The wait for a white-ball series victory goes on for England’s new captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott, opting to chase South Africa down for the second T20 international in a few days and once again coming up considerably short of the target, hammered this time by 90 runs.
South Africa’s bowling attack were superb, suffocating England with the writing on the wall after 12 overs when England were only 65 for five, although the plaudits will right go to 21-year-old Tristan Stubbs after a stunner of a diving catch to dismiss Moeen Ali.
The boundary at Southampton is notably larger, meaning that England’s record of 20 sixes from the first T20 was never under threat. But unable to whack the ball to all corners England looked short of ideas.
Jason Roy’s form continues to be an issue, with 17 from 18 balls here following 20 off 22 balls in Cardiff and eight in the first T20, but he was far from the only player at fault as England’s batting disintegrated, Tabraiz Shamsi finishing with a five -fer as South Africa completed a fairly remarkable turnaround from that first T20 defeat in Bristol. The fact that England were all out here after 16.4 balls – or, a hundred balls – was not lost on many.
David Willey with all his experience returned to replace the injured Richard Gleeson and couldn’t have wished for a better start, a wicket maiden including Quinton de Kock dragging back onto his own stumps. It took a nervy inside edge from Reeza Hendricks, not dissimilar to De Kock’s, racing away to the boundary to get South Africa away with the eighth delivery of the innings.
Willey continued to pose problems and Hendricks continued to ride his luck – another inside edge followed by a top edge also producing boundaries – but Rilee Roussow settled quickly on his return to the Ageas Bowl, crashing a Reece Topley delivery over midwicket with the air of a player in form following his 96 not out in Cardiff.
A short shower could have disrupted South Africa’s momentum but they finished the powerplay at a rollicking rate, scoring 17 off Jordan’s first over with Roussouw in command, bludgeoning the last ball of the over past everyone to leave South Africa on 53 for one. Urgently requiring a change, Buttler brought on Moeen Ali who delivered after three balls, hitting the top of off stump with a supreme delivery to end Roussouw’s dangerous knock.
Scoring steadily despite a boundary drought between the sixth and 13th overs, Hendricks reached his third consecutive 50 in the series, still riding his luck at times but producing some quality strokes too until a slower ball from Jordan caught him out, dismissed for 70 from 50 balls.
David Miller, playing his 100th T20I for South Africa, emphatically cracked two cut shots to the boundary as the visitors began to purr, Aiden Markram producing an audacious reverse scoop. The big out-field here requires some heft to clear but Millar accepted the challenge, dispatching Jordan for six over long-on.
Willey deserved more reward for his efforts and dismissed Millar in the final over with a delivery which stayed straight to clip leg stump, shortly after Markram reached 50, before Liam Livingstone’s fine catch out at cover meant that South Africa set England a testing target of 192 .
With the sun out England an received early gift, Roy picking up five off the back of some comical overthrows from Keshav Maharaj. Another steady start suggested this might be Buttler’s time to post a big score. Not like that. After a streaky edge, the next ball from Maharaj was sent by Buttler to short third man, heaping pressure on England.
Would Roy deliver? Negative, top edging through to De Kock to (fairly) raise questions about what happens next for England at the top of the order. More pressingly here they finished the powerplay on 37 for two, 14 runs fewer than the Proteas managed. Perhaps of greater concern at that stage was the lack of boundaries, two to South Africa’s 10, which complimented South Africa’s openers.
The struggle to get going continued with Dawid Malan picking out Nortje at deep square leg, taken low and well as South Africa’s good fielding display from Cardiff continued.
South Africa’s accurate and controlled bowling meant the run rate continued to climb to an unmanageable amount for England, with Stubbs’ wonder catch out at cover, diving to dismiss Ali and caught one-handed, the highlight of the match and hammering home South Africa’s dominance .
Then it was Shamsi’s turn, rebounding after that difficult first T20 at Bristol with a five-fer. Sam Curran’s cameo was short, hitting England’s first six before picking out Markram in the deep with the next ball. Willey swept aggressively and missed, the tightest of reviews for lbw dismissed Chris Jordan, before Adil Rashid also picked out Markram to spark Shamsi’s ecstatic celebrations.
Jonny Bairstow has produced some miracles this summer but not today, top edging to finish the winning with England resoundingly beaten as South Africa clinched the series.