Having been at the horror show that was the 3rd ODI between these 2 teams at Lords I was hoping for a very different performance from the home team.


Captain Eoin Morgan had said before the 3 match series started that all in the squad would get a game, that meant that several of the usual ‘big’ names were missing, including Morgan himself.  That caused some consternation amongst some, but as a fan who travelled from Essex to watch this match I was more than happy with the team I saw, I for one enjoy seeing future stars when they make their mark early on, and that’s certainly what happened here.


I’d travelled down with my friend Monica and  I made a schoolgirl error in looking at the time the gates opened rather than the time the game started! That meant we rocked up 2.5 hours early!  Oops!  The weather wasn’t the best, but once inside we sat and chilled with a cuppa while we waited.


AB de Villiers has withdrawn from test cricket for now, but was present and captain for this T20 series, he’d disappointed during the Champions Trophy, I was there to see his Golden Duck at Edgbaston, I hoped he’d be on the losing side with a good performance.  He won the toss and put England in to bat.


This England team like to chase, but that choice wasn’t theirs to make. Jos Buttler took up the role he’d carried out on the Bangladesh tour as captain.


Jason Roy who in common with AB had been underperforming for his country, opened with Alex Hales.  This wasn’t to be the day Roy played himself back into form, he scored 8 runs before he left his bat up in the air to a ball from Morne Morkel, the ball brushed past and it flew to the wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle, to his relief the catch stuck, he’d dropped a much easier catch earlier from Roy, which brought him stick for the rest of the innings.


Enter Dawid Malan, a late entry at 29 to international cricket he wasn’t going to hang about, he was a delight to watch as he hit 78 from 44 balls, including 12 fours and 2 mighty sixes,  Hales at the other end faced only 28 balls but made 36 before he was out to Andile Phehlukwayo, I’m so relieved his name is lodged in my iPhone for updates during the match! 


Captain Jos Buttler contributed 31 runs, seeing Sam Billings at the other end, become the first of 4 wickets for Dane Paterson, Liam Livingstone was next in and swung his bat at the next Paterson ball, he missed it, the ball didn’t miss the stumps!  In a worrying slum Liam Plunkett also went for a duck, a 2nd ball one rather than golden, to Phehlukwayo.  England were 179 for 8.


Buttler became Paterson’s 4th wicket and England only managed 2 more runs, leaving South Africa with a target of 182


Reeza Hendricks and JJ Smuts opened the batting.  Liam Plunkett and Tom Curran opened the bowling.  Curran 22,  is the older of 2 brothers at Surrey, Sam at 19 is making his mark with both bat and ball for Surrey and will surely follow Tom into the England set up.  Tom made his debut at Taunton in the 2nd T20, taking 3 for 33, he carried on the good work at Cardiff aided by Plunkett who caught Hendricks for a duck!  South Africa were 11 for 1.


A passionate young man Curran’s delight was plain to see, I’d witnessed that joy many times at Surrey it was great to see it in this setting!  Next  in and out was Chris Morris, he was caught by Alex Hales from the bowling of Chris Jordan and South Africa were 22 for 2.  The audience is often a lively one at T20 matches and Sophia Gardens was no different.  We had a few Barmy Army fans sitting nearby and a South African with a huge flag who was great fun – his response to – who are ya – was ‘I don’t understand your pronunciation’ followed by a very correctly pronounced “WHO ARE YOU”.  The banter certainly added to the atmosphere.


Morris’s departure brought in the man many wanted to see, AB de Villiers, he needed to play a captain’s innings.  All was going well for him as he hit 35 from just 19 balls, including a four and 2 sixes from the bowling of Mason Crane in one over, it took real character from the 20 year old as he was being thrashed by one of the best in the world, but AB went for a mighty hit again, the bat fell short and was caught by Alex Hales.  Crane’s joy will be one of my moments of the summer, he’d just got one of the biggest scalps in world cricket, it was wonderful to watch!


Smuts had gone a couple of overs earlier and David Miller faced just 6 balls before being caught behind by Buttler from the bowling of Jordan.  Jordan struck again, with Billings catching Farhaan Behardien. That spell left South Africa on 91 for 6 with just over 6 overs remaining.  Jordan’s bowling prompted our South African flag bearer to yell loudly – ‘The ball is the white thing!’ – he really did add to the day!


Along came wicket keeper Mosehle who’d faced so much stick after his dropped catch, he more than made up for it with his batting!  What an entertaining player, he hit 36 from 22 balls, including 4 sixes,  before Sam Billings took his second catch from the bowling of Curran. Phehlukwayo kept him company, he’s a big man who can hit the ball hard, he made 27 but tie had run out for South Africa and they’d managed 162 for 7, the win was England’s by 19 runs and the selection gambles had paid off.


AB won’t take part in the test series between the 2 teams which is a big disappointment, I was looking forward to watching him over the summer, hopefully the series will be a competitive one in spite of one of the best players being missing.  Sophia Gardens was a delight, confirmed in my mind as one of the most beautiful of our international venues, the walk to the ground is second to none, a must visit if you haven’t been.


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