South Africa secured victory by three wickets in the first of two T20 internationals against England on 19 February. Chris Morris, who shined for the hosts with a 38-ball 62 in the fourth ODI meeting last week, was in fine fettle once again as he survived a late run-out opportunity to guide the Proteas to a thrilling win at Newlands in Cape Town.
After losing the toss and being made to bat, Jason Roy was the first wicket to fall as he mishit a pull shot off Kagiso Rabada and was caught by Hashim Amla at mid-wicket for 15. The in-form Alex Hales, who bounced back from his poor Test showing to hit half-centuries in each of his last six limited overs matches, was handed a reprieve after being dropped by JP Duminy on 25.
The latter had the last laugh shortly afterwards, however, showing impressive resilience to hold on to a difficult catch at fine leg despite a nasty accidental collision with Rabada that thankfully did not cause any serious injury. England had reached 50 from their opening six overs, but suffered a frustrating middle-order collapse as Joe Root was removed for just eight with the very next delivery after chopping an off-cutter from David Wiese to Rilee Rossouw.
Ben Stokes looked confident as he struck consecutive boundaries only to be stumped by AB de Villiers, donning the gloves once again as cover for the injured Quinton de Kock, after walking past an Imran Tahir googly and out of his crease. Captain Eoin Morgan made 10 before slicing Tahir to Wiese and the Pakistan-born leg-spinner gave himself a chance of a hat-trick after Moeen Ali was removed for a first-ball duck courtesy of a strong diving take from Faf du Plessis.
David Miller needed three chances to claim an impressive catch off Kyle Abbott to dismiss Chris Jordan for 15 and Adil Rashid was then taken by Amla. Jos Buttler was perhaps the only visiting batsman to take any modicum of credit from a frustratingly inept innings, hitting 32 not out as England set their opponents a rather modest target of 135 to win.
South Africa made a strong start to their reply and Buttler spurned the chance to remove De Villiers when he failed to reel in an edge off Reece Topley. The Test skipper later went for seven when a big top-edge was seized by Hales and fellow opener Amla's knock ended on 22 following a nick that was claimed by David Willey with a low catch that looked like it may have been grounded before intervention from the third umpire.
Led by Stokes and Jordan, scrappy England were at least making the hosts work hard for their victory and they claimed a third wicket when Duminy, on 23, sent a delivery from Rashid straight to Root stationed at long-off. Stokes' catch to banish Du Plessis gave them a greater sense of belief and that only increased further when Rossouw tried to sweep Moeen only to produce a top-edge that was secured by Rashid.
Momentum continued to shift back and forth throughout a gripping finale, typified by Miller smashing a timely six before picking out Root off Jordan. The right-arm quick was bowling extremely well and got his reward with a second late wicket in quick succession, Wiese hitting his own stumps with an inside edge.
With three wickets left in hand, South Africa needed 15 from the final over in order to snatch victory. Abbott began with a single and Morris followed a four with a six to reduce the target to four from three. Finally needing a couple from the very last ball, the Titans all-rounder won the match in breathless fashion after Topley, who could have taken proceedings to a Super Over, lost composure and dropped the chance for a simple run-out.