The Proteas might be struggling for consistency in their transitional period under new coach Mark Boucher, but they can’t be accused of throwing away winning platforms at the moment.
That dubious tag is with England, who once again made heavy weather of a chase their were in control of to slump to an agonising one-run defeat in the first T20 in East London on Wednesday night.
It continued a trend set in motion in last weekend’s final ODI at the Wanderers, where they also should’ve cruised instead of labour to victory.
Still, South Africa required a hero and they found it in Lungi Ngidi.
Tasked with defending a mere seven runs off the last over, the lanky quick delivered in more ways than one.
He was perhaps a tad lucky that Tom Curran’s slog was held up in the wind for David Miller to take an important catch, but his final four deliveries were nothing less than outstanding.
A shrewd off-cutter seemed to unnerve Moeen Ali, who inside edged a quicker one onto his pads the next delivery.
Scampering back for two, he remained on strike and failed to deal with a cracking leg-stump yorker.
Adil Rashid was run out off the final delivery after he could only manage one run from yet another slower one, sparking some unexpected but unbridled joy.
In all fairness, it was English skipper Eoin Morgan’s poor judgment that put the hosts in a position to pull this game out of the fire.
He had hit Beuran Hendricks (2/33) for 16 in four balls in the penultimate over, effectively settling the issue before needlessly taking on long-on and getting out for a typically powerful 52.
Morgan should’ve shepherded the chase.
Instead, England let down their opener Jason Roy, who’s muscular and crafty 70 off just 38 balls, which included three sixes and seven fours, should’ve ensured victory given the platform he laid.
Ngidi’s figures of 3/30 was well deserved, while Andile Phehlukwayo’s middle game spell of 2/32 was crucial, yet the lingering feeling will be that this was England’s game to lose.
Earlier, the Proteas wasted a similarly fine platform after reaching 111/1 in the 11th over.
Quinton de Kock’s (32) daring 15-ball assault on Curran and Test series tormentor Mark Wood had given the home side a great start, before Temba Bavuma (41 off 27) and Rassie van der Dussen (31) made serene progress.
But the middle-order lacked punch as the English clawed things back.
177/8 was the highest score in a T20 International at Buffalo Park, but for 19 overs it seemed too small.