Jonny Bairstow’s belligerent 86 proved the difference as England won the first game of their limited-overs South Africa tour. Faf du Plessis struck 58 as South Africa set England 180 to win, and that looked a tall order until a match-winning partnership of 85 between Bairstow and Ben Stokes.
The tourists eventually got home with five wickets and four balls to spare, but victory was anything but a forgone conclusion for large parts of the game.
Here, we look at three big talking points from England’s return to international cricket…
England have batting to burn
Buttler at the top? Bairstow at four? Apparently, whichever combination Eoin Morgan and Chris Silverwood opt for is good enough to win games of international cricket.
Even though several of England’s established white-ball heroes failed to have games to remember in this one, Bairstow and Stokes were able to step up and secure the victory despite the fact the side failed to reach top gear.
During the first half of England’s innings, it was all South Africa, but the Three Lions have world-class batting throughout their top six in just about every limited-overs game they play. This series’ opener was another fine example of the depth at Morgan’s disposal.
Sam Curran is such a useful cricketer
Some players have a knack for taking wickets and always seem to chip in with very useful runs; Sam Curran is one of them. His 3-28 restricted South Africa to a gettable 179, before he also struck a decisive blow with the bat in hand following Morgan’s dismissal during England’s chase.
Ever since he burst onto the international scene back in 2018, it has been clear that Curran has something about him. His left-arm seamers are a bit sharper and trickier to negotiate than they look, while he has always been adept at adding useful runs to his side’s total in any format.
We’ve known for a while that he’s going to be around for many more years at the very top, and this game was another fine example of why.
This is going to be an entertaining tour
We were treated to an absolute cracker here. The game ebbed and flowed, and it wasn’t until the conclusion of England’s innings that the result became clear.
Both sides have more than enough quality to make things difficult for their opponents over the course of the coming T20s and ODIs.
We have already spoken about England’s strengths but the hosts have some of the finest white-ball players in the world at their disposal too. Anyone who knows anything about cricket would pay to watch Quinton de Kock score runs, while Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje broke speed guns left, right, and centre at this year’s IPL.
The next two games are going to be lots of fun, that’s for sure.