South Africa - England 1st T20: Proteas win final ball thriller

Imran Tahir picked up four wickets as he propelled South Africa to three wicket victory and a 1-0 series lead.

South Africa - England 1st T20: Proteas win final ball thriller
South Africa celebrate while Topley is distraught following his mistake. Image credit: Gareth Copley
South Africa 135/7 (20)
1 0
England 134/8 (20)

South Africa defeated England by three wickets as they continued their strong preparations to the World T20 in March. For England, however, it was a poor batting performance and a wake-up call, as this defeat ended their run of six T20 matches unbeaten.

Things didn't start well for Eoin Morgan's men as he lost the toss and his team were sent into bat. Despite a strong start, they couldn't attack throughout the innings as constant wickets meant that South Africa were always in control. The tourists gave it their all and were magnificent as they forced the game to the very last ball, where it was ultimately a mistake at the stumps from Reece Topley that gave the game away.

Tahir turns the game South Africa's way

England made a flying start to their innings as openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales shared an opening stand of 38 from just under four overs. Roy fell when he was deceived by Kagiso Rabada slower ball, holing out to Hashim Amla for 15 runs. Hales was the next man to go, as he gave Imran Tahir his first wicket.

Following the wicket of Hales, Tahir was on a roll. The leg-spinner then followed that with the crucial dismissal of the England skipper, Morgan as he continued his poor form. Tahir kept the pressure on England as he removed Stokes and Moeen Ali in quick succession. Tahir finally finished his spell with figures of 4-21 from four overs. It was a spectacular show of spin bowling as he recorded his best figures personally, as well as putting on the best bowling performance in a T20 between the two countries.

Tahir celebrates the wicket of Stokes. | Image source: cricinfo
Tahir celebrates the wicket of Stokes. | Image source: cricinfo

Stokes And Jordan Give England Hope

Following England's well below par total of 134, many expected the run chase to be little more than a formality. However, regular wickets kept England in the game. It was Chris Jordan who struck first as he removed the dangerous AB De Villiers for just 7. Stokes then took over as he dismissed Hashim Amla for 22. Stokes bowled extremely well as he finished his four overs with figures of 1-19, although he will feel he should have taken more wickets following some poor efforts in the field.

But at the back-end of the Proteas innings, it was Jordan that stole the show. A perfect display of death bowling meant that he finished his four overs with figures of 3-21. The two were well backed up by the spin duo of Ali and Adil Rashid, who both bowled economically. 

Stokes Celebrates As He Removes Amla CREDIT:AP
Stokes celebrates as he removes Amla | Image source: AP

What does this mean ahead of the World T20?

For England's bowlers it will be very reassuring, who  executed their skills with almost perfection. For the batsmen, though, it's the exact opposite. It's widely acknowledged that spin will play a crucial part in deciding who wins the World T20 in March, and after the way they struggled to play Tahir today that will be a major concern.

South Africa will be in a similar position; their bowlers will be extremely confident but the batsmen meanwhile will be very concerned with the way they capitulated once any kind of pressure was put on them.

The two sides meet again on Sunday at the Wanderers, where England must win order to level this two-match series. The game will start at 12:30 GMT.