A sensational Chris Morris smashed 62 from 38 balls to help South Africa win the fourth ODI by one wicket at the Wanderers on Friday to level the series with a game to play.
How South Africa needed this. They pulled off a tense run-chase against England as Imran Tahir hit his first delivery from Adil Rashid for four to clinch a remarkable game of cricket.
Morris was the hero and his superb knock, together with a 52-run partnership with Kyle Abbott, took South Africa to the brink of victory before Rashid bowled him off the first ball of the 47th over.
After 44 overs the game was still in the balance but leaning heavily towards England with South Africa on 226-8 and still needing 37 runs from 36 balls. Two boundaries off Chris Woakes eased the pressure a bit to leave the home side needing 23 from 30 balls, but everything changed after that.
Eoin Morgan brought Stuart Broad back into the attack to bowl the 46th over. England’s most experienced bowler was picked for this game exactly for this type of situation, but Morris had other ideas.
He hit the first ball of Broad’s over for six and followed it up with two fours in a row which left the Proteas needing only eight runs from 24 balls with two wickets in hand.
With two runs needed for victory, Morris was bowled by Rashid but Tahir got the next ball away for a boundary to level the series.
England had their chances. They dropped Morris on 14 with South Africa on 211-8 and were made to pay for it. JP Duminy was dropped on one and AB de Villiers on nine, while a few run-out chances also went begging.
South Africa started poorly. After restricting England to 262, they found themselves in early trouble on 63-3 despite scoring at a healthy rate. Hashim Amla was bowled off his pads for a duck, but the rest of the batsmen all got starts. They needed someone to kick on and get close to a hundred, but it never happened until Morris came to the crease.
AB de Villiers got things back on track with a 58-run partnership, but a poorly judged single saw De Villiers run out at the striker’s end by Chris Woakes for 36. Duminy followed four overs later for 31 when Rashid trapped him lbw.
Farhaan Behardien and David Wiese gave South Africa hope with a 48-run partnership before Wiese chased a wide one and got caught at cover. Behardien was caught and bowled by Reece Topley and when Kagiso Rabada edged one to slip for a golden duck South Africa must have feared the worst.
But Morris and Abbott combined for a match-saving partnership to ensure there would be a series decider in the fifth ODI at Newlands on Sunday.
Joe Root scored his second hundred in a row to present the Proteas with a target of 263.
Root’s innings of 109 was the glue that kept the England innings together as the middle order crumbled around him in an inspiring spell by Tahir, who was back to his best after a difficult series prior to this game.
England started slowly and lost Jason Roy early, but Alex Hales reached his fourth consecutive fifty in the series as he shared a 69-run partnership with Root. Unfortunately for Hales he didn’t stick around after reaching 50 as he gave Abbott a catch on the deep mid-wicket boundary.
England went from 87-1 to 97-4 in the space of two overs as Tahir (3-46) took three wickets in the space of seven balls to get rid of Hales, Morgan (2) and Stokes (2). Amla took a superb one-handed catch at slip to get rid of Stokes.
The dangerous Jos Buttler fell three overs later for one to a superb bouncer from Abbott. The ball clipped his bat, hit Buttler against the helmet and went up in the air as Abbott took the catch off his own bowling.
Root and Woakes (33) shared a 95-run partnership to get England’s innings back on track. Rashid chipped in with 39 but Rabada (4-45) wrapped up the tail to restrict England to 262.