South Africa v England, 1st ODI, Bloemfontein February 3, 2016

A blinder and a blinding effort

Plays of the day from a rain-affected first ODI at Bloemfontein

Ben Stokes is mobbed by his team-mates after a stunning catch to dismiss AB de Villiers © Getty Images

The wicket that wasn't
South Africa would not have wanted Jos Buttler to race to 54 off 38 balls but they may not have minded if his innings ended there, as it could have. Buttler's 39th ball was delivered by Farhaan Behardien and found its way on to his stumps when he swiped wildly and missed but he survived. Why? Because it was a free hit. Behardien's previous delivery was a no-ball and that may have been the only reason for Buttler to resort to such recklessness in the first place. And he was only just over halfway done. Buttler faced another 37 balls and scored another 51 runs, leaving Behardien to rue what could have been.

The catch that wasn't
Buttler was nearly removed on 68 and Behardien was involved again. A flat pull into the leg side off Imran Tahir appeared to be heading for six until Behardien intercepted it at full stretch in front of the boundary rope. He caught it brilliantly in his left hand but, as he landed on the ground, his elbow jarred and the ball popped free. At least he saved a few runs.

The (other) catch that wasn't
The ball followed Behardien to the boundary and he had the chance to pull off a second catch when Chris Jordan went aerial in the final over of the England innings. Jordan smeared Marchant de Lange to long-off, where Behardien made the ground to get there, attempted to take the catch and then realised he had overrun, so the best he could do was palm the ball back into the field of play and try to stop the boundary. In changing tack, Behardien was beyond the boundary and could not turn in time to coax the ball back in. He ended up watching it bounce on his side and conceded six runs.

The catch that was
If Behardien wanted a 'how-to' for taking catches on the edge, Ben Stokes provided him with a perfect blueprint. With a storm brewing, South Africa were looking for big runs quickly to meet their Duckworth-Lewis target but AB de Villiers would not have expected Stokes' eye to be even sharper than his own. De Villiers hit Moeen Ali straight down the ground, Stokes ran in from long-on, shot an arm up to the sky and somehow, the ball stuck. He had hit his stride so well he just kept going, celebrating as he made his way, like a lap of honour.

The reality check
With England 399 for 9 and two balls remaining, the assumption was that barring a dismissal they were likely to record only their second ODI total of 400 or more, but in this age of long-batting orders sometimes No. 11s play according to type. Reece Topley is a genuine, old-school rabbit and his two failed swishes at Marchant de Lange, without even an attempt by the non-striker David Willey to scramble a bye, was a reminder that even on the toughest nights the bowlers can occasionally impose a reality check.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent. David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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