England 331 for 6 (Taylor 118, Beaumont 101) beat South Africa 262 for 9 (Lee 117, Tryon 44) by 69 runs
After a false start to their summer in the series opener at Worcester, England's World Cup winners finally displayed their true colours down at Hove. A brace of breezy centuries from Tammy Beaumont and Sarah Taylor set them on the way to an imposing total of 331 for 6, but it took a gutsy bowling effort into the teeth of another Lizelle Lee firestorm to seal a hugely entertaining 69-run win and draw them level in their three-match series against South Africa.
At Worcester, England's batting had been caught cold by South Africa's seamers and routed before it could respond, with Lee's quickfire 92 sealing a seven-wicket win. But at the second time of asking, they put on a collective show of intent with bat and ball, even if they once again had no ready answers to the ferocious power of Lee, whose 117 from 107 balls had included a second fifty from 22 balls that included one murderous six that rebounded off the block of flats at cow corner.
While Lee was in situ, climbing with alacrity into England's spinners, nothing about this contest seemed as preordained as it ought to have done. After ten overs of South Africa's response, with Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt combining with their usual intent, their innings had been dribbling along at 32 for 0; 15 overs later, they were sprinting at 142 for 0, and right up with a run-rate that, in England's innings, had never been less than brisk.
But that level of power couldn't be expected to last - and the return of Brunt and Shrubsole drew the sting of South Africa's innings. Each claimed one of Lee's batting partners, both to lofted shots into the leg side, before Georgie Elwiss claimed the vital scalp, courtesy of a sharp take at backward point from Danni Wyatt. Chloe Tryon kept up the charge with a flurry of lusty blows, but with wickets falling at the other end, her 44 from 26 couldn't singlehandedly keep up with an escalating run-rate.
It was nevertheless an impressive display in adversity from South Africa, especially given how lacklustre they had seemed in the field earlier in the day. Dane van Niekerk understandably chose to bowl first after winning the toss, but her star seamers from Worcester, Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka both endured off-days, as they were panned for a combined 150 runs in 20 overs.
England's onslaught began with an opening stand of 71 in 13.3 overs from Beaumont and Amy Jones (they had been 64 for 6 at one stage at New Road) and continued through a stand of 126 between Beaumont and Taylor - England's first century stand in ODIs since the Ashes in October.
And though Jones once again fell when well set - she scuffed a pull to midwicket for 29 having slammed a beautifully timed six over square leg a few overs earlier - Beaumont was in no mood to let South Africa back into the game.
With an inventive streak underpinning her natural power, Beaumont used the reverse sweep to good effect to disrupt the length of the spinner Raisibe Ntozakhe, and found in Taylor the ideal partner, as she shaped regularly to the off side to open up her options off the legs, before powering the occasional drive through the covers to drive the bowlers to distraction.
Beaumont, on 85, might have been pinned lbw on the back foot by Marizanne Kapp, but no-one thought to appeal for a delivery that pitched on leg and would have smashed the same stump. And in the final over of the innings, Kapp was culpable in an extraordinary let-off for Wyatt, as she fielded the shy from long-off and completely neglected to remove the bails, with Wyatt still some ten feet out of her crease.
By that stage, England had motored into the middle distance. Beaumont brought up her fourth ODI hundred from 107 balls with a spanking cut through point - her third four in three balls in fact - before holing out to mid-on off Khaka. And Taylor, in front of her home ground, proved even more fluent, as her seventh hundred came from 93 balls.
England did fritter away a handful of wickets en route to their total. Nat Sciver had looked set to cut loose - and had even played one of her trademark "natmegs" through the legs - before panning a Khaka full-toss to deep midwicket for 6. And Heather Knight came and went for a cameo 24, picking up the pace with selfless intent as the final few overs approached.
England's score, incidentally, was a new ground record for women's ODIs - beating the total of 258 for 1 set in the very first match at the venue in the 1973 World Cup. To South Africa's credit, the result proved to be far from a foregone conclusion.