England 147 for 6 (Malan 55, Shamsi 3-19) beat South Africa 146 for 7 (de Kock 30) by four wickets

Dawid Malan justified his standing as the top-ranked batsman in T20I cricket with a match-winning half-century in the second match of the series against South Africa in Paarl.

On a surface upon which nobody else could pass 30, Malan produced an innings of 55 from 40 balls to see England to a victory which gave them an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. The final game takes place in Cape Town on Tuesday.

This was not, in many ways, a typical T20. With the pitch offering just a little grip, run-scoring proved problematic throughout the game and England's reply looked some way off the pace until well into their chase.

So, instead of the skills for which this format is famed - the big hits, the audacious strokes, the outrageous strike-rates - Malan was instead obliged to demonstrate a calm head and an ability to pace the innings.

He did so beautifully. After 30 deliveries, Malan had scored just 25. But he held his nerve and, from his next nine balls, thrashed five fours and a six as he timed England's chase to something close to perfection.

Although he wasn't quite able to see England home - he was quite brilliantly caught by Reeza Hendricks, demonstrating both the presence of mind and athleticism to keep the ball in play on the long-off boundary - by the time he was dismissed, his side required just a run a ball. Despite a characteristically excellent final over from Kagiso Rabada, which brought the dismissal of Sam Curran, Chris Jordan was able to squeeze the penultimate ball of the match behind square for the run England required to seal the result.

It was the ninth time Malan had passed 50 in his 18 T20I innings. And, on the ground where he made his first-class debut back in 2006, you suspect it would have been one of the more satisfying ones. It was also the sort of performance which justifies his on-going selection ahead of Joe Root.

And while England may feel there is still room for improvement in their performance, they may take satisfaction from winning a tight game on this sort of surface. With the T20 World Cup scheduled to played in India, this is the sort of pitch - and, perhaps, the sort of low-scoring match - to which they will need to become accustomed if they are to fulfil their dream of holding both the 50-over and 20-over World Cups at the same time.

Slow going

South Africa started well enough. They were 49 for 1 after one delivery of the sixth over (England were 29 for 1 at the same stage) and surely targeting a score in excess of 160. But their over-reliance upon Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis was underlined once more by the struggles of the middle-order.

Once de Kock was dismissed, from the second delivery of that final powerplay over, South Africa only managed two boundaries off the bat in the next 12-and-a-half overs (there was one set of wides that went to the boundary) and none at all from the first ball of the 10th until the fourth ball of the 18th. Rassie van der Dussen, who faced 29 deliveries for 25 unbeaten runs without managing a boundary, found life especially difficult.

Inevitably, thoughts strayed to what might have been, had the likes of AB de Villiers, Rilee Rossouw and Colin Ingram been part of this middle-order.

Archer and Rashid re-affirm their value

Perhaps such an analysis of South Africa's innings is unfair as it doesn't reflect the slower-than-expected surface or provide enough credit to England's bowlers. Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid, in particular, bowled beautifully in conceding 41 between them from their eight overs. The pair delivered 22 dot balls between them and only conceded one boundary each.

Archer's record is, perhaps, particularly impressive as he tends to bowl the majority of his overs in the powerplay - he typically bowls two upfront - and at the death. Despite this, since the start of the IPL, he has conceded just 4.62 runs an over on average in the 30 overs of powerplay overs he has delivered.

Whatever issues England may have to resolve ahead of the T20 World Cup, those two spots are, fitness permitting, certain.

The record holders

Both Jordan and Rashid achieved records of sorts during the South Africa innings. With the wicket of de Kock, Jordan drew level with Stuart Broad as England's top wicket-taker in this international format. Both men have now have 65 with Jordan having slightly the better strike-rate but Broad maintaining the better average and economy rate.

Rashid, meanwhile, drew level with Graeme Swann as England's top T20I wicket-taker among spinners. Both have 51 wickets, with only Jordan and Broad above them among England players. A glance at those stats also provides a reminder of what a top player Swann was for England: his wickets came in a dozen fewer games than Rashid and with a favourable economy rate (6.36 to 7.57), average (16.84 to 25.41) and strike-rate (15.80 to 20.10). The game may well have moved on, but those remain excellent statistics.

Impressive though such figures are, England still do not have anyone within the top 10 of T20I wicket takers. Lasith Malinga, with 107 wickets, leads the way.

Shamsi's best

Tabraiz Shamsi didn't deserve to be on the losing side after a career-best T20I performance.

Shamsi, the left-arm wristspinner, claimed 3 for 19 as he made excellent use of a large playing area that made six-hitting more problematic than in the first game, and a surface offering just enough grip to aid his spin. In dismissing Jos Buttler, who was beaten by drift as he charged down the pitch, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, who both mishit sweeps, he went a long way towards derailing England's reply.

The decision to recall Anrich Nortje in place of Beuran Hendricks, who delivered a game-defining 17th over on Friday which conceded 28 runs, also added depth to the South Africa attack. Nortje bowled with pace and precision in conceding just four from his first two overs and twice striking Malan on the body.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo