A truly extraordinary night. Crowd felt huge – those balconies! – and England’s total pretty close to obscene. Malan, Bairstow, Moeen, Hendricks and Stubbs slaughtering bowling of all types. Maybe does beg the question is it all too much? Will need to come back to that, I suspect. Meanwhile, here’s the live blog…
I’ve nicked Ather’s seat. But I know (at 18.04pm) that I’m okay because the fella’s out there conducting the toss. South Africa win it and choose to bowl. Hoping Michael decides to loiter with the TV Posse down the corridor to my left but will keep you posted.
Given all the talk about incoming heatwaves destroying life as we know it (and cheering my mum up, as she lands in Pembrokeshire, Sunday) the evening is medium-coolish. There are clouds. There is greyness and the lights *already* feel like they’re earning their living. So you would bowl.
To my right, the recently-retired-into-a-job-on-telly Eoin Morgan, in a very Eoin Morgan jumper – beige/faun, v-neck, politely inoffensive – is with the A-listers Butcher and Ward. Doing his Mr Clean-but-bright thing. No sound on our monitor so can only imagine the chat is high level; usually is with those gents. Life been busy so banging in the coffees. 18.18.
Completely different vibe to women’s internationals. LOTS OF PEOPLE, first and foremost. Plus double the amount of journo’s in the Media Centre. Areas behind the stands, typically Wasteland Central during women’s games (despite the perennial claim that they’re ‘sold out’), are vivid and busy. We had to break through queues and overlapping gatherings on the way round from Ashley Down. In short there’s a real crowd. There are very substantial temporary stands.
There is fire belching, so we are starting. Roy will face and Buttler watch. Maharaj from Ashley Down. Left arm round. Slow. Miss but bounce. Keeper smothers. Then one to square leg. Poorish shortish ball gifts Buttler time and space to rock back. Fielder should gather but the crowd loves a ‘megs’: four. Last-up, Buttler clatters a perfectly acceptable ball over long-on for six, meaning 13 from the over. Rabada.
Roy mistimes or misjudges the bounce and might be caught, lamely, mid-on. Escapes. Then an air-shot… and a half-hearted lb shout. And another miss. (May need to breathalyse Roy if this goes on). Goodish over but the opener in a mess, so far.
Third bowler in as many overs: Ngidi. Quickish but wide, to Buttler. Then another ordinary/extraordinary six – this time over extra. A push rather than a hit. A shimmy and shake of the shoulders and a wide ball is punished square. But Miller, moving backwards awkwardly under a steepler, takes a great catch and the England skipper is gone. 28 for 1 as Buttler departs, for a Joss-esque 22. Malan joins Roy.
Malan mistimes, facing Rabada. (Something going on at that Ashley Road End? Or could be subtle change of pace did him). No dramas. Whhhoooff. With what looked like minimal backlift, the left-hander picks up Rabada from outside off and creams it for six over midwicket. Sensational and wristy and utterly timed. 39 for 1, off 4. Glance to my left confirms that we are now at the Seat Unique Stadium (and we asked to make that clear in our ‘reports’.
Meanwhile Roy is still shaking off the lunchtime tequila-sesh. Hasn’t timed a single ball. Swishes extravagantly and is mercifully extinguished – caught for an appalling 8, at backward point, off Ngidi. Lusty cheers as Bairstow marches out, on 41 for 2.
Ngodi’s bowling sharply: 86mph beats Bairstow’s flail. Never seen the balconies in the flats opposite SO FULL. Hope they’re all safe! Ground and horizon full-to-bursting. Phelukwayo (what a beautiful name!) bowls right arm seam-up from underneath me. Straight. The once fat-shamed Bairstow (fastest in the side?) offers the blade and races through for the single. Neat look about the powerplay figures. 48 for 2. Honours even?
Maharaj returneth. Slapping it in flat. Malan nurdles for 1. Same batter then misses out, a little on a poor wide one. Single. Bairstows crunches low and hard for six: ball pitched a foot outside off but dispatched to deep midwicket. Shamsi’s loosener gets similar treatment. Malan thwacks over square leg. Next ball turns sharply, mind – left-arm, leg-spin.
Bairstow ain’t bovvered: absolutely smashes another one low and hard at *and just over* deep midwicket. Was a wee sense that the fielder didn’t fancy it: don’t blame him. 73 for 2 after 8. Spin from both ends, with England having raised the Boom Factor just when they needed. Brilliant, experienced players. 19.09 pm. Crowd nicely into this.
