The Proteas suffered a heavy 104-run defeat at the hands of World Cup favourites England in the tournament opener at the Oval, reports KHALID MOHIDIN.
The Oval hosted an exciting World Cup opening fixture. England, whose batting lineup has been hailed the best in the world, came face to face the Proteas’ highly-rated bowling attack.
The visitors, however, earned praise for their bowling efforts which went some way to silencing the overwhelming chatter about England’s batting prowess as they pegged them back at regular intervals.
The four half-centuries scored during their innings in proved that they possess incredible quality in their side, but the Proteas bowlers did well to stem the scoring rate and restrict the hosts to just 311-8 on a 350-plus wicket.
As a result, the lively buzz at the Oval was muffled towards the end of England’s innings.
The Proteas had a nervy start to their chase with England seemingly quick to have learn from the Proteas’ shortcomings in their opening overs and opted to bowl at the stumps, unlike the Proteas who opted for shorter, and sometimes wider, deliveries.
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock still managed to find gaps, when the in-fielders allowed, but a blistering bouncer from fast bowler Jofra Archer sent Amla back to the pavilion for a concussion test after taking a blow to the head.
In at 3, Aiden Markram took nine balls to hit his first boundary and did so with a beautiful drive through the covers for four. He duplicated that shot later on, but it would be his final contribution as he nicked a short delivery from Archer to first slip for 11.
Captain Faf du Plessis had a mighty task ahead of him and managed just five as the Proteas were reduced t0 44-2 when he top-edged a short delivery from Archer to Moeen Ali at fine-leg.
De Kock enjoyed some luck in the 11th over, when he missed a googly from Adil Rashid which went on to graze his off-stump but his bails remained firm.
He rode his luck for a while and proceed onto his 22nd ODI half-century that pushed the Proteas past the 100-run mark.
Rassie van der Dussen in his first World Cup match supported De Kock by playing the more subdued role and found some balance in his game.
De Kock, however, couldn’t contain himself and switched to his natural attacking game and picked out deep backward square leg to depart for 68.
JP Duminy (eight) was next to fold, he lofted a senseless shot straight to long-off. They threw away their fifth wicket too, an unnecessary run out which saw Dwaine Pretorius join his peers in the hut for just 1.
It was now up to the World Cup debutants, Van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo, to take the fight to the hosts. Van der Dussen (50 off 61 balls) reached his fifth half-century in 10 innings but failed to add to that as the run rate soared.
Amla bravely came back out to the middle but the horse had bolted.
He joined Phehlukwayo, who looked up for the occasion only to be undone in remarkable fashion. The 23-year-old played a full-blooded slog-sweep that looked for all money to have cleared Ben Stokes. The England all-rounder never knows when he’s been beaten and promptly plucked the ball out the air with one hand at deep midwicket.
With the Proteas on 182-7 after 35 overs, the result was beyond question as Amla lost his wicket for 13 to Liam Plunkett.
Stokes, who scored 89 in England’s innings, cleaned up the tail with an important contribution with the ball taking 2-12 as England cruised to victory.