TELFORD VICE in Cape Town
SOMETHING like the real South Africa stood up at The Rose Bowl in Southampton on Saturday.
Not in the field: they dropped five catches and fluffed another.
Nor at the bowling crease: England’s 330/6 marked only the third time in South Africa’s 77 bilateral ODI series that their opponents have put 300 or more on the board in consecutive games.
But South Africa remembered who they are at the batting crease, where they mustered a reply of 328/5.
That, of course, wasn’t good enough to stave off defeat and render irrelevant the result of Monday’s game at Lord’s.
But, having given wickets away as if they were handing out flyers at the robots in Leeds on Wednesday, when they lost by 72 runs, their authenticity returned on Saturday.
That rang truest for Quinton de Kock, who scored a seamlessly measured 98, and AB de Villiers, whose unusually subdued but solid 52 was his first half-century in 10 innings of any flavour of cricket.
Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis should have more of decent starts, and Farhaan Behardien fritted away anaemically.
But David Miller and Chris Morris masterblasted South Africa to within seven runs of victory going into last over.
Mark Wood conceded only three, leaving Miller on 71, Morris on 36, and their rousing unbroken stand worth 62 off 41 balls.
Before the classy Miller and the streetfighting Morris took up the challenge it looked too late to swing a match that seemed won by Ben Stokes’ 79-ball 101. More than three-quarters of his runs boomed in front of square and more than half on the on side.
To think Stokes might have been run out before he had faced a ball will turn South African stomachs.
To point out that he edged the first delivery he faced and was dropped by Amla at slip will twist those stomachs into a knot.
To remember that he also feathered the next delivery and was also dropped, this time by De Kock, might create a queue for the toilet.
If someone’s locked in there already it’s probably Keshav Maharaj, the bowler who suffered those last two insults, which followed his injury of having Alex Hales spilled on the long-on ropes by Kagiso Rabada. And that on Maharaj’s ODI debut.