.
Even though Phelukwayo put the brakes on during the middle period by removing Hales and Root (37 off 51 balls) in quick succession and Rabada ensuring IPL star Ben Stokes (25 off 30 balls) did not have an overly successful return to international cricket, England maintained their momentum through Moeen Ali and Morgan.
Moeen, who gave the IPL a skip due to going on pilgrimage instead, made an immediate impact on his return. The classy left-hander dominated a 113-run partnership in just 13.3 overs with his skipper as the due ensured the hosts would comfortably past 300.
Coming at 198/5, Moeen was the catalyst that saw England post 102 runs in the final 10 overs of their innings of which he contributed 77 off only 51 balls (5x5, 5x6).
Moeen’s dominace was stamped on the South African innings when he smashed Morris’s final delivery of the innings high into the former Western Terrace Stand to set the visitors a hefty target to chase down.
England: 339/6 (Morgan 107, Moeen 77*, Hales 61, Phelukwayo 2/59, Morris 2/61)