Gibbs and Steyn cull the Lions
South Africans 185 for 6 (Gibbs 81) beat England Lions 184 (Key 51, Steyn 3-27, Ntini 3-48) by four wickets
The South Africans continued to move into one-day gear with a four-wicket win against England Lions at Grace Road, led by an impressive return from Dale Steyn and Herschelle Gibbs' 81. They chased a disappointing Lions total of 184 with more than 11 overs to spare,although a flurry of late wickets made the margin look less impressive.
The performances of Steyn and Gibbs were especially timely for the tourists. Steyn was working his way back after missing the last two Tests with a broken thumb and Gibbs only recently joined the tour as a one-day specialist. Steyn took the first wicket of the day, bowling Joe Denly, and returned to grab two more later on as the Lions fell away from 107 for 2.
Gibbs then made significant inroads into the target with his 104-ball innings, although the performances of his team-mates were less convincing. Hashim Amla and Justin Ontong both failed while AB de Villiers and JP Duminy fell in the 20s. Gibbs provided more than half the runs while he was at the crease but when he was removed by Luke Wright the South Africans couldn't quite finish off the match in style.
Wright, whose role for the upcoming one-dayers is uncertain, put his hand forward for more bowling duties by cleaning up Duminy and Steve Kirby added to his early wicket of Amla with Albie Morkel's scalp. However, Vernon Philander and stand-in captain Johan Botha completed the job in the 39th over.
Given the recent wet weather around the country it wasn't surprising that this became a low-scoring match. However, the Lions looked poised for a more commanding total after Robert Key and Ravi Bopara carried them past hundred. But not for the first time Bopara was run out - trying to steal a single to Duminy - and the much-vaunted talents Matt Prior and Samit Patel, who are both in the England squad, failed as they made one run between them. Patel drove his first ball from Andre Nel straight to extra cover.
Surprisingly the successful Kent opening partnership of Denly and Key was separated to allow Owais Shah a chance to open, although both openers were gone with 58 on the board. Key, though, continued his strong one-day form with 51 off 62 balls before he was part of the collapse when he was bowled by Makhaya Ntini.
Wright and James Tredwell did their best to extend the total towards 200 but the innings ended with more than three overs unused. The South Africans' fielding wasn't quite up to its usual mark as four catches went down. They have another chance to sharpen their skills when they face the Lions again, at Derby, on Saturday.