Joe Root proved what a brilliant match-winner he is, smashing 83 from 44 balls as England chased down a record target of 230 against South Africa, at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, to stay alive in the series. Chasing a never-before achieved target, England needed an unrealistically quick start, and got the same as Jason Roy came out all guns blazing. He was at the crease for just 16 balls, but in that period hit five fours and three sixes, as England raced to 71 for 2 in 4.3 overs by the time he was dismissed. Root and Buttler then took England closer before Moeen Ali saw them home.
In a match that was a nightmare for bowlers, Kagiso Rabada went for 50 in four overs, Dale Steyn for 35 in two, and Chris Morris for 43 in 3. While the figures were shockingly poor, it had a lot to do with the manner in which Root took them on, knowing exactly what to do, and how and where to get the boundaries. The 18th over bowled by Morris saw Root glancing him for four, slicing him behind square and then edging one past the keeper. That 17-run over brought the equation down to 11 from 12, which was complete a breeze
Root’s brilliance outshone blistering fifties from Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy as England bowlers were taken to the cleaners for the second time in as many games at the same venue. Having won the toss, and deciding to field, England were made to rue their decision, as the bowling attack was pulverised for 229, South Africa losing merely four wickets. De Kock was the most lethal of all, with 52 from 24, Duminy made an unbeaten 54 from 28. Amla’s figures look calm in comparison, but he still got his runs at a strike rate of 187. Towards the end, David Miller contributed an unbeaten 28 from 12.
There was carnage for almost the entire duration of England’s bowling, beginning with the second over in which de Kock launched Reece Topley into the crowds, and then blasted him through cover and cover point for fours. David Willey was met with even sterner treatment. De Kock crushed him for six down the ground, then followed it up with two more fours, and finished off the over with a huge six over cover, that landed in the second tier. 20 came off that over, and South Africa were well on their way to achieving a massive score.
Amla was dropped at mid-off by Topley off Moeen Ali’s bowling. This was after he had produced languid boundaries through the off side. If Willey, Ali and Topley were smashed, Chris Jordan was to be met with even harsher treatment. Amla eased three consecutive fours off his bowling, before hooking a six over fine leg, and then punishing another bad ball, with a slash over point for four. The rollicking partnership ended when de Kock mistimed Ali into deep midwicket’s hands. Not much changed though as Duminy carried on the boundary-hitting spree, joined by Miller at the end. But, with the kind of form that Root was in, it wasn’t enough.
--By A Cricket Correspondent