2nd over: England 6-0 (Roy 4, Buttler 2) Armed with a new bat, Roy uses it shrewdly to deflect Nortje for two to backward square and then a single to third man. This is already one of Roy’s better innings of 2020. Jos Buttler opens his account with a pull for two to midwicket, hurried but controlled.
1.1 overs: England 1-0 (Roy 1, Buttler 0) At the other end, it’s fast right-arm in the form of Anrich Nortje, pronounced Norkear. With his first ball, he coolly breaks Roy’s bat.
1st over: England 1-0 (Roy 1, Buttler 0) It’s Jason Roy’s worst nightmare: opening up against George Linde, the little-known slow left-armer who got him out here the other day. Roy does well to take a single off the second ball. But Linde does well too, reeling off four dots to Jos Buttler. South Africa are right on top.
“Re the signalling to the players,” says Gary Naylor, “I think it’s Jofra’s and Sam’s seats on the flight home. Looks like where their minds are just now.” Nice jibe, but that seems harsh on Sam Curran, who remained completely switched on. He drew the false shot that should have been van der Dussen’s undoing in the 19th over, and then he did his damnedest to pull off a two-man catch on the boundary. We can forgive Jofra too – he has spent too much time in bubbles this year, and he’s bowled so many great spells.
An innings of two halves
From their first 11 overs, South Africa managed only 70. From the next four, they added 37 – better but still not spectacular. And then they went ballistic. The 16th over, bowled by Tom Curran, cost 16, and then du Plessis and van der Dussen tucked into Jofra Archer of all people, helping themselves to 22 – the most Archer had ever conceded in one T20 over.
An over from Jordan then went for nine, one from Sam Curran for 17, and the last, from Jordan, for 20. This was a tremendous display of clean hitting. If there had been a crowd in, they would have been thrilled.
The signs were there
It turns out that the England balcony were holding up signs, saying things like 4E, which seem to have been messages from the team analysts to the captain and the bowlers. Full marks for innovation, and none for impact – unless they irritated the South Africans, and inspired that blitz.
SA finish on 191-3
20th over: South Africa 191-3 (du Plessis 52, van der Dussen 74) The thankless task of bowling the last over falls to Jordan, who starts with a leg-stump full toss, duly clipped for four by van der Dussen. The partnership is now 111, a new SA record for the fourth wicket in T20s. van der Dussen celebrates with a six that’s a kind of straight sweep, down on one knee. This is his best in T20 internationals. Jordan does well to concede only a two off the next ball, and then even manages a dot, but the fifth is a tame length ball that goes for yet another straight six. The last ball is technically dropped, as Sam Curran dives almost over the boundary at deep square and tries to pass the parcel to Archer, but doesn’t quite reach him.
The partnership is 127, unbroken, off 66 balls – a fabulous turnaround after a limp start. The last five overs went for 84. Can England match that? The gauntlet has been thrown down.
19th over: South Africa 171-3 (du Plessis 52, van der Dussen 54) Here comes Sam Curran, who persuades van der Dussen to slice towards his brother at third man – but TC holds back, thinking that Archer is going for it from sweeper. He’s not, and Curran Jr is not happy with his big brother. du Plessis plays a lofted square drive for four, and then a lofted off-drive, also for four, to bring up the hundred partnership – 103 off only 59 balls. It’s been immense. And then du Plessis brings up his fifty off 37 balls with a one-handed slash at a wide one: 17 off the over, and for the first time South Africa are in charge. The only good news for England is that Stokes is back on the field.
18th over: South Africa 154-3 (du Plessis 40, van der Dussen 51) du Plessis mows Jordan over mid-off, first ball, and that’s yet another six. Jordan strikes back with a dot, but then delivers a nasty beamer that du Plessis wears on the glove. Redeeming himself, Jordan produces a superb yorker outside off: Faf kicks himself for missing it. Nine off the over, which is almost a victory for England after the carnage of the last half-hour.
17th over: South Africa 145-3 (du Plessis 33, van der Dussen 50) Morgan summons Archer to stem the flow, and it doesn’t work – van der Dussen pulls him for six, then on-drives for four and gives Stokes, at long-on, a finger injury to boot – there’s blood on the hands of whoever put that advertising hoarding together. Stokes goes off to be patched up and Sam Billings trots on. Unruffled, van der Dussen hammers a straight four. That’s 34 off the last ten balls. Archer manages a dot with a bouncer, but when he pitches sit up again van der Dussen slog-sweeps for six more. A shovel to leg and a hard-run two take van der Dussen to fifty off only 23 balls. He’s been a revelation. That over, which cost 22,is the most expensive Archer has ever bowled in a T20. Are you England in disguise?
16th over: South Africa 123-3 (du Plessis 33, van der Dussen 28) Tom Curran returns and Faf greets him with a straight six. A single brings up the fifty partnership from 36 balls, and then Faf swings for six more. That’s 16 off the over – you might even say game on.
15th over: South Africa 107-3 (du Plessis 20, van der Dussen 25) Back comes Jordan, he of the immaculate figures, which means we have already reached the death overs. He goes for one, one, one, one, one – and finally four, as van der Dussen finds the gap at deep midwicket with a crisp clip. Nine off the over, and that needs to be just for starters.
Time for another aperçu from Gary Naylor. “It seems that, whether the bowling is fast, medium or slow, Test cricket is all about lateral movement (in the air and off the pitch) and T20I and ODI bowling all about pace variation (in the air and off the cross-seam). I suspect few bowlers will do both soon enough.” That’s a very interesting point, which I will leave to the OBO Massive to debate.
14th over: South Africa 98-3 (du Plessis 17, van der Dussen 19) Back comes Archer, and du Plessis muscles him through midwicket for four. Archer retorts with a slow lifter that raps Faf on the glove. That short leg you never see in T20 would have had two catches by now. Go on Eoin, you know you want to.
13th over: South Africa 90-3 (du Plessis 11, van der Dussen 17) After walloping four sixes in the series, van der Dussen has yet to hit a four – until now, when he plays a muscular pull. It’s the first four conceded by Rashid, who finishes with 0-20 off his four overs. And he’s not the most economical bowler today – that’s Jordan, whose figures are 1-0-4-1.
12th over: South Africa 84-3 (du Plessis 10, van der Dussen 12) Something needs to be done, and Faf du Plessis does it with the most delicate of premeditated flicks off Stokes. He may have just invented a new stroke, the ramp-tickle. Rassie van der Dussen, inspired, pulls for six – off the top edge I suspect, but they all count. Now SA just need a few more overs like that one.
11th over: South Africa 70-3 (du Plessis 5, van der Dussen 3) Rashid, rattling along again, goes for only four singles. The South Africans are trying to turn T20 into Test cricket.
10th over: South Africa 66-3 (du Plessis 3, van der Dussen 1) So it’s another good over for England, and at the halfway stage South Africa are dawdling along at just over a run a ball.
Meanwhile I have received an email, of all things. “I see,” says Matthew Doherty, “that Hendricks has problems with a slowhand bowler!” Ha.
Wicket! Hendricks c Buttler b Stokes 13 (SA 64-3)
A waft, a nick, and a sharp low catch, so Buttler atones for that fumble, and Stokes has his second wicket. Come on South Africa, you’re better than this.
9th over: South Africa 63-2 (Hendricks 13, du Plessis 1) Adil Rashid seizes the chance to race through an over while Faf is settling in, and concedes only two singles. “That’s beautiful, mate,” says Jos Buttler.
8th over: South Africa 61-2 (Hendricks 12, du Plessis 0) Morgan makes his fourth bowling change in four overs, bringing on Ben Stokes. Hendricks treats him with a healthy disrespect, dispatching his first ball with a rasping cover-drive, but then Bavuma departs rather tamely. Stokes does tend to have that effect on people.
Wicket! Bavuma c Jordan b Stokes 32 (SA 61-2)
Another bowling change, another catch at mid-off. Bavuma was good while he lasted, but he didn’t last long enough to shape the game.
7th over: South Africa 52-1 (Bavuma 28, Hendricks 7) If the PowerPlay has ended, it must be time for Adil Rashid. He beats Hendricks with some lovely drift, but then Bavuma slog-sweeps him for six.
6th over: South Africa 44-1 (Bavuma 21, Hendricks 6) Tom Curran takes over from Archer, and he has Hendricks dropped by Jos Buttler, flashing at a length ball. To add injury to insult, the ball goes for four. That’s the end of the PowerPlay – known as the Powerade PowerPlay in these parts, which doesn’t make it sound any more powerful. England are slightly ahead on points, but it’s hard to tell with this sticky wicket.
