Proteas captain AB de Villiers can’t believe it as he walks off after being caught at midwicket. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters
Proteas captain AB de Villiers can’t believe it as he walks off after being caught at midwicket. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters
Faf du Plessis looked in fine touch for the Proteas, but lost his wicket at just the wrong moment. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters
Faf du Plessis looked in fine touch for the Proteas, but lost his wicket at just the wrong moment. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters
Moeen Ali added vital late impetus to the England innings to take them over the 300 mark. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters
Moeen Ali added vital late impetus to the England innings to take them over the 300 mark. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters

DURBAN – Incredibly, South Africa made 340 look like it was a fairly gettable total for at least half of their chase in the opening one-dayer against England at Headingley on Wednesday night.

And yet, thanks to a rash of flimsy flaps with the bat, they contrived to collapse to a rather forgettable 267 all out, and defeat by 72 runs to a spirited England outfit.

Some of the Proteas dismissals were atrocious mind-freezes, as the tourists routinely chucked the initiative back to their hosts – just as they looked to be getting back on track to whittle down their mighty target.

In this day of brave cricket, 340 is not the sort of total that gives the very best teams in the world nightmares.

Indeed, for a large part of their pursuit, South Africa were still fancied to get the job done – if only they could stop leaking wickets at a rate as rapid as their scoring.

Somehow, they contrived to turn brave into grave cricket, and the margin flattered the gleeful hosts. It ought to have been a lot, lot closer.

Hashim Amla (73), Faf du Plessis (67) and AB de Villiers (45) all looked like a million bucks, but none of them finished the job.

They sprayed wondrous strokes around the park, and the patrons from Leeds purred in wonder at the sparkling clarity of their play.

A commentator opined that all of South Africa’s top four were in the top 10 rankings for one-day batsmen.

England captain Eoin Morgan played an outstanding knock of 107 to set up a huge total. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters


Quinton de Kock never settled, but Amla and Du Plessis must look at themselves and wonder how neither batted through to make the case a lot more straightforward.

The dismissals were soft, meek surrenders that had little to do with the ball, and a lot more to do with injudicious stroke-making and option-taking.

Those are cornerstones of tournament cricket, and South Africa were found wanting – on a surface that had no gremlins to point at. They certainly have the firepower, and the pedigree.

But, while they floated like butterflies, England’s shots stung like bees – and they had an Ali in their ranks, too.

England clubbed 12 sixes in their knock, while South Africa could only muster a handful – including one by Kagiso Rabada when the horse had bolted.

David Miller played possibly the shot of the day, lifting Adil Rashid straight and deep into the stands, then promptly countered that with one of the worst strokes of the day – finding deep square-leg off a Chris Woakes loosener.

JP Duminy’s stroke was not much better, and neither was De Kock’s.

Thrice South Africa gifted England wickets, and they were welcomed eagerly by the home side.

De Villiers looked in potent touch, cracking some blistering strokes through the in-field, but he ran out of patience and partners, and the rest followed soon after.

The Proteas had won the toss and opted to bowl on what looked a belter of a wicket. If that is what we can expect for the Champions Trophy, too, the bowlers of the world must brace themselves for bit-part roles in the tournament.

England amassed 339/6 in their innings, thanks mainly to an exceptionally timed knock by skipper Eoin Morgan. The nuggety left-hander has a knack for finishing off an innings in a hurry, and he did just that on Wednesday, notching 107 off just 93 balls.

Andile Phehlukwayo was the pick of the Proteas bowlers, and here he dismissed Alex Hales. Photo: Jason Cairnduff, Action Images via Reuters


He got terrific support from the unassuming Moeen Ali, who bludgeoned 77 not out from just 51 balls. Few top-order batters time the ball as sweetly as Ali in full flow, and he mixed that with a hearty dose of power, with five sixes thrown into the mix.

They didn’t allow Imran Tahir to settle, and then tore into the pacemen in the latter stages.

Having looked iffy at 198/5, England suddenly powered their way to a rather spiffy 339 as South Africa’s death-bowling concerns came to the fore again.

Even so, the tourists still looked good value to get 340. And they may well have got there if they hadn’t been so generous with their wickets.

The three-match series continues on Saturday.

@whamzam17

Independent Media

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