Chris Morris hit 17 from seven balls as South Africa won a final-over thriller by three wickets in the first T20I against England at Newlands on Friday.
In a pulsating final over, off which South Africa needed 15 runs to win, Reece Topley fumbled a final ball throw-in from Joe Root to allow Kyle Abbott to complete the second run the Proteas needed to win the game as they successfully chased 135.
The man responsible for putting South Africa in that winning position was Morris, who not for the first time successfully closed out a game for his country after his heroics in the fourth ODI at the Wanderers.
It’s difficult to determine which side deserved the win more, but there was a feeling that South Africa would have thrown it away had they failed to chase down 135 for victory.
Faf du Plessis top-scored with 25, but it came off 30 balls, while AB de Villiers managed only seven from 10 balls. South Africa lost the plot towards the end, losing four wickets in the space of 18 balls to give England a proper sniff.
Rilee Rossouw and David Miller both got out trying to clear the boundary. When David Wiese chopped the ball on to his stumps to leave the home side on 119-7, England felt they were on top and in a great position to win the game.
But Morris came to the rescue again. Kyle Abbott was on strike in the final over. Needing 15 from six deliveries, Abbott ran a single to put Morris on strike. The all-rounder, who went for a million dollars in the IPL auction, hit the second ball of the over for four and the third ball for a six to leave his team needing four from three.
Topley bowled a dot ball with his fourth delivery and South Africa ran two from the fifth. Needing two from the final delivery, Morris hit the ball down the ground to Joe Root at mid-off. Forced to run two, Abbott was on his way back for the second when Topley fumbled the throw-in from Root, which prevented him from breaking the wickets.
The surface was two-paced but the rain that was expected never came.
South Africa were behind the Duckworth/Lewis asking rate throughout their run-chase and were always going to need a flurry of runs towards the end to give them a chance of winning the game.
Chris Jordan finished with 3-23 in his four overs but was unlucky as he could have dismissed Morris earlier. Topley dropped him on the long-on boundary after misjudging the ball completely. By the time he decided to run in to try and catch it, it was too late.
Hashim Amla was also dropped on 14 by Jos Buttler and JP Duminy by David Willey.
Imran Tahir equalled his best bowling figures in a T20I by claiming 4-21 as England reached 134-8.
England got off to a flying start by scoring at 1o runs an overs for the first five overs. South Africa fought back and got rid of Alex Hales (27), Root (8) and Ben Stokes (11) in quick succession to slow the scoring.
When Tahir took his third wicket to get rid of Eoin Morgan for 10 England were struggling on 81-5.
South Africa’s fielding was not without incident. JP Duminy dropped Hales on 24 in Morris’s first over. But he wasn’t as generous the second time, holding on to the catch offered off Tahir’s bowling despite being tackled by Kagiso Rabada.
Rabada ran back trying to get to the ball but never looked down to see Duminy in a much better position to take it. They collided and Rabada looked like he came off worse than Duminy, but both players got up and carried with the game.
England needed someone to play a big innings, but Root was caught at point trying to drive David Wiese’s first delivery, while Stokes was stumped by De Villiers off Tahir.
When Du Plessis took a good catch diving to his left to get rid of Moeen Ali for a golden duck, Tahir couldn’t contain his excitement in hugging his captain. It left him on a hat-trick ball, and he almost got it, but the ball missed Jordan’s bat and wickets.
Buttler stuck around for an unbeaten 32 off 30 balls, but he couldn’t score quickly enough to push England to a bigger total.
David Wiese was also excellent with ball in hand, conceding only 19 runs in his four overs and the wicket of Root.
Quinton de Kock has been rested as a precaution for the two T20I’s against England. De Kock sustained an injury to his right knee before the third Test against England at the Wanderers and has been granted a period of rest given the busy playing schedule ahead.
Proteas team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee explained: ‘Quinton has been playing a lot of cricket since the injury to his knee before the third Test match against England. Even though he was given the all-clear by the medical team at the time, we feel it is best to give the knee some rest as he is still slightly symptomatic. We need to keep in mind the upcoming World T20 as well as the short turnaround of matches leading up to the tournament. He will be available for selection for the series against Australia starting in Durban on March 4.’