Malan guides Shamsi ludicrously over extra for another six. Didn’t swing, merely extended the arms through. Another poor, short ball is slapped for four more, by Bairstow. Mixed, from Shamsi, this. A worse one is middled… and was last seen flying over Taunton. Lots of wrist, from the bowler but he’s *all over*. Wide. Think that’s 34 from his two overs.
Drinks. 98 for 2 off 10, England. Explosive and controlled, now. Impressed with Malan’s cool violence, tonight.
100 up in the 11th. Both batters into their thirties. Weirdly, Bairstow appears to have forgotten how to cut. Two or three times has mistimed playing a nine-year-old’s pull to a ball he could have easily put away past point. Odd… and he’s angry!
Malan in fine nick. Blistering hoist waaay over mid-wicket then classy boom through extra. But ah – Phelukwayo has him, caught behind. Lovely innings of 43, from 23. I was here when Moeen carted a zillion off 22, some years ago – one of the most extraordinary innings I’ve seen (live). He’s in, now but Bairstow will face Rabada, at 112 for 3.
Moeen swings a bouncer fabulously, behind square. But coo – cake!! Rich variations of cake.
Bairstow is ‘using the crease’ again, to Shamsi. Rocks back, seeing a short one, and blams it out of sight. (*Cake update*: generous lump but tad bland, the coffee effort. ‘Bout three hundredweight of alternatives back there, so major restraint in order). But Moeen… and six more, cruelly middled… and another fifty for Bairstow. 148 after 15, England, with 200 now on.
One of The Great Recordings of All Time is Billy Bragg’s Levi Stubbs Tears. (You know that, right?) The Stubbs coming in now, for South Africa, from the Pavilion End has absolutely no connection with Levi. But what the hell. Bairstow dispatches him… and then he must surely have the wicket of Moeen? No.
Eventful over. No-ball and six, drop at mid-wicket. Bairstow (now 60) and Moeen proceed, with fairly evil intent. 168 for 3, with overs remaining. Bairstow yet again hammers Phehlukwayo cross-batted, across the line, for six. Twice – the second sounding deliciously nutty and true. Major conflab… followed by wide. (Lols). Times two. (Loools). A further wide (not called, clattered) heads high downtown and will surely be caught? Nope. Another painful drop.
Another classical ‘push’ from Ali heads over extra for six and you might forgive the visitors if they slink off now. Moeen twists the knife by twisting the ball behind square then drills hard over mid-off – both sixes. The score has rocketed past 200 and we have three overs left. Madness. The crowd delirious and the Stattos masturbating, pretty much. Oh blimey; and another catch dropped. Bairstow again the recipient of the gift.
Ngidi no-balled then wided and the nightmare goes on, for South Africa. Moeen is teasing deep midwicket now. Again clears the rope but the fielder was interested (before seeking out therapy, I imagine). Moeen has blasted a ridiculous 52 from 16. Two balls later the crowd is rising to share the love – he’s out, caught behind. Livingstone.
Rabada from Ashley Down. Fine yorker; one scored. Brief reprieve before Bairstow middles again, for six. (He may even get to a ton!) 227 for 4, England: Jonny B on strike, looks for 1(?) and gets it, to leg slip area.
Ngidi has Livingstone, caught QDK. Curran strides in. The left-hander hits hard and square, to leg. Fielder gets a hand but not counting that one as a chance, myself. Bairstow clouts high but not far enough. Out for 90 outstanding runs. Crowd stand and bellow their approval. 234 for 6 the final total, after Jordan keeps out that last ball.
Second over. Topley is walking like a man who’s been injured a lot. He may not care. South Africa are 7 for 2 and he’s claimed QDK and Roussow. Now Curran is scuttling in and releasing weirdly *in front*, so that it almost looks like a throw. He won’t care – it’s not. The lights feel bright and things feel urgent in a good way, for England. 19 for 2 after 3.
Topley will bowl the fourth from underneath us. Goes tad full (for him) and Hendricks drills him rather stylishly through mid-off, for four. Klaasen the other bat. Topley at six foot twenty-nine, gets plenty bounce but is already looking a ver-ry disciplined bowler. Lots going straight at/straight over the sticks.
Gleeson is in and beating Klaasen, who edges. Happens twice in the over. Cruel: the first occasion Buttler dropped, after changing direction. Four comes over point, as Hendricks catches hold. 36 for 2 after 5. Now Jordan. Hendricks cracks him downtown for four more. Relief of sorts, for the visitors.
87 mph from Jordan but Hendricks dismisses him again for four. (Has 34 off 19, at this point, so good work). Much slower one is tailing to leg; glanced for four more. Not great from Chris J: powerplay done and South Africa are battling with 50 for 2. A mere 185 required.
