England walked into the tournament and this opening game against South Africa as favourites and played as one. They dominated throughout and whenever they were put under pressure, they found ways of reciprocating it.
It was a clinical performance from Eoin Morgan and his boys as they thrashed the Proteas by 104 runs. Four out of the top five got fifties. Jofra Archer bowled fantastically and was supported well by other bowlers to help England get off the mark this World Cup.
After winning the toss and opting to bowl first, Faf du Plessis pulled a rabbit out of his hat as he tossed the ball to Imran Tahir in the very first over. And the oldest man playing this World Cup did not disappoint. Tahir sent Jonny Bairstow packing on the second delivery of the tournament. He got one to turn enough as the England opener nicked off.
This England is different
Suddenly, England looked like wobbling but this is the new England. They simply eased the nerves and didn’t allow South Africa to capitalize on that early wicket. Joe Root and Jason Roy batted beautifully as the blunted out the South African attack really well. Both Roy and Root scored good half-centuries and also shared an important 106-run stand as they built the platform.
However, England wobbled as South Africa managed to come back into the game with a couple of quick wickets. Andile Phehlukwayo and Kagiso Rabada got the wickets of the two set batsmen in consecutive overs. England were suddenly under pressure again with two new men at the crease. But skipper Eoin Morgan along with Ben Stokes rebuilt before taking control of the innings. The duo shared the second hundred partnership of the day as the put England’s innings back on track and the hosts looked good for a big score. But once again, the Proteas stormed their way back into the game.
Once Morgan went, South Africa more or less controlled the back half of the innings. Morgan who was playing his 200th ODI for England was looking in great touch. He even notched up 7,000 ODI runs but fell soon after getting to fifty as Tahir got his second wicket. England were 217/4 at that stage and with 13 overs to go, a score over 325-330 looked well on the cards.
But England’s flourish never came at the back end as the South African pacers used the slower ones and hit the hard length which wasn’t easy to get away. They kept picking up wickets regularly in the last 10 overs and never allowed England to get away. The hosts were able to score just 76 runs in the last 10 overs. Hence, they ended up with 311 which was just about par on a surface which did have something in it for the bowlers.
In reply, the England new ball bowlers, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer were right on the money. Moreover, South Africa copped a huge blow early in their innings as Hashim Amla walked off after being struck on the helmet by a Jofra Archer bouncer. Archer then got the wickets of Aiden Markram and skipper Faf du Plessis to put England ahead. Archer bowled a terrific opening spell as he rushed and troubled almost every batsman for pace.
Quinton de Kock batted well and led South Africa’s chase. Rassie van der Dussen who started tentatively managed to string an 85-run partnership with the South African stumper. However, a poor stroke from de Kock triggered the collapse. He tried to smoke Liam Plunkett out of the ground by clearing the longer boundary but found fine-leg. From then on, South Africa just kept losing wickets at regular intervals. van der Dussen who was going well raised his fifth half-century but fell soon after as Archer came back and dismissed the right-hander.
No chance for recovery
Adile Phehlukwayo tried to swing around but fell to a freak catch by Ben Stokes at the deep mid-wicket fence. Amla did come out to bat but the game was almost beyond South Africa’s reach at that stage. He hung around for a few overs nudging the ball here and there before falling to a short delivery from Plunkett. South Africa were bundled out for 207 and they were handed a heavy loss in the opening game of the 2019 World Cup.
England will be happy with the way things panned out, especially with the ball. Most bowlers contributed and their fielding barring an odd blip from Jos Buttler behind the stumps was simply outstanding. They are up and running and have got first points on board.