England 330 for 5 (Stokes 101, Buttler 65*, Morgan 45) v South Africa
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Ben Stokes showed no ill-effects of his knee injury as he reached his second ODI hundred © Getty Images
Ben Stokes’ second ODI hundred lifted England out of trouble at the Ageas Bowl and allowed them to post another impressive total after being put in to bat for the second match running. Dropped twice from his first two balls, Stokes brought up three figures from 77 and paved the way for his team to pass 300 for the seventh time in ten one-day internationals this year.
After South Africa again won an apparently useful toss, they had England 80 for 3 in the 16th over before a 95-run stand between Stokes and Eoin Morgan helped even up the contest. While Morgan was unable to push on, Stokes accelerated after reaching his half-century, adding his second fifty from 28 deliveries to record a first hundred in home ODIs. There had been doubts about his fitness after suffering a knee problem at Headingley but it is increasingly clear that, even on one leg, Stokes remains crucial to England.
With the platform constructed, Jos Buttler bent himself upon destruction during the latter stages. Buttler crashed his first ODI fifty since the tour of Bangladesh last year, from 46 balls, during stands of 77 with Stokes and 78 with Moeen Ali. The 46th over, bowled by Andile Phehlukwayo, went for 22 as 111 flowed from the last ten overs and Buttler finished unbeaten on 65 off 53; only Kagiso Rabada, who picked up 2 for 50, managed to go at less than a run a ball for South Africa.
South Africa’s cause was not aided by dropping five catches – three of them off the bowling of Keshav Maharaj, the left-arm spinner playing his maiden ODI. In the penultimate over, Hashim Amla failed to even get a hand on a skied top edge from Moeen at fine leg, to cap a poor effort in the field.
Although England’s 330 was ultimately some way beyond the highest successful chase on the ground – New Zealand overhauled a target of 303 here in 2015 – South Africa went in at the break with the ground basking in sunshine and hopeful that the pitch still contained a hatful of runs.
Stokes, playing with strapping on his knee, was given a couple of early lives but quickly put his scratchy start behind him to turn in the sort of dominating innings that helped win him the IPL’s MVP award earlier this month. Dwaine Pretorius was swung crisply down the ground for a one-bounce four, then Phehlukwayo mowed over deep midwicket for six; when Chris Morris returned, he was deposited into the Shane Warne Stand off an even more towering blow.
A thick top-edge off Rabada flew high between keeper and slip to take Stokes to 45 off 46, followed by a dismissive thump back down the ground and a single to bring up his half-century. Maharaj was slugged wide of long-on and straight down the ground, before Morris was again struck into the crowd. Maharaj did eventually claim his man – and his maiden ODI wicket – when Stokes holed out after reaching his hundred, though figures of 1 for 72 off ten overs did a disservice to his efforts.
Morgan was less fluent, surviving a chance to Pretorius early on and suffering a glancing blow on the helmet, but he continued the run-making form that saw him score his third ODI hundred of 2017 at Headingley on Wednesday. England’s fourth-wicket stand had repaired much of the earlier damage when Morgan became Rabada’s second wicket, caught behind attempting to cut.
With overhead conditions providing just a touch of assistance for the seamers, England struggled through the initial Powerplay, only reaching 43 for 1 thanks to a brace of Joe Root fours from Pretorius’ opening over. Jason Roy’s indifferent form continued when he was bowled by Rabada for 8 and although Alex Hales and Root assembled a half-century stand at more than a run a ball, two quick wickets further undermined England’s prospects.
Pretorius, one of three changes from the South Africa XI beaten at Headingley, recovered from conceding 19 off his first two overs to see Hales smartly held by Quinton de Kock, standing up to the wicket, and then had a hand in seeing off Root, who looked in good touch until he was run out backing up: Morgan’s drive deflected on to the non-striker’s stumps by the bowler in his follow-through. It could have been even better, had Pretorius clung on to a tough caught-and-bowled opportunity off Morgan, on 16.
By then, Maharaj had confirmed himself in the luckless debutant category. Rabada’s drop of Hales at long-on did not cost South Africa too much (although it added six to Maharaj’s figures) but AB de Villiers would have been as perturbed as his bowler to see Stokes put down from consecutive balls. Stokes’ first delivery saw Maharaj draw a thick edge, only for Amla to miss it completely at slip; then de Kock could not hold a more difficult opportunity, again off the outside edge of the bat. Two moments of good fortune that Stokes ensured he would capitalise on.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo