March 19: Joe Root scores 44-ball 83 to script tournament’s highest-ever run chase to overhaul South Africa’s mammoth 229
There are two ways a team can look at overhauling a total like 230. One can either hope for a magical innings from one of its batsman, or ensure that each of its players comes out going for broke from the onset.
England chose the latter, and pulled off the highest successful run chase ever in the World T20 – second highest in T20Is overall – to defeat South Africa by two wickets in a thrilling Group 1 encounter at the Wankhede here on Friday.
Joe Root, with his typically classy innings of 83 in just 44 balls, was the chief architect of the masterful chase, but England captain Eoin Morgan would have given every batsman a huge pat on his back.
Openers Alex Hales and Jason Ray came out looking to inflict the same kind of damage England bowlers suffered during their powerplay overs. Only, they were better.
After scoring 21 off the first over by Kagiso Rabada, Hales and Ray targetted South Africa’s best in the next: Dale Steyn. It didn’t help that Kyle Abbott dropped Hales in his opening ball. The fearsome fast bowler’s fury turned into frustration as he saw the two butchering him for four fours and a six.
England bettered South Africa’s show in the first six overs by scoring 89 — six more than Proteas — albeit at three times the cost. A thundering yorker by Abbott saw the back of Hales before Roy and No. 3 Ben Stokes gifted their wickets away.
Morgan and Root added 24, before the England skipper chopped himself on in trying to cut part-timer JP Duminy to fall for 12. But the latter continued going great guns, twice upper-cutting Chris Morris over short third man for a six and a four in the 11th over.
Root reached his 50 in just 29 balls, and together with an equally effective Jos Buttler at No. 6, brought the target down to 47 off the last five overs. Imran Tahir delivered the breakthrough in the 16th over, getting Buttler stumped down the leg side.
Not that it affected Root, who belted four fours and a beautifully lofted six after that to make it a run-a-ball equation. And when he holed out at deep midwicket in the 19th over, the game was half in England’s pocket, with Moeen Ali pushing it completely in with two balls to spare.
Earlier, there were signs of calm before the storm when South Africa, who were put into bat by England with the dew factor in mind, scored only two off the first over. Quinton de Kock took three balls to get off the mark but once he did, he went into fifth gear.
In the second over off Reece Topley, the southpaw combined placement with timing to hit two fours and one six through the off side. In the next over, the opener came dancing down the track to slam a six over mid-off. After a couple of consecutive fours, de Kock dished out a humongous six over covers as a stunned David Willey looked on.
Morgan then brought in Ali with the hope of slowing things down. Instead, Hashim Amla decided to join the carnage, hitting three fours as South Africa notched up their 50 in just 23 balls. England fielders only made it worse for their bowlers, Topley dropping a sitter at mid-off when Amla was on nine.
The 32-year-old unleashed his full array of shots after that life, cutting, driving, flicking and even delicately placing the ball past short third man to collect 22 runs off the Chris Jordan over.
De Kock raced to his 50 off just 21 balls, but soon departed while trying to go for another big one, holing out to deep midwicket off Ali.
England stared at more humiliation when AB de Villiers blasted two successive sixes off Adil Rashid. But the leggie showed his smartness, pitching one slightly shorter to an advancing AB who top-edged it straight to Morgan at point.
Like his opening partner, Amla perished after his half-century, Ali trapping him in front as the former missed a slog sweep. But a perfect Proteas platform only needed some fine finishing touches.
Those were provided by Duminy, who cracked an unbeaten 54 to ensure South Africa added 63 runs in the last five overs.