Rilee Rossouw 96*, Tabraiz Shamsi seal emphatic series leveller for South Africa

Rilee Rossouw 96*, Tabraiz Shamsi seal emphatic series leveller for South Africa

South Africa 207 for 3 (Rossouw 96*, Hendricks 53) beat England 149 (Shamsi 3-27, Phehlukwayo 3-39) by 58 runs

South Africa unfurled a near-perfect short-form display to beat England by 58 runs in Cardiff, squaring the T20I series ahead of Sunday’s decider at the Ageas Bowl.

Just 24 hours after defeat by 41 runs in Bristol on Wednesday evening, it was a redemptive performance from the Proteas to draw level at 1-1. Rilee Rossouw’s 96 not out spearheaded a total of 207 for three, before Tabraiz Shamsi (three for 27) and Andile Phehlukwayo (three for 39) successfully defended their score by skittling their opponents with 20 balls to spare.

Jos Buttler said he wanted to see how his team went chasing after winning a first toss in eight and opting to bowl first, and the Proteas were more than happy to oblige. A brisk start – 32 for none after three overs, then 58 for the loss of Quinton de Kock at the end of the powerplay – was maintained throughout.

Rossouw was the main event, but Reeza Hendricks provided the perfect warm-up act, backing up Bristol’s half-century with another here, before eventually falling for 53. That ended a stand of 73 between himself and Rossouw, who had 39 at this point, with 8.3 overs to go. With Tristan Stubbs struggling to replicate the hitting from his six-heavy 72 from 28 deliveries, 57 of the remaining 95 runs came from the senior man.

England were poor in the field, with wayward lines and lengths, and a variety of fielding errors. Gleeson was able to make amends for dropping Hendricks around the corner at fine leg for 51 by taking the right-hander’s wicket in the next over. However, Buttler’s grounded catch down the leg side off Rossouw – who had just 37 – was far more costly.

That being said, Chris Jordan’s concession of just four runs in the 20th over gave the hosts a spring in their step going into he break. And when Buttler became the first batter of the night to find the stands beyond the longest boundary, and then struck six-six-four off Phehlukwayo, England were in the mix. But Phehlukwayo held his fourth delivery back, resulting in a skier from Buttler taken well by Hendricks running to mid-on, and as four England wickets fell for 51 runs in 6.4 overs, the required rate began to spiral above 12.

With 100 needed off the remaining 42 balls, the only reason to sniff an England victory was the presence of Jonny Bairstow and Liam Livingstone at the crease. The ability to smash boundaries at will – as per Bairstow’s eight sixes in his 53-ball 90 on Wednesday – was the only way out of this hole. Unfortunately for England, within 14 balls, the pair had been dismissed – caught at backward point off Rabada and behind off Phehlukwayo, respectively – with 67 left for the tail.

The final three wickets fell for just eight, the last of them, Richard Gleeson, off the back of a DRS call seemingly taken on a whim by the fielding side. As with everything else in the match, it went South Africa’s way.

Reaping Rossouw

It might not have been a century, but Rossouw’s score was a reminder of both his talents and what South Africa have missed out on over the last six years. That he became a Kolpak in his prime, smashing 122 in an ODI against Australia in October 2016, his last appearance for the Proteas before Wednesday’s T20I, was a particularly sore point as he remained visible elsewhere, notable in England for Hampshire and now Somerset.

But the prodigal son is now a man, and his innings here typified an underlying sense of maturity to his game. It was particularly evident against those he didn’t target: Reece Topley started well to him and the off spin of Moeen Ali was always going to be tricky for the left-hander to go after. But he struck well against Gleeson, Jordan and particularly Adil Rashid, taking 18 runs off the nine deliveries he faced from the legspinner. But for Stubbs chewing up half of the final over, Rossouw probably would have reached a maiden international T20I hundred. Nevertheless, off the back of a stunning Vitality Blast season for Somerset (623 runs at a strike rate of 192.28), it’s abundantly clear the 32-year-old is making up for lost time.

Right-hand, left-hand – overthinking?

No sooner had Eoin Morgan posited that it would take a brave man to shunt Bairstow down the order, Buttler did just that. By no means the more ruthless of the two, it was an example of how both teams were persisting with right-hand-left-hand combinations.

It’s nothing new, and in this instance was down to the disparity between the two square boundaries. With the leftie Rossouw batting through the innings from the fourth over, David Miller waved a procession of right-handers through, including Stubbs who came in ahead of the stand-in captain. Similarly, Bairstow was held back for Moeen to enter at No.4 in England’s innings after Dawid Malan had fallen. Then, when Moeen himself was dismissed for an enterprising 28, Sam Curran came in at six ahead of Liam Livingstone.

None of them really came off, though the reasons for the promotions were totally justified given the form of Stubbs (72 off 28) and Moeen (52 off 18) from the night before. Not to mention the fact that Bairstow was in by the ninth over anyway, and Rossouw was always going to come in at No.3 to accompany Hendricks. On this occasion, it was a tactic that made a lot of sense but did not produce any tangible reward.

Roy …

The good news for Jason Roy is, barring injury, he will get the series-decider on Sunday to see if he can improve on the 59 runs off 80 he’s managed across the international T20 summer.

The bad news is it looks like it may just be another opportunity to fail. Since a century in the final ODI against Netherlands in Amsterdam, Roy has struggled to get going on home soil. Barring a 41 in the third ODI against India, he has struggled to get the measure of the white Kookaburra ball, occasionally showing flashes of timing amid plenty of mishits and lapses in judgement.

The issue that affects Roy more than others is aesthetics: his very nature is to go after attacks, and it is counted as an upside of his character that, even when struggling, he never shies away from a battle. That, however, means in the midst of this kind of run, he looks like a man pushed into the corner swinging haymakers with his eyes closed.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo

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