Fifties from Jos Buttler (57), Jonny Bairstow (64) and Eoin Morgan (57*) helped England demolish South Africa in the third T20 International (T20I) at Centurion by five wickets and with that, the visitors took the three-match series 2-1. This was England's second highest run-chase in T20Is. Their highest run chase in T20Is was also against South Africa, in 2016.
In pursuit of 223, England lost in-form Jason Roy early, which brought Bairstow into the crease. He had Buttler, who had not fired in the series so far, for company at the other end. Buttler however looked in great touch and his blistering knock helped England reach the 50-run mark in the fifth over.
England reached 62 in their powerplay and did not let the required run-rate go alarmingly up. Buttler brought up his fifty off just 23 deliveries, which is the second fastest for England and his partnership with Bairstow was threatening to take the game away from South Africa. Once Buttler was dismissed for 57 off 29, it brought an end to a superb 91-run stand that set up the platform for England to perhaps take it deep and possibly chase the target down.
Even though Buttler was dismissed, Bairstow was far from done as he too brought up his fifty off only 27 deliveries. Things slowed down after he was dismissed for a 34-ball 64 and then the wicket of Dawid Malan for 11 further added to England's woes. South Africa were on top at that point, but could not afford to discount England, who had enough depth in their batting.
South Africa scored 58 runs from their final five over, while England needed 62. The onus was now on Ben Stokes and skipper Morgan to get the job done. Thanks to some brilliant hitting from Morgan, the equation reduced to 33 off 18. They brought up their fifty-run stand off just 23 deliveries. Stokes too joined the party and England brought up their 200 in the 18th over.
With 17 needed off the final two overs, it was England's game. But there was a twist as Stokes holed out in the deep for 22. Dwaine Pretorius dropping Moeen Ali after that did not help either. England scored 16 off that over and Morgan equalled his own record of the fastest fifty by an England player, bringing it up in just 21 balls. England wrapped up the match with four balls to spare.
In the first innings, an explosive start and a thunderous finish got South Africa to 222 for 6 from their 20 overs. The innings was beautifully set up by 84-run opening stand between Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma. But then Heinrich Klaasen (66) and David Miller (35*) ensured that the Proteas put up a huge total on the board. Tom Curran (2/33) and Stokes (2/35) were the pick of the bowlers for England.
South Africa made an excellent start as the first over bowled by Moeen Ali fetched them 11 runs. Bavuma and de Kock once again got South Africa off to a good start. Going into this game, de Kock had the best strike-rate (158.9) in the powerplays after KL Rahul (159), among batsmen who have scored at least 150 runs in this phase. De Kock ripped into England's bowlers early on, taking a special liking to Chris Jordan off whom he scored three back-to-back sixes. That also brought up South Africa's fifty off just 22 deliveries.
South Africa had reached 64 without losing a wicket, which was their third best powerplay total since 2019 - all of which have come in this series. Stokes finally got England the much-needed breakthrough as de Kock holed out for a well made 35 off 24, with a four and four sixes punctuating his innings. There was more joy for England as Bavuma too perished after he failed to pick up a googly from Adil Rashid for 49 off just 24.
Despite losing two quick wickets, the hosts had brought up their 100 in just 10 overs. After getting the wicket of de Kock earlier, Stokes removed the dangerous Rassie Van der Dussen cheaply, but the Proteas were still maintaining a run-rate of close to 10. Heinrich Klaasen, who came into this match in place of JJ Smuts, looked in excellent touch, smacking the bowlers around at will. He brought up his fifty off just 25 deliveries as South Africa looked set to get a total in excess of 200.
Klaasen and David Miller brought up their fifty stand for the fourth wicket off 26 deliveries, out of which Miller had contributed just four. After an entertaining knock, Klaasen had to walk back for 66 off just 33 and with that, he had given South Africa a great chance of posting a huge total on the board. Amidst all the clean hitting, Curran bowled a good spell, giving away 33 runs from four overs and also picked up the wickets of Klaasen and Pretorius.
Miller (35* off 20) then finished things off in style to ensure that the Proteas finish with a huge 222 runs on the board.
Earlier, South Africa won the toss and elected to bat.
South Africa 222 for 6 in 20 overs (Heinrich Klaasen 66, Temba Bavuma 49; Tom Curran 2 for 33, Ben Stokes 2 for 35) lost to England 226 for 5 in 19.1 overs (Jonny Bairstow 64, Eoin Morgan 57*; Lungi Ngidi 2 for 55, Andile Phehlukwayo 1 for 34) by 5 wickets