Jonny Bairstow scored a brilliant unbeaten half-century as England beat South Africa by five wickets and four balls to spare in the opening KFC T20 international at Six Gun Grill Newlands in Cape Town on Friday evening.
Bairstow’s unbeaten 86 from just 48 deliveries included nine boundaries and four maximums as England reached 183 for five in response to South Africa’s 179 for six after Eoin Morgan had won the toss and asked the Proteas to bat first.
Man of the match Bairstow, who normally opens for England, moved down the order and the decision worked a peach, despite debutant George Linde claiming 2-20 in his first four overs in T20 international cricket with the right-arm spinner claiming figures of 2-2 in the power play.
The turning point of the chase though came in the 17th over, bowled by Beuran Hendricks (4-0-56-0) with England needing 51 runs off the final 24 balls. The left-arm pace bowler conceded eight wides along with three boundaries by Bairstow and a six from Morgan (12) as the Lions bowler conceded 28 runs, almost single-handedly handing England victory on a plate.
Bairstow’s fourth-wicket stand of 85 with Ben Stokes (37) off 54 balls got England back on track after Linde and Lungi Ngidi (3.2-0-31-2) had put the visitors firmly on the back-foot. Linde claimed his maiden T20 international wicket when he had Jason Roy caught behind by Quinton de Kock off the second ball of the innings before Ngidi had Jos Buttler (7) caught at wide mid-off by Heinrich Klaasen.
Linde then returned to have a dangerous-looking Dawid Malan (19) caught by Kagiso Rabada at short square-leg to leave England teetering on 34 for three but then Stokes and Bairstow brought the game back into balance. Stokes, who did not look as good as he normally does, still managed to club one four and three sixes before slapping Tabraiz Shamsi (3-0-27-1) straight to Linde on the long-on boundary.
The breakthrough would have given some hope to the Proteas faithful and despite the loss of Morgan, caught by Temba Bavuma off Ngidi, Bairstow finished the game off in style, clubbing Ngidi for a four and then a six off the first two balls of the final over to hand England a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
Earlier, former captain Faf du Plessis had scored his highest total against England with a very good 58 from 40 balls while sharing in a 77-run stand for the second wicket with De Kock after the early loss of Bavuma’s wicket for just five.
The second-wicket stand off 54 balls was broken by Chris Jordan (4-0-40-1) as De Kock drove a ball straight to Morgan in the covers. But it was Sam Curran (4-0-28-3) that really bowled intelligently, conceding just three boundaries off his bowling while claiming the wickets of Bavuma, Du Plessis, caught by Jordan on the boundary and then Heinrich Klaasen (20), edging a short ball behind to Bairstow.
Rassie van der Dussen (37) and Klaasen added momentum to the Proteas’ innings with a stand of 37 off 23 balls for the fourth wicket before Linde (12) clubbed one four and a six off six in the final over.
The teams face-off in the second match of the series at Eurolux Boland Park in Paarl on Sunday before returning to Newlands on Tuesday to finish off the T20 series.