England bounced back emphatically in the third Twenty20 International (T20I) against South Africa at Cardiff on Sunday and won the virtual final by 19 runs. With this win, England seal the three-match series by 2-1 and have done a magnificent job as a unit. South African batsmen floundered in the run-chase and lost the momentum at a very crucial stage. After a victory in the One-Day International (ODI) series prior to the Champions Trophy, England have now managed to win the T20I series as well. They have been a force to reckon against the white ball and have played well in this series as well.

South Africa won the toss and put England to bat. The conditions were conducive for batting and Cardiff has a reputation of producing high-scoring games. Debutant Dawid Malan came out all guns blazing and scored a brisk 78 off 44 deliveries to steer England to a commanding position. Malan and Alex Hales stitched a match-winning partnership of 103 runs off 63 deliveries and laid the foundation of a big score. Malan placed his innings sensibly and took South African bowlers for cleaners. South Africa were a bit sloppy on the field as they dropped a couple of catches. England were in commanding position in the 14th over, where they were placed at 127 or 2 before the wicket of Malan on the third delivery. A score of 200 looked on the cards as England had enough batting to come, but it wasn’t to be. Some solid exhibition of death bowling by South African bowlers didn’t let England achieve a very big total.

South African bowlers kept chipping wickets at regular intervals and made good use of yorkers. They picked five wickets and conceded just 47 runs in the last six overs to restrict England to 181 for 8 in 20 overs. Andile Phehlukwayo and Dane Paterson were outstanding with the ball and picked two and four wickets respectively. England still had enough runs on the board to battle for and needed their bowlers to step up against the powerful South African batting. Also, the fact that England had two bowlers with an experience of just a solitary game was also an advantage for South Africa.

Chasing 182 requires a solid start from the openers but South Africa once again got off to a shaky start as Reeza Hendricks was undone by Tom Curran for a duck. South Africa needed a blinder from someone at the top and in an attempt to do so, Chris Morris was elevated at three in the batting order. They needed a platform for the likes of AB de Villiers and David Miller to capitalise on. Morris couldn’t manage to make a big impact as he was undone for eight by Chris Jordan. AB de Villiers and JJ Smuts did reasonably well to keep the scoreboard ticking. Smuts shifted gears but was dismissed by Liam Plunkett when he was looking dangerous.

Turning point

After Smuts dismissal, at the crease were South Africa’s two most big-hitting batsmen – AB de Villiers and David Miller. De Villiers brought his experience into play and infused energy in the South African run-chase by milking 16 runs off the first three deliveries in the 11th over. De Villiers took advantage of Mason Crane’s inexperience and smashed a four and two sixes off consecutive deliveries. Crane pitched it up again and De Villiers backed himself for another maximum off the final delivery. He connected it well but Alex Hales took a fantastic catch at deep backward square to get the prized wicket of De Villiers. Crane scalped his first international wicket in the form of De Villiers and perhaps, the game. De Villiers was the in-form batsman and looked threatening out in the middle.

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South Africa needed something special from here to script a win and David Miller was quite capable of producing one. But two deliveries later, Miller edged a widish length delivery from Chris Jordan straight into the hands of Jos Buttler behind the stumps. South Africa lost two big wickets within the span of four deliveries and with it, their hopes of winning the game were virtually over. Although they had the likes of Farhaan Behardien and Mangaliso Mosehle at the crease but the target was still very far and South Africa had already lost half the side in 12 overs. Losing two big wickets in two overs turned out to be costly for South Africa as they lost the game by 19 runs.

Mosehle and Andile Phehlukwayo garnered some handy runs lower down the order and helped their side get close to England’s total. South Africa needed a partnership from the top-order, they needed one batsman either De Villiers or Miller to play out till the end and anchor the run-chase as they have the experience of doing so. English bowlers were outstanding with the ball especially Chris Jordan and Tom Curran. Jordan had three wickets to his name while the young Curran bowled extremely well to bag a couple of wickets. It was a solid performance with the ball by England and they were once again brilliant on the field. South Africa, on the other hand, did a commendable job with the ball but a collapse in the middle with the bat cost them the game and with it the series.


South Africa will now hope to taste some success in the longest format of the game as the two teams will now lock horns in a four-match Test series starting 6th July.

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