In one of the more bizarre run chases in recent times, South Africa succumbed to a 21-run victory at the hands of England despite a 140-run opening stand, chasing a mammoth 209. De Kock starred for the Proteas with an unbeaten 124, but his efforts weren’t enough to see his side over the line.
Winning the toss and bowling first, the new-ball pairing of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada gave the Proteas an extremely positive and disciplined start, but after seeing off the first three overs, English openers Jason Roy and Jos Buttler decided to swing their way out of trouble. This ‘hit out or get out’ approach, in the end, proved to be England’s motto on the day, as despite losing wickets at regular intervals, short and sweet cameos from multiple batsmen ensured that the away side posted 208/7 in their first innings, helped by a quickfire Moeen Ali fifty.
In response, South Africa got off to a relatively good start in the powerplay - losing no wickets for 45 runs - and then upped the ante in the middle overs and at one stage, looked like they were going to cruise to victory. A 56-ball hundred from skipper Quinton de Kock put them in pole position around the 15-over mark, but a contrastingly atrocious knock from Temba Bavuma meant that the asking rate kept climbing exponentially and eventually got out of reach. De Kock ended unbeaten on 124, but him getting literally no support from the other end meant that the Saffers slumped to a 21-run defeat.
With South Africa needing 75 off 6 overs to win at one stage - with de Kock on an absolute rampage - Mark Wood bowled an outrageous 15th over, conceding just 5 runs off it. Given the Proteas had scored 43 off their previous 4 overs, this turned out to be an over of gold from the right-arm pacer and post this, the game completely turned on its head as the de Kock-led team managed to score just 53 runs off the last 6 overs for the loss of four wickets.
Highs and Lows
While Moeen Ali’s flourish towards the end took England over the 200-run mark, it was Eoin Morgan’s onslaught in the middle that really set the tone in the first innings. The skipper walked in to bat at a precarious time, coming in at 64/3 having lost Root, Buttler and Roy, but he instantly went to counterpunch mode and ripped the Proteas bowling to shreds. Him hitting back-to-back sixes off Shamsi in the 9th over completely shifted the momentum in England’s favour.
In a match full of thrills and chills, there was one notable, dull and dire performance, and that unfortunately, came off the bat of Temba Bavuma. Chasing 209, the right-hander bafflingly scored his 38 runs at run-a-ball and by doing so, he ended up putting immeasurable pressure on his partner de Kock. There was no intent in his knock nor did it serve any purpose and eventually, it ended up being the primary reason for his side’s defeat.
Powerplay exploitation: - England 8/10 and South Africa 7.5/10
Both Buttler and Roy started off in an uncharacteristically cautious manner, taking just 9 runs off the first 2 overs, but once they got their eye in, both batsmen backed themselves to overpower the bowlers and that ended up working, as England eventually raced off to 50/1 by the end of the powerplay. The ‘see off the new ball’ strategy looked like a pre-planned one, though, as post the first two overs, every single batsman absolutely brutalised the ball for the rest of the innings.
When you’re chasing a target of 209, there are Dos and Donts; Dos as in you want to exploit the field restrictions as much as you can and Donts as in you don’t want to end up losing early wickets in trying to do so. South Africa were kind of stuck right in the middle. They avoided the ‘Don’t’ but they did not really do what they were supposed to do - attack the bowling upfront. 45/0 was what they managed, below-par considering they were chasing a humongous target.
Middle overs manoeuvring: England 8.5/10 and South Africa 9/10
Middle overs are generally the most boring part of a T20 contest, but not in this game, though. When you’re a team like England that has the luxury of having batsmen/all-rounders till No.10, you can afford to go hell for leather in the middle in almost every contest and that is exactly what they did today - and it came off, too. Propelled by cameos from Morgan, Stokes and Ali, England ended up scoring 85 runs between overs 7 and 15 and, in the process, hit 5 sixes too. Poor Tabraiz Shamsi ended up bringing up a half-century.
South Africa’s middle-overs today had one name written all over it: Quinton de Kock. In fact, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the display from de Kock in the middle overs today is the best we’ve witnessed in the SRL history. From 45/0 at the end of the 6th, the southpaw single-handedly propelled the score to 139/0 by the end of the 15th; that’s 94 runs, for all of you out there who are bad at math. His dominance was so ridiculous that at one stage, his score read 83* off 46 in comparison to Bavuma’s 36* of 35.
Death Bowling: South Africa 3/10 and England 8.5/10
South Africa would be looking at the last 5 overs of each inning and absolutely beating themselves up for monumentally goofing it up. First up, whilst bowling, they ended up giving away 73 runs, all thanks to some sweet blows from Moeen Ali, and ensured that they let slip any sort of advantage they held around the 13th over mark when they dismissed Morgan. It was hideous death bowling, to say the least.
Then, with the bat, they somehow managed to add just 48 runs despite having all ten wickets in hand and a batsman batting unbeaten on a hundred. I mean, that is just unacceptable. Yes, it’s England who walk away with the 8.5/10 score but it was all due to South Africa’s ineptness with the bat. All the English bowlers had to do was bowling. That’s literally all they did.
Match Frenzy O Meter - Good
Sixes is what you crave for in T20 cricket and in this encounter, we got SEVENTEEN of them. When a game witnesses 17 sixes, its entertainment factor organically shoots up to a more-than-satisfactory level. For 35 overs, we got exceptional, high-quality cricket, but the last 5 overs turned out to be a letdown, thanks to some mindless, atrocious batting from the Proteas. A quality contest from a spectator’s perspective, nevertheless.