Thu, 30th May 2019
BEN STOKES produced a command all-round performance and rookie fast bowler Jofra Archer an outstanding World Cup debut as England cruised to a 104-run victory over the Standard Bank Proteas in the opening match of the ICC showpiece tournament at The Oval in London on Thursday.
Stokes first consolidated the England top order after they had lost a wicket off the second ball of the match and then two more in the space of four balls after a century stand between Jason Roy and Joe Root. Stokes (89 off 79 balls, 9 fours) then shared a second century partnership with his captain, Eoin Morgan, to set up the England total of 311.
But Stokes did not stop there. He excelled with his ground fielding that included the run out of Dwaine Pretorius before he took an acrobatic catch in the deep to remove Andile Phehlukwayo. It was appropriate that the Man of the Match should wrap up the match by taking the last two wickets in the Proteas innings with successive deliveries.
Archer gave the England attack its sharp edge with a stunning opening spell of 2/20 in five overs that accounted for both Aiden Markram and Faf du Plessis. He also hit Hashim Amla on the grille of his helmet with a short ball, forcing the batsman to retire hurt and only return to the middle at the fall of the sixth wicket.
Amla was the one batsman the Proteas needed more than any other to bat deep into the innings to give them a chance of winning. It remains to be seen whether he will be fit to play in the Proteas next match against Bangladesh at the same venue on Sunday.
In truth, England outplayed the Proteas in all three departments of batting, bowling and fielding, a point acknowledged by Du Plessis at the end of the match.
The advantage of having had a tough five-match series against Pakistan leading into the tournament undoubtedly counted in their favour and the Proteas will need to find their edge quickly.
The real setback for the Proteas was not that they lost to the world’s No. 1 ranked team but their margin of defeat which gives them a seriously negative net run rate (NRR). This factor is likely to play a crucial role when final log positions determine which four teams qualify for the semi-finals.
The Proteas actually had their chance to get back into the match during an 85-run partnership for the third wicket between Quinton de Kock (68 off 74 balls, 6 fours and 2 sixes) and Rassie van der Dussen (50 off 61 balls, 4 fours and a six), the latter scoring his fifth half-century in only his ninth ODI innings.
The Proteas were, in fact, only 4 runs adrift of England on comparative run rate – 166 against 170 – after 30 overs but by then they had lost too many wickets with De Kock and JP Duminy both caught in the deep and Pretorius run out in a series of soft dismissals and Amla’s absence from the field also effecting the flow of the innings.