South Africa won the first of three T20Is on Wednesday evening by one run in a tightly contested battle at Buffalo Park in East London, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
In a match that went down to the very final delivery, the Proteas got the series off to a brilliant start after a great deal of composure was shown by the bowlers at the death.
South Africa were sent in to bat first by Eoin Morgan, and Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma made a quick start to the innings.
The home side went past the 100-run mark in the 10th over with only De Kock back in the hut as Van der Dussen went on the attack with Bavuma.
But tighter bowling by the English attack towards the end of the innings brought a drastic drop in the run rate, with Chris Jordan picking up three wickets in the final over as the Proteas managed 177-8 in their 20 overs.
The return of Dale Steyn to the Proteas team yielded early success when he got rid of the danger Jos Buttler in the third over.
But Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow went on the attack, sending the Proteas to all corners of the ground to bring up their team’s 50 after only 4.2 overs.
On a good batting pitch, Roy especially found it easy to clear the ropes and he brought up a classy half-century off only 22 deliveries.
Andile Phehlukwayo, though, brought an end to the partnership when he managed to trap Bairstow in his crease, given out lbw for 23.
But poor bowling by the Proteas presented the visitors with opportunities to score quickly as they continued to stay ahead of the required run rate.
Beuran Hendricks picked up the big wicket of Roy at a crucial stage of the innings, with a slower short ball that the opener pulled straight to Lungi Ngidi – gone for a well-played 70 off 38 balls.
The Proteas began to swing the momentum in their favour as Phehlukwayo picked up his second wicket by dismissing Joe Denly for only three.
Ben Stokes also tried to go for a big hit but the variation in pace by Ngidi had him caught on the boundary by David Miller.
England needed 23 runs from the final two overs of the match, but Eoin Morgan stood his ground and brought up his half-century in the penultimate over, only to be caught by Bavuma off Beuran Hendricks’ bowling for 52.
It meant England required seven runs from the last over. Then, drama unfolded at Buffalo Park and it was down to Ngidi to bowl the crucial six balls.
The tall paceman took the important wicket of Tom Curran in the second ball of the over – an off-cutter that Curran played straight to Miller at the boundary.
Three runs were needed off the final two balls and Ngidi delivered a vital blow by knocking Moeen Ali over with a slower and flighted delivery.
Adil Rashid came in to face the final ball and the spinner failed to get Ngidi away as he was run out by Dale Steyn to let South Africa win by one run.
A superb finish by Ngidi in the final over had the Proteas picking up three very important wickets.
South Africa – Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, JJ Smuts, David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi.
England – Jason Roy, Jos Buttler (wk), Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Joe Denly, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, Mark Wood.
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images