South Africa, 347-5, beat England, 342-7, by five wickets
A swashbuckling century from South Africa’s beleaguered captain, Temba Bavuma, laid the platform for a stunning victory as the home side chased down England’s daunting total of 342 for seven to win by five wickets with five balls to spare in the second one-day international at the Mangaung Oval.
It was a defining moment in the embattled Bavuma’s career after a torrid six months in which he missed the tour of England with injury, spluttered awkwardly at the top of the order before his team bowed out of the T20 World Cup with defeat by the Netherlands, and failed to attract a bid in the SA20. He is the only member of his 16-man squad not considered good enough to play in the country’s shiny new T20 league.
Having redefined his role from anchor to dasher Bavuma made a positive, fearless start – as he did on Friday – but this time continued until he reached his third ODI century from only 90 balls. By the time he bottom-edged a scoop against Sam Curran on to his stumps for 109 he had burrowed sufficiently deeply under England’s collective skin to be given a send-off by the bowler. Still, at 174-2 the captain had done all he could to set up victory.
South Africa, needing 70 from the last 10 overs with six wickets in hand, should have coasted to the finish line but the importance of the result, with World Cup qualification at stake, and grimly determined bowling and fielding caused a late wobble. A fine, diving catch by Jos Buttler off Olly Stone saw the back of Heinrich Klaasen for 27 and when Adil Rashid slipped a googly past Aiden Markram’s inside edge to bowl him for 49 the result was suddenly in the balance.
“It was an entertaining game of cricket although obviously not the result we wanted, but you have to give credit to South Africa and the way they batted,” Buttler said. “We’d prefer to be winning but we’re building towards a World Cup and, like on Friday, there were plenty of good things for us. Harry Brook is an exceptional talent and Olly Stone bowled really well in the middle overs.
“But even experienced players like me struggle to get back into the rhythm of the [50-over] game after so much T20 cricket and we’ll improve as we play more games.”
David Miller is one of the game’s more clinical finishers and he was not about to let the opportunity of clinching the series slip by. Ruthless against the short ball and one of the few South Africa batsmen untroubled by Curran’s clever cutters, he punched his way to 58 not out while Marco Jansen heaved Rashid for a leg-side six to calm the nerves.
Earlier a meticulous, unbeaten 94 from captain Buttler led England to a daunting total after the early loss of openers Jason Roy and Dawid Malan with just 33 on the board.
Brook and Ben Duckett batted with sensible caution on a wicket which, unusually, had been watered the day before by a cautious groundsman guarding against the fierce sun and 35C temperature. But once the early seam movement disappeared, conditions were glorious for batting and Brook revelled in them. England scored 181 from the final 20 overs and 60 from the last four as Buttler and Curran cut loose, taking 38 from Lungi Ngidi’s final two overs.
Undeterred by how poorly England played the short ball during their 27-run defeat on Friday night, Brook hooked Anrich Nortje for six and four off consecutive balls before twice pulling decent length deliveries from spinner Keshav Maharaj over the midwicket boundary. His ability to punish faultless spin bowling is one of several trademarks. Ironically, Brook was dismissed for 80 by a part-timer, Markram’s off-spin teasing a slash to the cover boundary.
Buttler was more than happy to watch as he did the rebuilding, feeding the strike to Brook who did the dominating. But when the time came, Buttler upped the tempo in brutal fashion but could not engineer the strike and was denied the chance of a century in the final two overs.
South Africa were full value for their emotional victory, not least for the way they held their nerve every time a wicket fell, regathered and built another partnership. When Friday’s centurion, Rassie van der Dussen, reverse-swept Rashid straight to Moeen Ali the asking rate climbed towards eight runs an over with two new batsmen at the crease. Klaasen and Markram were calm as Buttler juggled his bowlers, added a slip and did all he could to build pressure. It just did not work.
When the South Africa captain reached his century, having battled cramp in the 90s, he leapt into the air, pointed to the name on the back of his shirt and then beat his chest with his clenched right fist. ‘The name is Bavuma – and I have a big heart,’ he seemed to say. “I’ll go with that,” he said afterwards. “It was an emotional moment, obviously, it’s been a tough few months. I wanted to show that I deserve to be in this team and I think I did that today.”
The final game takes place in Kimberley, 100 miles away, on Wednesday. The series may have been lost but there were still many things for England to be satisfied with. A consolation victory would go a long way to ensuring this short tour has been worthwhile.