Joe Root’s century helps England score 262, but host gets past the target with one wicket in hand and 16 balls to spare
A breathtaking and belligerent 62 off 37 balls from Chris Morris helped South Africa script a series-levelling one-wicket victory in the fourth One-Day International in front of a roaring Johannesburg crowd on Friday (February 12). The result left the series at 2-2, with the last match in Cape Town on Sunday.
With 262 to defend after being put in to bat, England – which rode on Joe Root’s 124-ball 109 to get where it did – will have fancied its chances of closing out the game with the cream of South Africa's batting back in the hut at 143 for 5, but the lower order refused to go down without a fight. Even when South Africa found itself staring down the barrel at 210 for 8, with 53 runs required off 51 balls, Morris, dropped on 14 by Adil Rashid off Reece Topley, kept plundering boundaries. Rashid did eventually knock over Morris's stump with the scores level to add to the tension, but Imran Tahir showed that he wasn't going to bottle it, hitting the winning boundary to clinch the game.
South Africa lost Hashim Amla early, Stuart Broad – playing his first ODI since March last year – bowling him for a duck in the first over.
Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis, however, kept the scoreboard ticking. But just as the two batsmen were looking set, Ben Stokes made amends for his poor show with the bat by breaking through the defences of de Kock (27 in 42 balls). One wicket beget another as Chris Woakes knocked over du Plessis's stumps next after a 38-ball 34, and South Africa slipped to 63 for 3.
AB de Villiers and JP Duminy began to rebuild the innings, but while the South Africa captain was looking in excellent touch, Duminy was eating up balls at the other end and finding fielders instead of the gaps.
Both batsmen were dropped, Alex Hales and Jason Roy the culprits, but it was the de Villiers drop that particularly hurt as he swatted Broad, the unlucky bowler, for consecutive boundaries.
It seemed England would need some intervention of the divine sort to dislodge de Villiers in the mood he was in, but Duminy did the job for them. Responding to his partner's call for a non-existent single, de Villiers put in a dive but was run out by Woakes for a 27-ball 36, becoming the 15th batsman to perish in the 21 run outs Duminy has been involved in during his ODI career.
South Africa slid to 143 for 5 as Duminy was out lbw for 31 in 49 balls next, but Farhaan Behardien (38 in 42), David Wiese (21 in 32), and Kyle Abbott (3 not out off 11 balls) kept the chase on course, with Morris piloting it. England's bowlers and fielders buckled under pressure as South Africa crossed the finish line with 16 balls remaining.
It was the bowling that England was concerned with coming into the game but, as luck would have it, it was the batting that came undone against Tahir's legspin in the first half of the game.
England's openers struggled, and impatience finally got the better of Roy as he fell to Kagiso Rabada in the sixth over.
Root, fresh from his century in the third ODI, then joined Hales at the middle and the two stabilised the innings. Hales looked solid, smacking boundaries off Abbott, while Root got his eye in. But the slowish nature of the pitch meant the runs weren't coming as quickly as England will have liked, and it became clear it would be a case of who blinked first.
The answer was provided by Tahir. The legspinner was the most expensive among South Africa's bowlers in the previous game, but this time he had his finger on the button, snaring three wickets in the space of two overs.
It was Hales who departed first, holing out to David Miller, the substitute fielder, at deep midwicket for 50 in 56 balls. Tahir then knocked over Eoin Morgan and Stokes in the next over. While Morgan chipped to point, Stokes perished to a stunner from Amla, who threw himself to the right and showed excellent reflexes.
England then went from the frying pan to the fire when Abbott returned to pluck out Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali. From a position of strength at 87 for 1, England was reduced to 108 for 6, and the responsibility lay heavily on Root's shoulders to dig the side out of the hole they were in. Fortunately for England, he managed to do so with aplomb.
From overs 26 to 31, Root refused to be baited and was content to just nudge the ball around. He had Woakes for company and impressed upon him to follow his lead. The result was a 95-run partnership for the seventh wicket and though South Africa managed to get rid of Woakes (33 in 38), Root was not to be denied a second consecutive ton in the series, bringing it up in the 43rd over.
Root fell shortly thereafter, but a breezy 26-ball 39 from Rashid ensured England's total went past 250 – a scenario that seemed highly unlikely at the halfway stage of the innings – before Rabada (4-45) mopped up the tail. Tahir finished with 3 for 46.
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