Velani and Wood rescue England U19s
Kishen Velani emerged as England Under-19’s hero as they kept alive their hopes of squaring the seven-match one-day international series against South Africa by battling to a dramatic two-wicket victory at Canterbury.
In only his second appearance - and first innings - for England, Velani struck a valuable 54 to help England to their target of 178 with 14 overs unused and reduce the tourists’ advantage to 3-2 ahead of Saturday’s final match at the same venue.
The 16-year-old Essex batsman had come to the crease with his side reeling on 25 for four after six overs, but shared 66 with opener Sam Wood, who made a quickfire 48, to steady the ship before putting on another valuable partnership of 41 with Brett Hutton for the seventh wicket.
Velani, who was called into the squad earlier this week to replace injured county team-mate Ben Foakes, departed with 21 still required, but Jamie Overton thumped 25 from 21 balls to guide England over the line, with Reece Topley finishing on four not out.
Lizaad Williams was unfortunate to finish on the losing side after returning 4-46 for South Africa, who had earlier collapsed to 177 all out, having been 140 for four with 17 overs remaining.
Peter Burgoyne was the chief destroyer for England with outstanding figures of 4-8 from 6.2 overs, while skipper Adam Ball and Hutton claimed two wickets apiece.
South Africa initially stumbled to 69 for four, despite 40 from the consistently impressive Quinton de Kock at the top of the order.
Ball sent back opposite number Keaton Jennings for five and Gihahn Cloete was caught behind for one off Reece Topley for one before De Kock and Regardt Verster fell to Hutton.
Shaylin Pillay and James Price put on 71 for the fifth wicket, but the former’s departure to Burgoyne, for a patient 30, sparked a hasty collapse.
Price fell two runs short of a half-century and became the seventh man to fall when he was caught by Ball off Burgoyne, who subsequently wrapped up the innings with two wickets in as many balls at the start of the 46th over.
England made a disastrous start to their reply, with Williams dismissing Daniel Bell-Drummond, Sam Kelsall and Rammy Singh for single figures and then bowling Ball for a golden duck.
However, Wood found a willing ally in Velani, who was content to play a supporting role early on as his partner took the attack to South Africa by smashing six fours and two sixes.
Wood’s entertaining 40-ball knock came to an end when he fell to the final ball of the 14th over, bowled by Jennings, and Burgoyne could only make five before he was dismissed by Prenelan Subrayen.
However, Velani continued to prosper and brought up an impressive fifty, from 60 balls, shortly before becoming Duanne Olivier’s second victim.
Overton took charge thereafter and his fourth four ensured England can still level the series this weekend.