Tail-enders deliver for Proteas

BY MARC JACOBSON - FEBRUARY 13, 2016

The Proteas endured a thrilling finish to beat England by 1 wicket in the 4th ODI at Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg, on Friday night.

On a ground that has traditionally been the batsmen’s paradise, the match somewhat depicted a transition in attack as the bowlers geared up a notch to collect wickets at crucial stages of both innings’. Specifically for South Africa, who had turned the mighty Wanderers into a backyard arena of recent, as they scored a massive 439 against West Indies last year at the stadium and a convincing 358 against India in December 2013.

England were forced to persevere relatively early on in their innings, as their first wicket of opener, Jason Roy, fell in just the 6th over. The second wicket fell in the 18th over of Alex Hales with 50, and two overs later captain, Eoin Morgan, went out for just two. Just two balls later English power-hitter, Ben Stokes, then also fell with just two runs. The bowling intensity of the Proteas did not stop there, as just three overs later, Jos Buttler fell with a solo run scored which was then followed by the wicket of Moeen Ali of just four runs only two overs later.

In the span of seven overs, South Africa took an astonishing five wickets, while only conceding a total of 21 runs in the same time, which gave England a mid-innings crisis. It was at this stage, when the match looked set and run for the Proteas as momentum began shifting their way. However, perseverance is exactly what England were able to maintain, as they started sizzling their momentum to keep the run-count ticking.

Star English batsman, Joe Root, and number eight batsman, Chris Woakes, managed to pull off a 95-run partnership as England endured another 16 overs without losing a wicket. The partnership ended when a snick-behind from Woakes ended his tenure for 33 runs. Suddenly, it looked promising for England, as their recommended score line became enticing to say the least.

Joe Root eventually fell in the 45th over with a consistent score of 109. South Africa finished England off in the 48th over as the last two batsmen in Stuart Broad and Adil Rashid were taken out. England scored a redeeming total of 262 all out in 47.5 overs.

The star bowler for South Africa was Kagiso Rabada 4/45 bowling figures, while also having the lowest economy rate of 4.57. Imran Tahir’s versatility in his spin googly’s also made a fine contribution as he showed 3/46 figures with a 4.6 economy rate.

Although England showed a courageous redemption, South Africa were still favoured to achieve the total on a ground that has shown to be their batting forte. England, however, did not back down as they managed to get under the skin of the Proteas’ batting - breaking the vantage point progressively throughout the innings. This gave South Africa no real chance of achieving souring momentum, as they lost key wickets as they began turning the wheel.

The Proteas’ confidence was immediately hindered when Hashim Amla fell in just the first over. Quinton de Kock got bowled out in the 13th over for 27, which was then followed by the wicket of Faf du Plessis who was also bowled out the very next over for 34. Captain AB de Villiers then started showing some swinging momentum, as he instilled hope into the Wanderers’ faithful, when he began scoring at a moving pace. He showed some fine shots as he hit four 4’s and one 6, getting a strike rate of well over 100, before getting imprecisely run-out for 36. A run-out for such a pivotal wicket may not show justice, but England most certainly took it at all costs.

Unlike de Villiers, JP Duminy struggled to get his eye-in and continue with the scoring intensity, as his momentum took a knock. Resultantly, he scored a meek 31 after being given out with an LBW with an overall strike-rate of just 63.26.

Farhaan Behardien added his essential two cents to the total as he scored 38 before getting caught out by his bowler. With only four wickets in hand and only one threatening batsman left on strike in David Wiese, South Africa’s hopes began slipping through their fingers.

To make matters worse for the hosts, Wiese then sliced a wide ball from Ben Stokes to be caught out on off-side for 21. At this stage, England were fine favourites to win the game, as South Africa had only three wickets in hand with only tail-enders to deliver. New on strike, Rabada then went out for a golden duck in the 42nd over, as more weight was placed on the usual ‘unreliable’ tail-enders to get 53 runs to win with just two wickets in hand.

The biggest concern for South Africa were the wickets in hand preventing them from reaching the target, rather than the balls remaining. It was, however, then when all hope was lost, that Chris Morris, single handily pulled the match out the fire as he smashed four 6’s and three 4’s in total to get an impeccable overall strike rate of 163.15. Due to primarily Morris’ hand, South Africa scored 14 runs off the 45th over and 15 runs off the 46th over respectively.

At this stage, South Africa needed eight to win off 24 balls and they suddenly reversed the favourite’s tag line. Number ten, Kyle Abbott was on strike in the next over and as a result the run-rate took a dip, as the two batted in tandem to score seven off the 47th over.

The Proteas were now suddenly strong favourites before the agony could not be stretched any longer as man-of-the-moment, Morris got bowled out for 62 on the very first ball of the 48th over. It was then do or die for the home side, as number 11 batsman, Imran Tahir, was on strike to score just 1 run for victory.

A reckless wicket would cost South Africa the game and a quality shot could win it. Fortunately for the home side it was the latter, as Tahir played a textbook stepped square-cut shot through the gap for four to guide South Africa home for a hard-fought victory with 16 balls to spare.

The result means that South Africa have now levelled the series 2-2 and will now play the last-remaining decider on Sunday 14th February in a Valentines fixture.

Image: Chris Morris in action at strikers-end to lend out his winning hand at Wanders Stadium, Johannesburg.