Gleeson is clonked to cow, for six and answers with an angry bouncer that chases and hits the batter. (Fair enough). Then a 91 mph screamer is dispatched past Rashid – who did go down in monthly instalments. Tough business this, bowling quick, when guys can hit this freely, this fearlessly. Rashid will bowl the 8th. From under the pavilion. Good ball, first up; tad unlucky not to find a way through. Dusk Proper, at 20.53.
Googly is struck straight to Jordan at long-on. Great hands; safely pouched. Klaasen has to walk. Curran will bowl the 9th, at 72 for 3. Sharp fielding and powerful arm from Bairstow has the batter diving but he’s made it. Hendricks gets through to 50 but good reply from Sam Curran; sharp bounder then hits pad. Rare misfield from Moeen releases the pressure – four more to Hendricks, who moves on to 56. Our first sight of Ali with the ball follows.
Beautiful, bold floater barely dug out. Clean strike from Hendricks but not clean enough. Always has S Curran written all over. Routine catch. 86 for 4 and two new batters in there. Unnecessary drinks. Moeen will finish the over to Stubbs, a fellow left-hander with the wood.
Topley has changed ends, and now has maybe two hundred people on balconies, at his back. It’s extraordinary. Has Ashley Down ever been so bursting? There’s really no scope for South African watchfulness here, but Stubbs and Miller unable to explode, as yet.
Full toss from Moeen offers that possibility. Chance taken, as Stubbs goes downtown, then backs that up with something over mid-wicket. Feels bit extraordinary that South Africa have the same number of runs as England did at the equivalent stage. Stubbs goes to 24 from 8, with more ferocity at Moeen’s expense. As Jordan re-joins, I wonder the unwonderable: could the visitors… nah… surely?
Noticeable that both sides are keeping pace on, a fair bit. (Jordan at 88mph again). Flip side is Stubbs doesn’t need to middle to get over deep midwicket – which he does. Ver-ry true strip: hard, hard, to stem the tide.
Rare dot ball as Rashid gathers the return. But he’s plinked through extra next up. Then Stubbs literally clubs him out of the ground. We’ll be looking at the runs required a little more intently then. Miller drills towards Jordan at long-off and the fielder leans in confidently to grab. Wickets column feeling increasingly important: five down, South Africa.
Rashid bowls another googly at the incoming Phelukwayo. A little unlucky not to draw more than a loose edge. Six overs remain. 98 needed. Topley from Ashley Down. Four. Lights are burning now, in the night. Stubbs gets something on it: feels unjust that it lollops high enough/far enough to beat the leaping fielder in the deep. Six. Moments later it’s fifty up – commendable effort. A satisfying 150 for 5, off 15 overs. 85 needed. Gleeson.
Bit loose – though marginal. Four, glanced. Loose full-toss is high on the bat but clear of mid-off. Four more. Buttler runs the length of the pitch to have a word. Full-toss on leg stick probably not what the skipper asked for. More runs come: Buttler runs down again. Short ball carved cross-batted for six, over the bowler’s head. Gleeson looks for the proverbial hole to climb into.
Curran must settle this thing down, for England. In from Ashley Down. Fabulous yorker brings a dot. And again, but Phelukwayo digs out. Stubbs absolutely creams the follow-up – another attempted yorker that’s strayed to leg. Superb knock, fair play. Curran does nail a further yorker to close out the over. 54 from 18 needed. Repeat: tremendous effort from Stubbs to keep South Africa in this.
Jordan is also searching for the killer toe-crusher. With some success. Critically, he can keep Phelukwayo down there – repeatedly. (It probably wins the match). Topley loves it. 51 from 12.
Gleeson, who has been carted fairly relentlessly, draws a slight mis-club from the heroic Stubbs. Always headed for the long-off, and comfortably taken. 184 for 6. Further relief for the bowler as he castles Rabada for nought. He’s maybe a bit embarrassed to get a third wicket (well, maybe not!) with a big full-toss that Phelukwayo flips to Rashid. (The batter had plainly wondered if it was a no-ball). The game is won, and Gleeson’s blushes saved. Jordan will bowl out.
Quiet last over, except for boozy singing. Jordan again in the high eighties. Ngidi and Maharaj can barely lay a glove. All done, with England winners by 41 runs, which feels about right. Sensational ball-striking from Malan and Moeen in particular: their intensity and power rather shredded the visitors fielding effort. Check out the anorak’s reports for numbers of drops or misfields but take it from me that South Africa got into a mess – or England’s formidable batting put them there. I’m gathering swiftly and heading to Cardiff tomorrow. Join me there.