The explosive efforts of Quinton de Kock were not enough to spare South Africa a 39-run defeat (D/L method) in the first ODI.
In the end, it was all too much to ask of one man. After winning the toss, England threw down the gauntlet, posting 399 in their allotted 50 overs. One South African proved equal to the challenge, but ultimately one man was not enough.
Indeed, when people look back at this match, they will remember Jos Buttler’s 105 off 76 deliveries and then De Kock’s 138 off 96 balls. Both innings deserve praise in isolation. The latter was particularly special in that it was achieved under pressure.
The odds were against South Africa chasing down a target of 400. England’s 399-9 marked their highest ODI total away from home, and the highest ODI total achieved by any side at the Mangaung Oval. All of the Proteas’ best players needed to fire for the hosts to eclipse England’s score.
Unfortunately, South Africa’s very best players failed to stand up. Hashim Amla was dismissed for six in the third over. AB de Villiers got to eight, but then fell victim to a stunning catch by Ben Stokes on the mid-wicket boundary.
Faf du Plessis played an important knock of 55, and was indeed the senior pro in a partnership with De Kock that yielded 110 runs. When Du Plessis perished, De Kock continued to charge at the England bowlers. Sadly for the hosts, De Kock received little support at the other end.
JP Duminy got a start, but failed to push on. The same was true of Rilee Rossouw, who holed out in disappointing fashion. The departure of Duminy and then Rossouw heaped the pressure on De Kock. Nevertheless, he fought on to keep the contest alive.
That said, when the rain descended at the Mangaung Oval and halted play, South Africa were already on the brink. The scoreboard confirmed as much, with the hosts requiring 150 runs off 99 balls with only five wickets in hand.
To be fair, England were in control for the majority of the contest. As a unit, they out-batted South Africa. Their bowlers went for runs at times, but never lost their composure. Indeed, the wickets of Duminy and Rossouw were obtained after England had applied the squeeze.
While South Africa’s batsmen failed to fire as a collective, the bowlers must shoulder the bulk of the blame for defeat. The hosts came into this fixture without the injured trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott, and the decision was taken to rest Kagiso Rabada. The inexperienced bowling unit battled from start to finish.
But take nothing away from the England batsmen. The platform was set by the opening pair of Jason Roy and Alex Hales. Joe Root played the anchor role for the visitors, and then Buttler turned a good total into a great one.
The beginning of his innings was characterised by some innovative and ultimately effective strokes. He scored at a brisk rate throughout (Buttler reached his century off just 73 balls), but was especially effective against a couple of bowlers. Buttler hit Duminy for several big sixes. In the 24th over, he dispatched the hapless Farhaan Behardien for three consecutive 4s.
Duminy and Behardien were not the only bowlers who struggled. Morné Morkel finished his allotted 10 overs with figures of 1-70. Chris Morris claimed three wickets, but disappointed with full tosses, long hops, and even the odd beamer over the course of his 10. Marchant de Lange bowled quickly, but with very little control.
South Africa leaked too many runs, and in the end, placed undue pressure on themselves. De Kock fought valiantly to get the Proteas within sight of that target. In doing so, he surpassed his previous highest ODI score of 135 against India in 2013.
When the rain ceased to abate, play was eventually called off and the result was handed to England. While the weather played a part in the outcome of this match, it has to be said that England were the better team and thus deserve to be 1-0 up in the series.
England 399-9 in 50 overs – Jos Buttler 105, Ben Stokes 57, Alex Hales 57, Chris Morris 3-74
SA 250-5 in 33.3 overs – Quinton de Kock 138 not out , Faf du Plessis 55, Moeen Ali 3-43
England won by 39 runs (Duckworth/Lewis method)