England beat South Africa by two runs in Southampton on Saturday to win the ODI series 2-0.
England have played the better brand of cricket over the past two matches and deserve to be 2-0 up in this series. By contrast, the Proteas – for the most part – have lacked urgency across the disciplines of batting, bowling, and fielding. The visitors have much to rectify ahead of the Champions Trophy tournament, which begins next week.
The game went down to the final ball of the South African innings. David Miller, with the support of all-rounder Chris Morris, had done well to take the contest deep. When Miller smashed the first two balls of the penultimate over for six and four, the momentum appeared to be with South Africa.
However, Mark Wood then proceeded to limit the Proteas to just four runs in the final over. South Africa needed a boundary off the final delivery to win the game. Morris swung for all he was worth, but a poor connection saw the visitors picking up a single.
For the second time in the series, South Africa won the toss and asked the opposition to bat. And for the second time in the series, the visitors leaked more than 100 runs in the final 10 overs and allowed England to post a formidable total.
Credit should go to England for their excellent finishing, though. Ben Stokes was dropped twice while on 0, and went on to score 101 off 79 deliveries. Jos Buttler (65 not out) and Moeen Ali (33) then took the fight to a defenceless South African attack at the death.
Kagiso Rabada performed better than his 2-50 figures may suggest. Indeed, South Africa’s premier fast bowler may not have conceded 12 in his final over, and would have claimed a further wicket, had Hashim Amla pouched a regulation catch on the boundary.
The Proteas showed some composure during the initial stages of their pursuit of the 331-run target. Stokes decided to return the favour when he put down Quinton de Kock on 28. A couple of balls later, however, Stokes had Amla caught in the covers.
De Kock then took it upon himself to play the anchor role. The left-handed batsman and skipper AB de Villiers took few chances over the course of their 96-run partnership. The platform appeared to be set with the scoreboard reading 189-2 after 32 overs.
PLAY OF THE DAY: De Kock drops anchor
England fought to stay in the game, though. The required run rate climbed to eight an over. When De Villiers and De Kock departed in quick succession, the Proteas’ chances of winning the game and squaring the series diminished. De Kock, who was denied a century, looked particularly disappointed after being caught behind off the bowling of Ali.
Miller reignited the visitors’ hopes when he launched a timely counter-attack, reaching 50 off just 34 balls. South Africa went into the final five overs needing 56 runs to win, and with five wickets in hand.
Again, the Proteas left themselves with too much to do at the back end of the innings. They were made to regret poor bowling and fielding performances, which ultimately allowed England to post formidable rather than competitive totals.
The final game of the series will be played at Lord’s on Monday. The fixture will serve as one final opportunity for the Proteas to find form before their Champions Trophy campaign begins in earnest on 3 June.
England 330-6 (50 0vers) – Ben Stokes 101, Jos Buttler 65 not out, Eoin Morgan 45, Kagiso Rabada 2-50
SA 328-5- (50 overs) – Quinton de Kock 98, David Miller 71 not out, AB de Villiers 52, Liam Plunkett 3-64
England won by two runs
England: 1 Jason Roy 2 Alex Hales 3 Joe Root 4 Eoin Morgan (c) 5 Ben Stokes 6 Jos Buttler 7 Moeen Ali 8 Adil Rashid 9 Liam Plunkett 10 Jake Ball 11 Mark Wood
South Africa: 1 Quinton de Kock 2 Hashim Amla 3 Faf du Plessis 4 AB de Villiers (c) 5 David Miller 6 Farhaan Behardien 7 Dwaine Pretorius 8 Chris Morris 9 Andile Phehlukwayo 10 Kagiso Rabada 11 Keshav Maharaj
Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images