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England secured top spot in Group 1 of the T20 World Cup Super 12, but lost for the first time in the tournament, against South Africa, and also lost tone-setting opener to Jason Roy to a nasty-looking calf injury.
South Africa’s victory – by 10 runs – was not substantial enough to send them through with England, as Australia advanced in second place having beaten West Indies heavily earlier in the day. They will face Pakistan in the semi-finals.
England were not at their best. With the ball, they were put to the sword, as South Africa scored 189, with particular pain coming during a superb partnership of 103 from 52 balls between Rassie van der Dussen and Aidan Markram.
England’s chase started well, and sparked back into life when Liam Livingstone hit three successive sixes – including the biggest in the tournament – off Kagiso Rabada in a stunning blitz. They fell narrowly short, but had a decent crack. Rabada overcame a tough night to finish with a hat-trick, as Chris Woakes, Eoin Morgan and Chris Jordan fell looking for sixes in the final over.
Of greater concern is Roy. He pulled up dramatically in the fifth over of England’s chase, and had to be helped from the field, cursing his luck. He suffered a serious injury during the 2019 World Cup too, and this time would join an absentee list already including Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran and Tymal Mills.
England had been asked to chase 190 to win, 87 to qualify for the semi-finals and 106 to top the group, thus avoiding the already-qualified Pakistan. South Africa’s target was even more straightforward: England had to score fewer than 131 if they were to qualify.
When Roy went down, England were 37 without loss, but they lost Jos Buttler (caught at midwicket) and Jonny Bairstow (lbw to Tabraiz Shamsi), by the time they had 60 on the board.
Moeen Ali and Dawid Malan – demoted to No5 – took them past their first two targets. The second was sealed with a 102m Moeen six, but he was dismissed next ball looking for another. Livingstone and Malan kept England on course, but both men fell to some smart bowling to Dwaine Pretorius. Livingstone fell at the start of the 19th over, shifting the momentum South Africa’s way. Rabada finished the job.
England had lost the game with the ball. They were forced into a change, with Mark Wood replacing Mills, but – having won the toss – stuck with a tried and tested formula. Moeen and Woakes shared the first seven overs, limiting South Africa to 49 for one, before Adil Rashid and the quicker bowlers, Jordan and Wood, took over.
Moeen was outstanding again. With a very short boundary and a right-hander at the crease, this was not simple. As he did against West Indies and Bangladesh, he struck in his second over, removing the struggling Reeza Hendricks. His four overs, bowled on the reel, cost just 27 and included eight dot balls. At the other end, Woakes was tight, until being attacked in the final over of the powerplay.
Quinton de Kock and Van der Dussen had built a decent partnership, which soon passed fifty. Van der Dussen was inventive, reverse-sweeping, ramping, and later reverse-lapping, while de Kock was his usual punchy self.
It was when Markram joined Van Der Dussen that South Africa really opened the shoulders. Wood’s pace was targeted, as Woakes’ final over, which cost 21, leaving him with ugly figures typo. Jordan bowled well, until his final over, the 20th, flew for two sixes (the first he had conceded in the tournament), too.
While England’s spinners had done a fine job (Livingstone went unused this time), their seamers had struggled in tough conditions, and Mills was missed. England grew sloppy in the field, conceding overthrows on three separate occasions. Throughout, South Africa had given them more headaches than any other side in the group.