June 25, 2017
Start time 2.30pm local (1330 GMT)
If the character and fortitude of the tourists were at all in question after their thumping in the first T20 (not to mention a dismal Champions Trophy), South Africa delivered an emphatic riposte in Taunton. Jason Roy’s dismissal for obstructing the field took the focus but the real story was of a tenacious fightback, inspired by a fired-up Chris Morris, to level the series at 1-1.
England had appeared to be cruising to another comprehensive win, with Roy and Jonny Bairstow putting on a century stand for the second wicket – but, from needing 50 off 39 balls, they instead stuttered down a dead end as South Africa silenced a boisterous crowd enjoying their first sight of an England men’s international since 1983.
AB de Villiers, South Africa’s stand-in captain, had demanded a response and his bowlers delivered, as Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dane Paterson successfully tied down a succession of new batsmen. Morris spoke afterwards of fronting up to justify wearing the shirt and his impassioned intervention as the match appeared to be slipping away may just have turned South Africa’s tour around.
England could take plenty from the debut performance of Tom Curran, Roy’s return to form – his 67 ended a run of 10 international innings without a fifty – and the continued run-harvesting of Bairstow, but Eoin Morgan will have been disappointed to see another clutch moment go the opposition’s way. Liam Livingstone, another debutant, suffered a difficult baptism and he will hope to get a chance to prove his talent in the decider at Cardiff.
There may not be much tangible resting on the final match – and England are set to bring in a couple more new faces having previously indicated they will blood all five uncapped players in the squad – but the result may take on greater significance for battles still to come.
England LWLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WLWLL
In the spotlight
The rapid rise of Tom Curran looks set to continue after his impressive first outing in an England shirt. Already a senior member of the Surrey attack at the age of 22, Curran took to international cricket with aplomb, showing an extra lick of pace and good variety to pick up 3 for 33. On this evidence, certainly in white-ball cricket, there will be plenty more caps to come.
David Miller is the second-most experienced member of the South Africa squad in T20 internationals and a player blessed with awesome ball-striking ability. He has had chances to shape both games so far but, apart from one effortless straight six in Southampton, the runs haven’t come. South Africa could do with him firing to improve their chances of an above-par score.
Bairstow has left the squad to head off on Yorkshire duty in the round of pink-ball Championship games, which should open up a spot for Dawid Malan to make his international debut. Craig Overton is the other uncapped man, with Chris Jordan perhaps likeliest to make way after an erratic performance, while Sam Billings could also be squeezed out as deputy opener by Alex Hales’ return.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Liam Livingstone, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Liam Dawson, 8 David Willey, 9 Craig Overton, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Tom Curran
South Africa found a better balance to their attack in Taunton, with Morris winning the Man-of-the-Match award. They could be unchanged, but for the temptation to bring back the No. 1-ranked T20 bowler, Imran Tahir.
South Africa (possible): 1 JJ Smuts, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 AB de Villiers (capt), 4 David Miller, 5 Farhaan Berhardien, 6 Mangaliso Mosehle (wk), 7 Chris Morris, 8 Andile Phehlukwayo, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Dane Paterson, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi/Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
England will return to the scene of their Champions Trophy semi-final defeat – hoping for a fresh surface this time. The short, straight boundaries at Cardiff often mitigate against spin, while a cool afternoon, with the chance of some rain early on, may assist the seamers.
Stats and trivia
England have previously played three T20 internationals at Cardiff, winning all of them.
Only eight batsmen have been given out obstructing the field in international cricket – four of them since 2013.
“The last couple of seasons I’ve bowled a lot of overs that may have limited my pace. But I think I may have gathered a yard. I’m getting stronger, I know my action and I’m developing.”
Tom Curran reckons there is still pace to add to his bowling
“First and foremost there’s that honour of playing for South Africa and the honour of playing international cricket. Not many people have ever lived the dream that we’re living. But there was a lot for Russell. He’s going through a really tough time … Coach, this one’s for you.”
Chris Morris dedicates South Africa’s Taunton win to absent coach Russell Domingo, who has returned home to be with his unwell mother