Rampant South Africa run amok
Alastair Cook endured a horrific baptism of fire as England captain as Loots Bosman and Graeme Smith propelled South Africa to a comprehensive 84-run win in the second Twenty20 international at Centurion.
Leading the side for the first time after Paul Collingwood was ruled out by a stiff back, Cook’s plans were laid to waste under a barrage of brutal hitting from the South Africa openers.
Bosman smashed a savage 94 off 45 balls and Smith a marginally less destructive 88 off 44, carrying the hosts to 241 for six in 20 riotous overs at SuperSport Park.
It was a sensational display of batting on a splendid surface, and continued to stretch the realms of possibility in the shortest form of the game just two days after England racked up 202.
Whereas the tourists sneaked home by one run under the Duckworth-Lewis method on Friday, South Africa cruised to victory - and a share of the series - with considerable ease today as they limited England to 157 for eight in reply.
A monumental target was never under threat, with the most positive aspect of England’s relatively pedestrian run-chase Kevin Pietersen’s rapid 29 in his first game since undergoing Achilles surgery almost four months ago.
Jonathan Trott made a fluent 51, but there was no better indication of South Africa’s unfettered dominance than the boundary count: the hosts hit 19 fours and 17 sixes, compared to England’s tally of 12 and six.
South Africa’s total was the second highest made in Twenty20 internationals - Sri Lanka's 260 against Kenya in 2007 tops the pile - and left a shell-shocked England attack nursing figures which brought back memories of declaration bowling.
Sajid Mahmood went for 61 off four overs, Adil Rashid’s solitary over cost 25 and contained four sixes, and Luke Wright, Tim Bresnan and Pietersen also leaked at least 10 an over.
Cook’s previous captaincy experience was limited to England Under-19s, Essex second XI and MCC, but he could have been satisfied with competent start as South Africa were restricted to 14 off the first three overs.
It was the calm before the storm. Smith sparked South Africa into life by taking three fours off Mahmood’s first three balls - in an over which saw him bowled off a free-hit and Bosman caught off a no-ball before the latter pulled the subsequent free-hit for six.
The two batsman traded blows with frightening frequency thereafter, both favouring the leg side as they capitalised on another remarkably true pitch, short boundaries and the thin air at altitude.
England’s discipline may have deserted them - there were too many full tosses for an international side - but Smith and Bosman deserve infinite credit for the manner in which they approached their innings after the hosts won the toss.
Wright was twice hoisted over the rope before spilling a sharp chance in his follow-through to reprieve Smith on 39.
It continued to rain boundaries as Smith greeted Rashid with successive sixes - Bosman ended the over in identical fashion - and both went to 50 off just 25 balls.
Bresnan’s medium pace proved much to the liking of Smith as he freed his muscular arms to great effect, while Bosman tucked into a steady diet of long hops.
It took the introduction of part-time leg-spinner Joe Denly, bowling almost as a last resort, to break the partnership, Smith caught at long-on by Mahmood as he swung across the line.
Albie Morkel was superbly held by Bresnan, leaping high to his right at long-on, off Pietersen, and JP Duminy skied James Anderson - the only bowler to emerge with any credit after returning figures of 1-28 - to cover-point in the next over as England rallied.
The wicket they craved arrived moments later, Bosman for once failing to dispatch a full toss from Wright and Anderson taking a smart low catch running in from deep midwicket. He had struck five fours and nine sixes.
England’s fielding, unlike their bowling, was excellent, but even the departures of Jacques Kallis - bowled by Mahmood - and AB de Villiers - run out by Eoin Morgan in the final over - were merely footnotes on a day that is sure to be remembered for Bosman and Smith’s heroics.
Denly made only 14 before playing on to Yusuf Abdullah as England's response faltered, and Cook improvised with occasional success before swiping Morkel to midwicket.
Pietersen showed no sign of inconvenience on his first outing - brought forward two days by Collingwood’s absence - since the second Ashes Test against Australia in July, launching Roelof van der Merwe and Dale Steyn for six before Trott went to a 38-ball half-century containing three maximums of his own.
Both perished in the space of 10 balls, Trott well taken by debutant wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn scampering towards fine-leg, and Pietersen bowled by van der Merwe’s quicker ball as he attempted a switch-hit.
Morgan, England’s hero with the bat 48 hours ago, Wright, Bresnan and Rashid made little impression, but the outcome had long since ceased to be in doubt. Bosman and Smith had seen to that.