There is fire in the Protea, yet. It came back into bloom at a bouncing Taunton on Friday night as South Africa held their nerve to beat England by just three runs in a second T20 international that turned out to be a thriller.
South Africa turned up, that is for sure. They batted with urgency as crisp as the Somerset air, though they still probably felt they were a bit short – probably another 30 runs – of a total that was warranted by a belter of a wicket.
And yet, despite that shortcoming, their bowlers – and some defiant fielding – didn’t give up the ghost.
The match took a turn for the slightly tense when Jason Roy (67 off 45 balls), was given out for obstructing the field when he met an Andile Phehlukwayo shy at the non-striker’s stumps from backward point.
Chris Morris, the bowler, was absolutely convinced that Roy had changed his path, and denied South Africa a run-out chance.
After some deliberation, the third umpire agreed with him, to the absolute disgust of the 12 000-strong home crowd.
Morris, oblivious to the howling, charged in and ought to have had a wicket with his final ball of the over, and his spell, but Liam Livingstone was wrongly given a life. The crowd roared their approval, and Morris cursed his way to deep square-leg.
It was the small bit of spice that turned an entertaining match into a rather absorbing finale. If there was one thing we could take out of it all, it was that the Proteas still care deeply as they improved significantly on their dismal effort from a few days before.
With bat in hand, they had spectacular bursts of penetration. Jon-Jon Smuts drilled some quite satisfying shots in a 35-ball 45, the sort of knock that made those who don’t watch domestic cricket understand why he was in national colours.
AB de Villiers was given a hearty welcome to the crease by the Somerset fans, clearly a lot who understand and appreciate that this may well be the first and last time he graces their turf.
The South African skipper responded with an impish 46, off just 20 balls.
There is an unmistakable crack off the De Villiers blade when he smites one, and there were a few gunshots that rung around Taunton town as he unfurled some of his uncompromising best.
While he was there, the tourists could dream of 200 and beyond.
Once he fell, however, ambitions dipped to 190, then 180, then settled on 174/8 thanks to some late spanking from Farhaan Behardien (32). He picked up where he left off on Wednesday, and that is no bad thing for him and this team.
Nerveless from @andileluck19 and tenacious from South Africa! Win by three runs, and this T20 series is not dead yet! Roll on Cardiff!— lungani zama (@whamzam17) June 23, 2017
With ball in hand, South Africa kept at it. Morné Morkel charged in again, and Dane Paterson and Phehlukwayo both responded to their captain’s call with maturity and a measure of control.
Once Morris’ dramatic over livened things up, South Africa found their killer instinct once more.
De Villiers called them in, and implored them to not let this one slip.
There was urgency in the field and, save for a few wides, Paterson and Phehlukwayo (it does sound like a new-age law firm) were accurate in their execution.
De Villiers has not been shy to give his young man from Durban the ball at the death, and that faith was repaid.
Defending 11 runs at the death, Phehlukwayo held his nerve, even though his penultimate ball went for four.
A further four was needed off the last, but he nailed the yorker length, and he was mobbed by 10 ecstatic teammates.
The Proteas played without their coach Russell Domingo after he flew home for a family emergency. Wherever he is, he will surely be proud of the fighting spirit that was shown in his lieu.
Cardiff will now host an intriguing finale on Sunday.