It was a lot closer than the Proteas would have liked, so close that it came down to the last delivery, but Chris Morris and his heroics with the bat got them over the line to secure a three wicket win over England in the first T20 international on Friday.
It got tense at Newlands as career-best figures from Chris Jordan helped stifle the home side in their pursuit of a modest total and it meant that Reece Topley had to defend 15 runs off the final over.
Thankfully for the hosts, Kyle Abbott scampered through for a single off the first ball allowing Morris, picked up in the Indian Premier League auction for $1-million recently, to have a go and he obliged with a six and four off consecutive deliveries.
A dot ball ensured took the equation to four required off two deliveries but Morris hit one over the bowlers head for a comfortable two before a frantic scramble off the final delivery helped the Proteas to the win.
Had Topley not spilled the return from the fielder Abbott would have been run-out, miles short of his crease, and the game would have been tied and gone into a Super Over.
“We messed it up a little bt but the million dollar man saved us,” Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis said with a wry smile afterwards in reference to Morris’ effort.
“That’s a massive get out of jail card. You still need to win games of cricket even when you’re not in a position to do so,” he added referring to the effort of the batting lineup when chasing a modest total.
England had earlier been restricted to 134/8 thanks to a return of 4/21 by spinner Imran Tahir.
In their reply, the Proteas went from 76/3 to 119/7 as England’s bowlers clawed their way back before the last-gasp bravado saw the hosts to a 1-0 series lead with only Sunday’s match at the Wanderers left to play.
“After a pretty poor batting display our bowlers really pulled it out of the bag. Above all we created a lot of chances after a below par score so that’s one of the huge positives out of today,” England captain Eoin Morgan commiserated.
‘We were unfortunate not to get over the line.”