Bairstow batters SA and carries England to success in series opener
A bold batting effort from Jonny Bairstow buttressed England’s efficient chase that helped his team win the first T20 against SA at Newlands.
England hunted down SA’s 179/6 with four balls to spare to win by five wickets.
Bairstow, who received a life on 24 when Faf du Plessis spilt a tough chance, clubbed an unbeaten 48-ball 86 with nine fours and four sixes to turn what could have been a challenging chase into a regulation one.
He was dropped to number four to make space for Jos Buttler at the top and he batted with a vengeful sense of purpose.
England started badly, losing Jason Roy (0) off only the second ball of the chase to the excellent George Linde (2/20).
The dangerous Buttler (seven) was out in the fifth over where he picked out Heinrich Klaasen at cover off Lungi Ngidi (2/31) to leave England at 27/2.
The enterprising Dawid Malan (19) then followed quickly off Linde as England tottered to 34/3 after 5.3 overs.
In winning the toss and bowling first, Eoin Morgan backed his team’s batting depth and it came through.
Bairstow, who was fluency personified, partnered Ben Stokes’ (37) muscle for a 85-run partnership that salvaged England’s stuttering start.
Stokes was unfortunate to pick out Linde at long on off Tabraiz Shamsi (1/27), but at 119/4 after 14.1 overs, it was game on.
Bairstow was the main man and when he helped himself to 28 off Beuran Hendricks’s 17th over, along with other boundaries along the way, what could have been a daunting finish was made easy despite the loss of Morgan (12). That over pretty much settled the outcome of the game.
While the game, the first in SA since March, was significant, the knee to observe the Black Lives Matter movement wasn’t taken.
While not quite in the same vein as West Indian legend Michael Holding, former England captain Nasser Hussain lamented SA’s missed BLM opportunity.
“At the start of our cricket coverage in the UK, Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent made a very strong political statement about BLM and it went down very well around the world. Someone like Kagiso Rabada or the SA team taking a knee would have had a huge impact,” Hussain said before the game.
“The flip side of that is you have to do it because you want to do it. It comes from your heart and you must feel comfortable doing so. These kind of statements shouldn’t be forced on people. They need to feel that they want to do it and that’s when it has the most impact.”
Except for an early, fourth over Faf du Plessis-led takedown of Tom Curran, SA’s innings was one of fits and starts. While it was above Newlands’ day/night T20 par of 175, parts of it promised a lot, but didn’t deliver in the manner it should have.
Temba Bavuma’s (five) first over dismissal where he tried an ungainly reverse paddle that was feathered behind to Jos Buttler off the excellent Sam Curran (3/27).
While captain Quinton de Kock (30), who hit the first six off the game off the accurate Jofra Archer (1/28) in the third over, was unusually subdued, the in-form Du Plessis (58) led the charge.
He took 24 of the Tom Curran over to take the score from 26/1 in the fourth over to 50/1 in the fifth. It should have been the catalyst to greater things, but England bowled astutely on a true, but slow deck that gripped.
In the absence of boundaries, which dried up even though SA were 86/2 after 10 overs, England had a knack of collecting wickets when necessary.
De Kock was dislodged in the 10th over when he picked out his counterpart Morgan at short cover off Chris Jordan (1/40), ending the 77-run alliance.
Du Plessis was the third wicket to fall at 110 when he holed out to Jordan off Sam Curran.
Klaasen (20) and Rassie van der Dussen (37) endeavoured and with reasonable reward, but the latter would have kicked himself for his dismissal.
He swatted an Archer full-toss to Dawid Malan at deep square leg while Klaasen was Sam Curran’s third victim when he edged a bouncer to Buttler.
Sam Curran summed up England’s intelligent bowling showing with a good mix of difficult to pick deliveries, while Tom Curran (1/55) redeemed himself later in the game. Adil Rashid though was the star. While wicketless, he put the skids on SA’s effort.
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