World Cup 2019: Ben Stokes sizzles as England thrash South Africa

Updated: May 31, 2019, 08:11 IST | Santosh Suri

All-rounder Ben Stokes top scores with 89, takes two wickets and a stunning catch as England thrash South Africa to win ICC World Cup opening clash by 104 runs at The Oval

World Cup 2019: Ben Stokes sizzles as England thrash South Africa
England's Ben Stokes celebrates after taking a stunning catch to dismiss South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo during the World Cup opening match at The Oval yesterday. Pic/Getty Images

Not for nothing are England considered the favourites in this World Cup. They are not a team to be ruffled easily by the opponents' tactics. South African captain Faf du Plessis surprised all by having leg-spinner Tahir Imran bowl the first over of the opening match. Even after Tahir consumed Jonny Bairstow with his second delivery, England went on to score 311 for eight after being put in. Of course, South Africa did well to keep the hosts well under 340, which looked imminently possible at one stage.

Archer too good

But in the face of sustained hostile bowling by Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer and spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, backed by superb fielding exemplified by Ben Stokes's brilliant catch at the mid-wicket boundary to dismiss JP Duminy, the pressure of the big total got to the South African batsmen.

None of them could produce a big innings that could set the platform for chasing down the target and lost the game by a massive margin of 104 runs. Till Quinton de Kock (68) and Rassie van der Dussen were at the crease, there was a bit of hope for the South Africans. But once Liam Plunkett got rid of De Kock, things became increasingly difficult.

England, thereafter, kept a tight control over the proceedings and did not allow their rivals to make a comeback. While England have begun their quest for a maiden World Cup in right earnest, the result will surely haunt the South African skipper, who opted to bowl first thinking the conditions would help their pacers. But unlike on the match eve, it turned out to be a bright, sunny day.

And with conditions rather dry, the England batting looked as solid as it has been in recent times on a flat Oval track. After Bairstow's early dismissal, England relied on their top order to get the innings going. There were four half-centurions in all, Jason Roy (54), Joe Root (51), skipper Eoin Morgan (57) and Ben Stokes (89). However, none went on to get a big one. In the end, it did not matter as England achieved what they had aimed at before the match — to get off to a winning start.

What was heartening for England was that barring Bairstow and Jos Buttler, the other top order batsmen had a good dig in the middle. Though the South African pacemen tried to be aggressive, the England batsmen were willing to take them on. Even the rather sedate Root was willing to dominate the bowling despite the early loss of Bairstow.

Self-belief

The most impressive thing about this England team under Morgan is that they have the self-belief and are not willing to take a step back. They attacked the South African bowling with gusto and their own pacers gave it back to the rival batsmen, with Hashim Amla retiring hurt after being struck on the helmet by a nasty Archer delivery. Amla did come back later, but by then the writing was already on the wall.

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