AB de Villiers and Farhaan Behardien scored half-centuries after a slow start, as they got to 142-3 in the first T20 against England at the Rose Bowl.
There was no time to lament their respective Champions Trophy exits as the Proteas and England rekindled their rivalry in the shortest format, a mere three days after the finish of the global event.
The Proteas, led by AB de Villiers in the absence of Faf du Plessis and all the other players who play in all three formats, were looking to build on their 7-4 record in the 20-over format against England, despite losing the last time the sides met in a thrilling World T20 tie last year. De Villiers won the toss and took strike.
Featuring two debutants in the shape of Tabraiz Shamsi and Dwaine Pretorius, the Proteas reintroduced JJ Smuts, Reeza Hendricks and Mangaliso Mosehle to the setup. It was an innings to forget for the openers, as David Willey (1-34) and Mark Wood (2-36) both struck with their first deliveries.
Smuts, deserving of his place after an excellent campaign with the Warriors in the shorter formats, needs to start firing in international clothing. Willey forced him to chop one on for a golden duck. Hendricks (3) thought he’d slapped one away to the square leg boundary for four, only for Willey to take a fine grab in the circle.
De Villiers was then essentially tasked with opening the batting, but lost another partner in David Miller for nine, who bottom-edged one behind to Jos Buttler for Wood’s second wicket.
The commentators hyped up the fact that it was a fairly straightforward batting track, but it was playing up, and De Villiers and Farhaan Behrdien struggled to get going, with the run rate sliding to below six an over. It was left to the spinners in the middle overs to create the pressure. Debutant Mason Crane (0-24) and Liam Dawson (0-17) bowled eight on the trot, conceding just 41 runs between them.
De Villiers (65) and Behardien (64) did eventually build up some steam as they laboured past their half-centuries. The final two overs were dispatched for 26 runs and they brought up a record fourth-wicket partnership in the process, to give them something to defend.
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