The Proteas desperately needed a win to keep alive any hopes of reviving the ongoing one day international series against England when they showed up at Centurion yesterday.
Thanks to a 22nd century in this format by Hashim Amla and a 10th ton by Quinton de Kock they doddled home by seven wickets. They didn’t just win the game. They dominated.
It was the first time for the entire tour that England’s body language suggested that they had no answer to the onslaught, even after their batsmen managed to post an imposing 318/8 after winning the toss.
For a team under pressure, and technically a batsman short after Rilee Rossouw made way for all-rounder David Wiese, a total of 319 for victory looked like a big ask. What it meant was that pressure would be on the top four to deliver.
But then Amla and De Kock obliged.
The right and left-handed duo bludgeoned their way into the record books with a 239-run partnership. It ended up being the highest ever for the first wicket at this ground and the highest ever opening stand for South Africa in one day internationals against England.
The previous mark was 156 set by Andrew Hudson and Gary Kirsten at this same venue in 1995/96.
A telling stat which highlights just how effective the duo were was the 56 runs they added between overs 25 and 30 of the innings.
By the time De Kock departed, caught by Joe Root off the bowling of Adil Rashid he had made 135 in a knock that saw him go to 50 at a rate of a run a ball and then accelerate slightly to eventually reach his three figures off 96 balls. The knock, his second century of the series, included 16 fours and four maximums.
An experiment to get Wiese to end the game quickly didn’t work as he fell the very next ball after smashing Mooen Ali for six while bizarrely trying to reverse sweep to leave the home side on 249/2.
But Amla and Faf du Plessis, who hit the winning runs off Ben Stokes, carried on untroubled and added 62 for the third wicket before Amla departed for 127 off 130 balls with 13 fours and two sixes making up his tally.
Earlier, England had looked comfortable against South Africa’s attack as Alex Hales cruised to a third straight half-century while involved in a second wicket stand worth 125 with Root before a Kagiso Rabada double strike in the 27th over left them 162/3.
Root would eventually go on to top score for the tourists with 125 off 113 balls while Ben Stokes would add a quickfire 53 off 37 balls to help England to their eventual total.