|First Twenty20, Newlands, Le Cap|
|South Africa 179-6 (20 overs): Du Plessis 58 (40), S Curran 3-28|
|England 183-5 (19.2 overs): Bairstow 86 * (48), Stokes 37 (27), Linde 2-20|
|England won by five wickets|
Jonny Bairstow achieved his highest international score of Twenty20 as England beat South Africa by five wickets in the series opener in Cape Town.
Coming into the enclosure at 27-2, chasing 180 to win, Bairstow hit nine fours and four sixes in a magnificent undefeated 86 on 48 balls.
He was ably backed in an 85 innings partnership with all-rounder Ben Stokes, who made a 27-ball 37.
Previously, Sam Curran, chosen over spinner Moeen Ali, recorded his best international bowling numbers T20 taking 3-28, including Faf du Plessis’ key wicket for 58.
South Africa’s 179-6 total was 21 more than Newlands’ first-inning average score in a T20 international, and England struggled at 34-3, but Bairstow’s brutality guided them towards an excellent victory with four balls to lose.
The second match of the three-game series takes place at Boland Park, Paarl on Sunday at 12:30 GMT.
Bairstow shines in new role
Ahead of the game, England captain Eoin Morgan spoke about using this series to find roles and a batting order that players were happy with with the World Cup in India in just 11 months.
Bairstow may have found his when he was four.
Often known as a belligerent opener, he saved England following the downfall of Jason Roy in the first round and Jos Buttler moments later, and his ability to hang on to anything short and punish deliveries too full was immediately evident.
Abandoned at 24 in the long run by Du Plessis, Bairstow scored 49 of his runs in the middle of the wicket and halfway as he and Stokes rocked the game in England’s favor.
Even after Stokes fell, Bairstow showed maturity and remained calm as Morgan struggled at the start of his innings.
It paid off, as a 17th rebel from Beuran Hendricks cost 28 points and Bairstow finished the job with a four and a six off Lundi Ngidi.
Sam Curran Bowler’s Pick
Morgan also spoke of consolidating seven or eight World Cup positions, but seventh is up for grabs.
While the tournament takes place in the subcontinent and may favor the Moeen option, Sam Curran is on course to nail the position.
The left armeur has the astute talent of picking up wickets at crucial points in the game, in addition to taking out high-class players as he demonstrated by sacking Temba Bavuma and Du Plessis.
His ability to read terms, knowing when to go to a variation, playing round bowl or over the wicket is constantly improving.
Du Plessis, whose place in the squad was in doubt during the England tour of South Africa in February, was excellent.
He, like Bairstow, came into the crease after a first wicket and played well on both sides of the wicket.
His innings gained momentum when he took Tom Curran for 24 in the fifth, including two massive sixes.
England have managed just eight powerplay wickets in nine games in 2020, and that will concern Morgan with the biggest challenges ahead.
“Jonny had an amazing day” – what they said
England captain Eoin Morgan on Sky Sports: “It’s extremely pleasant. It’s a very good victory.
“We were pretty average apart from two or three guys. Jonny has had an amazing day. Jonny and Stokes have arranged it well, and winning when you’re not at its best is fun. “
Man of the Match Jonny Bairstow: “It’s always nice to start the series with a few points. Crossing the finish line and going 1-0 means we’re all happy in the camp.
“You learn to create sleeves in different ways. It helped me a lot. We are flexible on the order and lucky enough that people can come in and play different innings. “
South Africa Captain Quinton de Kock: “We thought it was a good total. But unfortunately that did not happen tonight.
“Jonny hit really well – he changed his game plan depending on the pitch and the conditions. “