Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Bairstow, bowlers shine in nine-wicket canter

England 143 for 1 (Bairstow 60*) beat South Africa 142 for 3 (de Villiers 65*, Behardien 64*) by nine wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

England produced something close to the perfect performance as they crushed South Africa by nine wickets in the opening game of the T20 series at the Ageas Bowl.

With early wickets for their seamers, control from their spinners and a well-judged run chase, England took a lead in the three-match series and completed victory with 33 deliveries remaining.

While Jonny Bairstow, playing his first T20 innings since August and his first T20 international for nearly a year, may take the plaudits for a wonderfully fluent innings of 60, it was England's bowlers who defined the course of this match.

With three wickets in the opening 25 deliveries, they forced South Africa into a period of retrenchment from which they never fully recovered. So while AB de Villiers and Farhaan Behardien posted an unbroken stand of 110 for the fourth wicket, it took them almost 16 overs to do so and left South Africa perhaps 40 short of a par score on a good batting surface.

Both David Willey and Mark Wood struck with their first deliveries - Willey producing a lovely inswinger from the first ball of the match that took JJ Smuts' inside edge on its way to his stumps - before the spinners stifled South Africa's batsmen in the middle overs.

Those spinners, the Hampshire pair of Liam Dawson and Mason Crane, conceded just 41 from their eight overs. While Dawson, who did not concede a single boundary, was probably the most impressive, this was an impressively mature international debut from 20-year-old Crane. He conceded just two boundaries and, until his final delivery - a full toss - could justifiably claim he had not bowled a poor ball.

For a man playing just his sixth T20 game - Hampshire appear more reluctant to trust him than England - it was an assured start.

"That was as close to a complete performance as you can ask for," England captain, Eoin Morgan, said afterwards. "The bowlers did an unbelievable job and the two spinners held their nerve really well. Then the way we came out and batted took the game away from them."

From a South African perspective, this was a worryingly lame performance. While there were a couple of flashes of brilliance from de Villiers - one sweep for six off Chris Jordan and one off Willey - his half-century took 49 balls and he struggled for the fluency for which he is noted.

"We were outplayed tonight," de Villiers said. "We found it really difficult to get the ball away and when they did give us something to hit, we didn't put it away. I missed out on a couple. It happens: you don't always hit them in the middle.

"It would have been a different game if we'd scored 20 more. We'll play them better in the next game."

With both sides resting a host of players, there was a new look to the teams. South Africa had two T20I debutants in allrounder Dwaine Pretorious and left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi and England one in Crane.

At the time South Africa won the toss on a gorgeous summer evening - it was, in some areas of the country, the warmest June day in several decades - and in front of a full-house crowd, it looked as if this would a game as run-drenched as it was sun-drenched.

But the swing of Willey, the pace of Wood, the control of the spinners and the caution of the South Africa batsman meant there were only eight fours and five sixes in the first innings. While there was just a touch of grip for the spinners and Jordan nailed nearly all his yorkers, South Africa struggled.

The conditions were put into context by England's openers. Jason Roy thrashed 18 in four deliveries - a six driven over long-on and three fours - off Wayne Parnell before attempting an ambitious reverse sweep, while Alex Hales reacted to the early introduction of Imran Tahir by slog-sweeping him for six.

But it was Bairstow who really caught the eye. Having waited a long time to win an opportunity in England's limited-overs teams, he is quickly making himself a first choice. Here he slog-swept Tahir for six and drove Shamsi for another in reaching a 29-ball half-century.

Even South Africa's fielding, usually so reliable, wilted before the end with Behardien making a fearsome hash of a chance at long-on offered by Hales when he had 37.

It left Morgan toasting an encouraging return to form after the disappointment of the Champions Trophy semi-final and celebrating the debut of Crane, in particular. "De Villiers is one of the best of his generation," Morgan said. "And at no stage could he get hold of him. Those are very good signs."