South Africa 156 for 3 (Amla 55) beat England 153 (Bairstow 51, Roland-Jones 37*, Rabada 4-39, Maharaj 3-25, Parnell 3-43) by seven wickets
South Africa will go into the Champions Trophy with confidence partially restored after inflicting a crushing seven-wicket defeat upon England at Lord’s.
While England had already secured the three-match series with victory in the first two matches, the emphatic manner in which South Africa wrapped up this win over the pre-tournament bookies’ favourites with 21.1 overs unused will have renewed their belief that, at full strength, they have the team that can win the trophy.
The result here was all but assured within the first half hour of the match. Exploiting a hint of assistance from the conditions and more than a hint from the batsmen, they reduced England to 20 for 6 after 30 deliveries. It was the first time in the history of ODI cricket that a side has lost six wickets in the first five overs.
While Jonny Bairstow led something of a recovery, England’s final total of 153 was never likely to prove sufficient against the No. 1-ranked ODI side. Hashim Amla made sure of the win with yet another half-century, becoming the quickest man (in terms of innings played) to 7000 ODI runs in history.
England’s limited-overs resurgence has been built upon a fearless approach with the bat. And, in conditions offering little assistance to bowlers, it has served them well. Going into this game, they had won their previous eight ODIs and scored more than 300 on all but one of the most recent 11 occasions when they batted first.
But in conditions like these – with a slightly green surface, the Lord’s slope and an overcast morning offering just a touch of help to the seamers – that commitment to attack can be exploited. And with Kagiso Rabada maintaining a perfect, probing line and length and gaining just a touch of away movement down the Lord’s slope, England’s apparent compulsion to drive and a failure to adapt to the conditions proved their undoing.
Three of England’s top seven, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler and Adil Rashid, fell as they committed to big drives at deliveries from Rabada. All three were undone by just a touch of movement – there was no faulting the surface – as the ball left them down the slope. The South Africa slip cordon, not at its most reliable in the series so far, made no mistake.
Wayne Parnell lost nothing by comparison to Rabada. The left-arm seamer found a couple of beauties to account for Joe Root – playing across a full ball that swung back into him – and Eoin Morgan, with one that demanded a stroke and left the batsman just enough to take a tentatively offered edge. Ironically, it seems that England are at their most fragile in English conditions.
At 20 for 6 there seemed a real possibility that England’s record low score in a completed ODI innings – 86 made against Australia in Manchester in 2001 – was in danger.
But Bairstow, currently seen as surplus to requirements in England’s strongest ODI side, led a partial recovery in a stand of 62 in 14 overs for the seventh-wicket with David Willey. Bairstow, who slammed a career-best 174 in a List A match at the start of this month, restated his case to the England selectors with a third half-century in his last four ODI innings, uppercutting Morkel for one of his boundaries and cutting several more.
But when Willey drove to extra-cover and Bairstow was stumped, skipping down the pitch and being beaten by a delivery from Keshav Maharaj that gripped just a little, it was left to Toby Roland-Jones, on debut, to lift England above 150. His innings included a pulled six off Chris Morris – the only six of the England innings – and a gorgeous on-drive for four off the same bowler. He survived one thumping blow to the helmet – Morris responding to the punishment with a fine bouncer – but it was an assured innings amid the carnage.
He was left-stranded when Jake Ball missed an ugly slog-sweep – a nicely disguised slower ball from Maharaj deceiving him – and Steven Finn flicked to midwicket. To the last, England remained committed to attacking. It is entertaining, certainly, but in conditions offering any assistance to bowlers it is not especially bright and perhaps exposes a weakness that other teams in the Champions Trophy might exploit.
Perhaps a few days like this are inevitable – and worth withstanding – when teams play like England. But when South Africa suffered a late wobble in their run-chase, losing 3 for 6, it did raise the question as to what might have happened at England adapted their aspirations and managed to set a target of around 240 rather than perishing in pursuit of something in excess of 300.
Roland-Jones batted nicely and claimed his maiden international wicket when Amla played on as he attempted a pull. But well though Ball bowled, there was no doubt that England missed the depth their trio of allrounders, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali, offers them. England remain confident that all three will be fit for their opening Champions Trophy match on Thursday, though the possibility remains that Stokes could play as a specialist batsman.
South Africa expect both David Miller, who left the pitch with a hamstring strain, and Imran Tahir to be fit for the start of their campaign, too.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo