Close call, but SA squeak in to go into third T20 with chance
South Africa’s seam bowlers held their collective nerve to eke a three-run victory last night’s key second Twenty20 International against England at the Country Ground in Taunton.
Chasing a tricky 175-run target, after quickfire cameos from opener JJ Smuts, captain AB de Villiers and the hard-hitting Farhaan Behardien pushed the Proteas to an iffy final total of 174 for eight, the English slipped to an insufficient 171 for six.
The hosts were entirely in command at the turn of the 13th over, when opener Jason Roy’s brisk half-century and a complementary contribution from the in-form Jonny Bairstow had steered the pursuit to 125 for one.
Bairstow’s departure for a solid 47 from 37 deliveries, though, afforded the visitors some respite.
They duly capitalised on the crucial juncture, removing Roy, wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler, captain Eoin Morgan and debutant Liam Livingstone in relatively quick succession.
While recalled seamers Chris Morris and Dane Paterson strung together some reasonable economy through the closing overs of a tight chase, fellow right-armer Andile Phehlukwayo was tasked with defending 11 runs in the final over.
He did so with exemplary ease, conceding just eight runs.
Earlier, the Cape Town-born Tom Curran secured telling figures of three for 33 on debut, after Morgan had won the toss and opted to bowl first at an admittedly small venue.
Lacing superb yorkers with a slew of cleverly disguised slower deliveries, the young right-armer counted the dangerous Chris Morris among his victims.
De Villiers top-scored, striking a trio of towering sixes en route to 46 from 20. Smuts, meanwhile, recovered from a first-ball duck in Wednesday’s series opener.
He gathered 45 from 35 – and paralleled De Villiers’ cheeky premeditation through square-leg with some sound hitting across midwicket.
England dropped two catches, with mid-off fielder Chris Jordan and on-side boundary rider Livingstone guilty as charged.
Behardien was quick to capitalise on Jordan’s error, capping the innings with 32 for 21 at an admittedly small venue, though was questionable in turning down singles to farm the strike away from tail-ender Morne Morkel.
The Proteas were thoroughly outplayed in the first T20I at Southampton’s Rose Bowl earlier this week, when unbeaten half-centuries from De Villiers and Behardien proved entirely insufficient in a heavy nine-wicket defeat.
Prior to yesterday, Taunton’s County Ground hadn’t hosted international cricket since an important World Cup fixture in 1999, when Sri Lanka fell to heavy defeat at the hands of India after opting to bowl first.
The decisive third and final T20I will be played at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales, tomorrow.
Four tests will follow at Lord’s, Trent Bridge, The Oval and Old Trafford.