Jos Buttler smashed 48 runs from 28 balls to guide England to an easy five-wicket victory in the second ODI in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The tourists now take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series after chasing down South Africa’s 262-7 with 22 balls to spare. England reached 263-5 in 46.2 overs.
What should have been a tight finish in the last 10 overs ended prematurely thanks to two big overs off Kyle Abbott (3-58) and Imran Tahir (0-66) in the 44th and 46th overs respectively.
Buttler, who scored 105 in the first ODI, hit 15 runs off Abbott and 16 in total in the 44th over including three fours in a row to leave England needing 32 from 36 balls.
Kagiso Rabada restored normalcy at the other end in conceding just three runs off the next over. Farhaan Behardien then dropped Moeen Ali on the boundary off the first ball of the next over before Buttler smashed three sixes in a row for a haul of 21 runs from the over.
It left England needing just eight from 24, and Ali proceeded to hit Morne Morkel (2-31) for consecutive boundaries to win the game and leave England on the verge of a series victory.
South Africa’s slow bowlers again went for a lot of runs and not one of Tahir, JP Duminy or Farhaan Behardien could get their economy rate below 5.8 runs an over.
The foundation for England’s chase was laid by Alex Hales (99) and Joe Root (38) who shared a 97-run partnership for the second wicket. Root played the ball on to his stumps off Abbott and captain Eoin Morgan shared a 52-run partnership with Hales to keep England’s momentum going.
He and Ben Stokes, who fell for a duck, lost their wickets in the space of two overs to swing the momentum back South Africa’s way. Hales was caught behind after getting some bat on to a failed pull shot off Abbott which put South Africa right back into the game.
But the two big overs from Buttler changed everything and in the end South Africa were probably about 20 runs short of a winning total.
AB de Villiers scored 73 in South Africa’s innings but was one of three wickets that fell between the 41st and 44th overs which enabled England to restrict the Proteas to 262-7.
England were on top in the first and last 10 overs of the innings and did well to pull things back at a time when De Villiers and Duminy threatened to let loose and get close to 300.
South Africa lost De Villiers, Duminy (47) and Rilee Rossouw (11) in the space of three overs, although Duminy’s lbw decision was a poor one by the umpire as replays showed the ball would have comfortably missed the stumps down the leg side.
Rossouw was given out after England reviewed a caught-behind appeal. The ball went through his bat and pads and he clearly made contact with the ground, but the TV-umpire decided there was enough evidence that he had also nicked the ball, which was brilliantly caught by a one-handed Buttler.
That period between the 40th and 44th over completely halted South Africa’s momentum. It was up to Farhaan Behardien to bat well with the tail and his efforts helped them reach a competitive score.
A 107-run partnership between De Villiers and Duminy gave South Africa the advantage in the middle overs after two partnerships in the forties were broken by England to keep them in the game.
It was a tough start for Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla who had to contend with some good England bowling which made it difficult to get the ball away. De Kock and Faf du Plessis (46) found their feet after about seven overs and pushed the run-rate up from around two runs an over to more than five.
Du Plessis got a leading edge off Adil Rashid while De Kock unsuccessfully reviewed a lbw decision against him. De Villiers and Duminy stabilised the innings before the mini-collapse towards the end.