England's one day warriors were weighed, measured and found wanting by a revitalised South Africa in an seven-wicket humbling, writes Dean Wilson in Centurion.
The brilliance of Joe Root and Ben Stokes with the bat was out-gunned and out-classed by bludgeon and scalpel Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla who finally gave home fans some hope to cling on to.
Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla. Pic/ AFP
And heading to their two favourite venues in Johannesburg (on Friday) and Cape Town (Sunday) for the final two matches, the 2-1 scoreline now doesn’t look too big an obstacle for the Proteas to overcome.
The way in which they overhauled England’s 318-8 with 22 balls to spare was befitting a team that made the semi-finals of the last World Cup and served as a reminder just how valuable wicket-taking bowlers are in one day cricket.Unfortunately, England’s bowlers took pancake day a little too seriously by serving up a load of crepes.“We didn’t put enough balls in the right areas and we didn’t get the basics right,” said skipper Eoin Morgan.
“We didn’t hit our straps at all“You want to take wickets because that creates a positive mindset and it builds pressure, but we couldn’t do that. I don’t think we hit a length well enough for long enough.”Without the extra pace of Steven Finn or Liam Plunkett, their attack was largely toothless on an easy-paced pitch that got more batter-friendly under the lights.
David Willey, Reece Topley and Chris Jordan are learning on the job and bowling to De Kock and Amla was as brutal a lesson as they will have, but they all had an off day.Earlier, Root had gathered his seventh one-day ton in just his 66th game to reinforce his credentials as one of the best in the world, and in one day cricket De Kock simply has to be included in that conversation too.
At 23 years and 54 days he is now the youngest man to have scored ten one day international hundreds, beating Virat Kohli’s record.Nicknamed ‘Gilly’ by his team-mates, he plundered his fourth ton in six innings with such ease one wondered whether it actually was Adam Gilchrist out there doing his usual pommie-bashing act for the crowd.
The shots were just as clean and crisp as anything the Aussie used to produce and while Amla collected his 22nd one-day ton, and his third in a row at this ground in Centurion, it was De Kock who sparkled brightest and earned the deserved man-of-the-match.“They were unbelievable,” said De Villiers.
“If you can get an opening partnership like that it makes a huge difference and helps the team a lot.“We were pretty desperate to get a result in this game and hopefully it is a sign of things to come.
"Who will win the ODI series now, England or South Africa?