England had a second Ben Stokes ODI century and some fine death bowling from Mark Wood to thank for a nail-biting victory over South Africa on Saturday (27 May). Following on from their comfortable opening victory three days ago, the hosts held on to win by two runs at Hampshire's Ageas Bowl and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
Put into bat on an overcast day in Southampton, England, who declared Stokes 100% fit after a knee scare at Headingley and replaced the injured Chris Woakes with Jake Ball, closed their 50 overs on 330-6 after the flame-haired Durham livewire took advantage of a pair of early drops to hit a 79-ball 101. Jos Buttler was 65 not out.
Chasing again for the second time this week, South Africa reached 53 without loss before Hashim Amla drove a Stokes delivery to Eoin Morgan at extra cover.
Faf du Plessis later edged Liam Plunkett through to Buttler before the powerful duo of Quinton de Kock and number-one ranked ODI batsman AB de Villiers made good inroads for the Proteas.
De Villiers brought up his half-century before gloving Plunkett's short ball into the hands of Buttler. De Kock, meanwhile, was just two runs short of a ton when Moeen Ali had him caught behind to leave the tourists 211-4.
In an increasingly tight match, the unconvincing Farhaan Behardien, who came into the team along with ODI debutant Keshav Maharaj and Dwaine Pretorius as South Africa swapped out Imran Tahir, Wayne Parnell and JP Duminy, had made 17 when he became Plunkett's third victim with a skied shot that was easy pickings for Moeen.
David Miller comfortably survived a run out review and struck 71, with Chris Morris adding 35 during an incredibly tense finish. South Africa eventually needed seven to win off the final over and then four off the very last ball, but Wood stood firm to secure a remarkable two-run win. While he did not take a wicket, the Durham paceman still excelled and finished a high-scoring contest with commendable figures of 10-0-48-0.
To win a series against the world's top-ranked ODI team will be a huge boost to England ahead of their Champions Trophy campaign, which begins against Bangladesh at The Oval next Thursday (1 June). However, the fact that a limited Stokes was only able to bowl three overs and will now undergo a second scan on that aforementioned knee issue provides some cause for concern.
The final clash with South Africa takes place at Lord's on Monday.