5th over: South Africa 36-1 (Bavuma 18, Hendricks 1) Sam Curran had given way to Chris Jordan, who bamboozled de Kock with his slower ball before getting him out. Then England almost add another wicket as Bavuma takes a tight single to Ben Stokes, who can’t quite hit a single stump. In a change to the advertised batting order, Reeza Hendricks has been thrust in ahead of Far du Plessis.
Wicket! de Kock c T Curran b Jordan 17 (SA 34-1)
That’s the big one! de Kock goes straight down the ground this time, and instantly regrets it as he gives Tom Curran a comfortable catch at mid-off.
4th over: South Africa 32-0 (de Kock 16, Bavuma 16) Four, then six, you say? Anything Bavuma can do, de Kock can do with an extra touch of magic. He wafts Archer over fine leg, then launches him over deep square. That one went into the construction site and out again.
3rd over: South Africa 20-0 (de Kock 5, Bavuma 15) Curran continues, de Kock gets away with a dodgy run to Archer at short fine leg, and then Bavuma gets the party started: a pull for four, a whip for six. The crowd would be going crazy, if only they were there.
2nd over: South Africa 6-0 (de Kock 3, Bavuma 3) Jofra Archer is a world-beater in this format, and sure enough he beats Bavuma’s bat with a length ball that nips away off the seam. He starts with four dots before Bavuma shovels a single to mid-on. Quentin de Kock gets a single too, but very nearly plays on in the process. Regal stuff from Jofra.
1st over: South Africa 4-0 (de Kock 2, Bavuma 2) Curran’s first three balls go for singles, and the fourth, a lifter to Temba Bavuma, would take a wicket if there was a short leg in. There’s another single to finish, and that’s a tidy start for England.
It’s going to be Sam Curran to open the proceedings. He’s gone from a fringe player to a central figure in the course of two matches.
Dead rubber? Yes and no
The series may be decided, but it turns out there is something riding on this game. If England win, they will go to No.1 in the world T20 rankings, knocking Australia off their pedestal. Which always feels good.
Cricket wouldn’t be cricket without a word from Gary Naylor. “The absence of fans,” he reckons, “has affected the aesthetics of sports viewing. Cycling’s parcours have been laid bare and beautiful, but cricket has gone both ways. Stadiums have looked even more soulless but grounds have looked lovelier than ever. Now to get rid of the adverts.” Good luck with that.
Those teams in full
South Africa 1 Quentin de Kock (capt, wkt), 2 Temba Bavuma, 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 Rassie van der Dussen, 5 Pite van Biljon, 6 Reeza Hendricks, 7 George Linde, 8 Anrich Nortje, 9 Lungi Ngidi, 10 Lutho Sipamla, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi.
England 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jos Buttler (wkt), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Eoin Morgan (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Jofra Archer, 11 Adil Rashid.
Rabada out, Sipamla in
Kagiso Rabada isn’t fit, which is a blow for South Africa and a shame for fans of fast bowling. The man who has to fill his shoes is Lutho Sipamla.
Eoin Morgan resists the temptation to tinker, which is tough on Moeen Ali and Mark Wood. Morgan says he would have batted first too.
Toss: SA win and bat first
Surprising choice – perhaps de Kock feels that the surface, which is the same one that was used the other day, will get even slower as the evening goes on.
Preamble: Six Gun Grilling
Afternoon everyone and welcome to the final episode in an entertaining mini-series. If you prefer your sport to come without too much tension, you’re in the right place: the series is already won and dusted. England’s white-ball know-how, freshly sharpened in the IPL, has proved too much for a South African side who have done well to get on the field at all given the shenanigans in their boardroom.
Today’s match, like the first, takes place in Cape Town, at the famous old ground now known as Six Gun Grill Newlands. If not exactly dignified, the name is apt in a way. England have brought six gun batsmen, as the players like to say, and each game so far has been decided by one of them – Jonny Bairstow with an explosive 86 not out off 48 balls, then Dawid Malan with a more measured 55 off 40. Today Eoin Morgan will be hoping the star turn is Jason Roy, who has scraped only 63 runs in eight international innings since lockdown. Even his strike rate has gone to pieces – it’s 74, rather than his usual 120-odd – though that will surely change if he can stick around long enough to get his eye in.
The South Africans have a more fundamental aim: to avoid a whitewash. For Quentin de Kock, any old win will do to build some belief before the 50-over series that follows on Friday. See you just after 3.30pm GMT for the toss and the teams.