Just when you thought it was safe to bring out the happy faces, another South African batting collapse comes around the bend.
The SA U19 side had fought their way back into the second youth Test against England on day two of the match, bowling England out for 133 for a 76-run first innings lead.
Joshua Richards and Jacob Miltz pushed things along gently, getting to 30-0 after eight overs but that’s when their luck ran out, as England’s leading wicket-taker in the series, opener Jack Plom, bowled Richards and then had Louis van Schalkwyk and Wandile Makwetu both out on the first ball to complete a hat-trick that put the match back on an even keel.
Lunch couldn’t have come sooner, as the battered South Africans hit the pavilion with the score on 55-5, with a 131-run lead on their hosts.
After the break, Jason Niemand fell for 14 off 47 balls, at which point there had been three pairs in the innings: the openers both scored 11, followed by three and four both being dismissed for first-ball ducks, and five and six both scored 14.
Jade de Klerk again proved his class by top-scoring, but when he was caught off Adam Finch for 16 off 31 balls, SA were reeling on 82-7 and the innings was wrapped up shortly afterwards with the visitors all out for 90 off 36.4 overs.
Plom finished with figures of 2-25 and Sam Connors 2-20, but the pick of the bunch was Finch with 4-22 off 8.4 overs. Set 167 for victory, Gideon Peters and Thando Ntini each picked up an early wicket to leave England rattled on 4-2, before Tom Banton (34) and Jack Haynes (27) added 61 for the third wicket.
George Lavelle (25) and Harrison Ward (27) took command and ground their way through to 154-6, after which Jack Davies (32 not out) and Luke Hollman (11 not out) saw England through to the victory shortly before the end of day three for a four-wicket win to take the series 2-0.
It was a disappointing end, but although their batting left a lot to be desired, the SA U19 team can take heart from the lower-order fight as well as some quality bowling that kept England in check. Peters ended with figures of 2-57 and Ntini 2-42, while Kgaudisa Molefe (1-35) and Mondli Khumalo (1-16) also contributed wickets.
Peters was named the SA U19 Player of the Series for his efforts with the ball, picking up eight wickets in the two-match series.
The three-match ODI series between the teams kicks off on 23 July, and the SA U19s will be hoping to leave England with at least a victory in that series.
Photo: Cricket South Africa