The extras column is usually a pretty damning indicator of how disciplined or naughty a bowling side has been. On this count South Africa licked England 26-4 with a collection of 20 wides (from 10 wide deliveries). And, it was not just the more common wide either side of the batsman. They focused on height as well.
It was Kagiso Rabada who first tried to challenge Quinton de Kock's elasticity. He had been hit by Jason Roy for fours off the first two balls of the innings but he reacted with the very next delivery by squaring up Roy. Rabada then dug one in forcefully which sprang up, rose higher and eventually soared past de Kock, who did a Sergey Bubka impression without the pole but the ball had made it to the boundary not long after his descent.
This egged Kyle Abbott on to reach for greater heights, quite literally, as he nearly bounced his leading foot in the fifth over.The flying de Kock continued to make excellent contact with air.South Africa eventually settled for regular wides but still flirted with going vertical every now and then.Captain Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy said in no uncertain terms that such freebies hurt their chances of winning. But Duminy refused to play up the dew factor as an excuse. "We expected it to be a little bit worse but the groundsman actually mentioned to us before the game started that there was a bit of a breeze throughout the day so it wouldn't be too bad," he said. "We unfortunately made the errors and we have to take responsibility for that and rectify that for the next game."
England's Reece Topley made it through the evening like a sloppy stand-up comedian lapsing from one flat joke into a more disastrous one.He dropped a chance at mid-off offered by Hashim Amla, got clobbered both at the beginning and the end of the innings and bled 33 runs in two overs. The scorer in the media box accurately summed up Topley's night when he erroneously mispronounced his name as "Topple".
You surely can't get worse than that, especially in the same game. And from Dale Steyn of all people? You have got to be kidding.
Except that's what happened as Roy and Alex Hales mauled him for four fours and a six in his first over, as Steyn's expressions morphed from incredulity to disappointment to wryness in the space of six balls. His first ball, though, was that delightful theory of what might have been. Short and angling in, Hales tucked it off his hip to short fine leg where the ball burst through Abbott's fingers. But with a dodgy radar that had him spraying almost every other delivery down the leg side Steyn can't complain much. With their main strike force misfiring, South Africa's attacking threat was severely diminished. If it's any consolation for Steyn the scorer pronounced his name right.Powerplay sameness
What hurt South Africa more than Rabada's 21-run first over was his re-introduction in the fourth and sixth overs where he gave away 19 further runs. Abbott, too, wasn't lending a great deal of stability, although it could be argued that between him and Rabada England's top three batsmen were accounted for. The costly trade-off came in the form of 89 runs being conceded in the Powerplay. Surely there was a case for du Plessis to accommodate an over from Duminy in the over after Hales was dismissed not least because Ben Stokes, a left-handed batsman, was new to the crease having been promoted to No. 3. By not doing that on a pitch where spinners achieved considerable success du Plessis probably missed an opportunity to alter the tempo and consequently rein in England's momentum.Faf-fing around
In a match where both teams managed tall totals it is the break-ups that tell you where one team surged while another slumped. From overs 10 to 15 South Africa managed a mere 41 runs while England managed 65 without losing a wicket. South Africa took a hit when Amla was lbw sweeping at Moeen Ali, and du Plessis, the new batsman, struggled to score at more than a run-a-ball.It was only after du Plessis was out in the 16th over that South Africa's final push hit the high gear. Du Plessis' counterpart, Eoin Morgan, played a similarly sluggish knock, but considering England's breathless start to the chase such consolidation only served to stabilise them before the final assault.