At the innings break, there were two ways to look at 178 -- the target South Africa set England in the first T20I at Buffalo Park. On one hand, it needed a record run-chase at the ground for England to win the game, and on the other, it roared praise for their genius at the death, where Chris Jordan and Mark Wood combined to concede only eight runs in the last two overs and effectively won their side the elusive yet non-quantifiable "momentum".
Not that it mattered at this small ground, where wind often decided whether the ball will be caught in the deep or sail over for a six. England famously botched the run-chase, slipping from 132/2 after 14.2 overs to hand South Africa a one-run win, and a 1-0 series lead, in a thrilling last-ball finish.
Just how did England lose this?
Lungi Ngidi. And a bit of panic.
Ngidi bowled the 18th and the 20th overs of the run-chase, giving away only 10 runs and picking three wickets. That it came after his first two overs had gone for 20 runs showed how he'd learnt along the way, using slower balls and yorkers on a pitch that was slowing down by the minute. Beuran Hendricks's 27 runs in two overs around the same time should contextualise just how good Ngidi was on the night.
Tell me more...
England lost five wickets for 43 runs after being in a strong position at 132/2. Eoin Morgan was always going to be a key in a tight run-chase, and he proved to be until he was around with a 34-ball 54. He even pinched 16 runs off five balls in the 19th over and brought the equation down to seven off seven, but his wicket off the last ball of the 19th opened the doors for South Africa, exposing Tom Curran and Moeen Ali to Lungi Ngidi's bowling clinic. The last over read: 2, W, 0, 2, W, 1+W, the last wicket being a run out when England needed two for a Super Over. Not this time.
How did the two innings compare?
Quite symptomatic of the close finish later, both England and South Africa were 68/1 after the powerplay. It was de Kock (31 off 15) for South Africa and Jason Roy (70 off 38) for England teeing off against the new, hard ball. And the two sides continued to match shot for shot until the 11th over. That's when Rassie van der Dussen got out and South Africa lost steam. In contrast, England, though behind by 10 runs at the halfway stage, had their opening batsman Jason Roy (70 off 38) bat bigger and deeper into the 15th over. Cricket Betting Tips And when Roy and Joe Denly fell in consecutive overs with around 40 more runs needed, they still had Eoin Morgan to anchor the chase. And he almost did. Just that things didn't go to plan.
Who helped limit South Africa to 177 earlier?
Ben Stokes. This must have been an easy guess but the allrounder had some notable help from Adil Rashid at the other end, the legspinner finishing with 1 for 23 in a match where the run-rate was just short of nine.
South Africa were 111/1 in the 11th over when Stokes came in to bowl and had Rassie van der Dussen caught off a short ball. What didn't help further was Temba Bavuma's wicket in the next over. Bavuma had just been put down by Joe Denly in the deep when he went for another sweep off Rashid, this time to a ball down the leg-side and found Moeen Ali at short fine leg. And by the time the next batsman David Miller got out, South Africa had only added 24 runs in 4.2 overs.
Why couldn't SA accelerate in the death overs?
Mark Wood and Chris Jordan.
Mark Wood picked a wicket and conceded only three runs in the 19th over. And just when you thought that the over couldn't be bettered, Jordan bowled the last of the innings, picked two wickets and gave away only five runs.
With only 17 runs in the last three overs, South Africa, who once looked like pushing 200, were kept below 180. And against a batting line-up like England on this small ground, that's anything but a par score. And but for Ngidi's spell later, this could have been a breeze of a run chase.
Tell us about Dale Steyn's comeback!
Not a kmph slower. Steyn last played international cricket in March 2019 but his success at the Mzansi Super League seems to have given him some newfound belief. And he can still get the best batsman in the side out. Like he did in this first T20I, getting Buttler caught at long-off by pitching the ball on a hard length.
Where he struggled a little was in terms of line, where even the slightest of movement outside off would open up boundaries through point region, notably for Bairstow and Buttler. Steyn also bowled a dipping high full-toss, a deliberate change-up delivery that took Bairstow by surprise first-ball but not so much the next time.
You know what day February 14 is. It's the day when England and South Africa clash for the second of the three T20Is in Durban.