Proteas win East London thriller by one run
South Africa: 177/8 (Bavuma 43, De Kock 31, Van der Dussen 31, Jordan 2/28)
England: 176/9 (Ngidi 3/30, Phehlukwayo 2/32, Hendricks 2/33, Roy 70, Morgan 52)
South Africa won by 1 run
International cricket hardly comes down to Buffalo Park these days, but the East London locals that packed the old ground would have left enthralled after being treated to a thriller in the opening T20I.
The fact that the home team, the Proteas, got over the line in scintillating fashion by just one run further sent them into a state of deliriousness.
Lungi Ngidi has endured a tough couple of months after being ravaged by injury but last night was his moment to be the Proteas’ hero. Ngidi defended just seven runs in the final over, taking two wickets in the process by having Tom Curran caught on the boundary, and then clean bowling Moeen Ali, before having Adil Rashid run out on the final ball.
That set off manic scenes for South Africa should never have realistically have come out on the right side, but it is a credit to the spirit running through the Proteas dressingroom under new captain Quinton de Kock.
England had looked victors for all money when destructive opener Roy toyed with South Africa’s young bowling attack last night. The maverick opener blasted 70 off only 38 balls.
During the ODI series South Africa had utilised all-rounder Jon-Jon Smuts effectively in the Powerplay, but Roy enjoyed the buffet of half-volleys the left-arm spinner served up by helping himself to 22 runs off one over through two fours and two sixes.
Although the experiment of Jos Buttler (15) opening the innings failed on the night, England’s old firm of Roy-Jonny Bairstow remain a potent combination whenever they are paired at the crease.
Bairstow, now coming at No 3, shared a rollicking 72-run partnership with Roy that set England on the path to victory.
It was only after Roy toe-edged a Beuran Hendricks slower ball to short fine-leg that South Africa managed to squeeze the visitors. Joe Denly and Ben Stokes succumbed in the closing stages to Andile Phehlukwayo and Ngidi respectively.
England, though, still had their captain Eoin Morgan at the crease. The skipper took Hendricks for 14 off three balls through two boundaries and a six to post a rapid 52 off just 34 (7x4, 1x6).
However, Morgan failed to take his team over the line though with Hendricks eventually getting his man, which left Ali and Curran to get seven runs off Ngidi’s final over that ultimately proved too much for the visitors.
South Africa’s score of 177/8 will win more matches than it loses, but they would have known at the halfway stage they left some runs out there on the night, especially after captain De Kock (31) and Temba Bavuma (43) had posted an opening stand of 48 off 26 balls before Rassie van der Dussen joined Bavuma in a second-wicket stand of 63 off 40 balls that saw South Africa race to 111/1 in just 11 overs.
The wheels, though, came off at that stage with Stokes once again the game changer. Having been rested for the ODI series, a resurgent Stokes created the breakthrough England were craving for when Van der Dussen pulled a short delivery straight to Bairstow on the square leg-boundary.
England only needed a sniff and they soon went in search of more when leg-spinner Adil Rashid picked up Bavuma in the next over. The entire momentum of the innings was lost and South Africa never recovered.
Fortunately for the hosts, England’s capitulation at the death was even worse with the visitors losing four wickets for just five runs in a frenetic end that will give insurmountable belief to this young Proteas team for the remainder of this T20 series.