Jason Roy’s 113 from 91 balls was in vain as England slipped from a commanding position to suffer a 27-run defeat in the opening match of their ODI series against South Africa.
Rassie van der Dussen’s fourth ODI century and a fifth-wicket stand of 110 with David Miller (53) saw South Africa recover from 116-3 to reach 298-7 from their 50 overs at Manguan Oval after they had won the toss and chosen to bat first.
Then it was the turn of Roy to steal the limelight and rediscover his form with the bat as he shared an opening stand of 146 with Dawid Malan, but England were unable to kick on as the Proteas’ seam attack, led by Anrich Nortje with 4-62, got stuck into the middle and lower order to dismiss them for 271.
It was a difficult return to international cricket for England bowler Jofra Archer too after being out of action for the team since March 2021. He went for 81 runs from his 10 overs but did at least finish with a wicket after snaring Wayne Parnell late on.
Story of the game
Much of the focus in the build-up had been on Archer making his long-awaited return for England after 678 days since his last international appearance, having battled through elbow and back injuries, and warmed up for this series by playing in the SA20.
Yet the 27-year-old, who had taken 30 wickets at a miserly average of just 24 apiece in his 17 ODIs prior to this, was made to toil during a fruitless five-over opening spell as South Africa batters Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock took on both he and David Willey from the off.
The duo raced to a half-century partnership from just 42 balls – South Africa’s first 50 opening stand in their past eight ODIs – but a change of bowling had the desired effect for the tourists as Proteas skipper Bavuma was caught by a superb diving catch from Sam Curran off Moeen Ali for 36 in the ninth over.
Seamer Curran (3-35) then removed de Kock for 37 five overs later, sending down a short-pitched delivery which reared up at the left-hander, who went for the pull but ended up getting an outside edge that carried through to wicketkeeper Buttler.
The hosts had been briskly ticking along at nearly seven an over to that point, and they were reduced to 116-3 in the 22nd over when Olly Stone struck with his first ball to remove Aidan Markram after he was caught by Dawid Malan for 13.
Van der Dussen led the recovery though, first as he and Heinrich Klaasen put on 55 for the fourth wicket before the latter departed for 30 after being trapped lbw by Adil Rashid, and then an impressive fifth-wicket stand with David Miller.
The right-hander, who averages nearly 74 in ODIs, brought up his century with five overs remaining with a single and then slashed one away to the boundary the following delivery to take the Proteas past the 250 mark as well.
Van der Dussen started to cut loose after reaching his ton but eventually departed for 111 when he got the toe-end of his bat a wider delivery from left-armer Curran which he skied to Ben Duckett in the covers in the 48th over.
Archer eventually claimed a wicket in the final over of his second spell too as Wayne Parnell carved him to Malan at backwards point. Miller then became Curran’s third victim after a spectacular catch on the boundary from Willey, with the hosts setting England 299 to win.
Roy rediscovers form, but England stumble in chase
England could hardly have asked for a better start to their reply though and Roy set the tone from the off, racing to his 22nd ODI half-century and his first since the series against the Netherlands last June from just 45 balls, having struggled for runs in the following series against India, the Proteas and Australia.
He then brought up the century for the opening partnership with Malan in the 16th over in style by whipping a six over square leg off Proteas paceman Anrich Nortje, followed by his opening partner reaching his 50 with back-to-back fours off Tabraiz Shamsi three overs later.
Malan eventually departed for 56 when he holed out to Bavuma off seamer Magala in the 19th over and that precipitated a wobble for England as Ben Duckett (3) and debutant Harry Brook (0) both departed in quick succession to Nortje and Magala respectively.
Roy eventually fell thanks to Parnell racing around to take a catch on the square-leg boundary off the bowling of Rabada, and then Ali became Magala’s third wicket when he fell for 17, caught in the deep by van der Dussen, with England still needing 77 for victory.
Buttler (36) edging Nortje to de Kock in the 37th over had a few more nerves jangling for England and then alarm bells started ringing when Willey holed out to Miller off the right-arm paceman for just eight two overs later.
Rashid then had a let-off on five when he was caught off Nortje from what transpired to be a no ball, but the key wicket of Curran (17) was claimed by Rabada (2-46) off the final ball of his permitted 10 overs as the left-hander edged to de Kock.
Nortje then had Archer caught for a duck to claim his fourth wicket and leave England nine down, with victory being secured when Shamsi, who had endured an otherwise miserable evening with the ball, had last man in Stone caught and bowled.
What they said
England captain Jos Buttler
“I think we played some excellent cricket for the majority of the game. To be in a position after that opening stand, you feel like you could go on to win the game, so we’re obviously disappointed not to go and finish it off.
“Credit to South Africa, they came back really well and took wickets, but I thought we could have kept trying to take it on a bit and put pressure back on them.”
South Africa captain Temba Bavuma
“In the end, we got nearly 300. I felt like we were a little bit below par, but I guess at the end it was enough.
“You’ve got to keep staying in the game. The way their [opening] partnership started was similar to ours…and did it for a longer period than Quinny and myself. At that stage, you’ve got to have confidence in your bowlers.”
England return to the Manguan Oval for the second game of the three-match series in South Africa on Sunday, January 29, aiming to avoid a series defeat. That starts at 8am and is live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event.
Watch England’s three-match ODI tour of South Africa live on Sky Sports and stream on NOW TV.