"Maybe I should go back to math class!"
Dawid Malan might be bad with numbers but the 33-year-old has hardly put a foot wrong in his short T20I career so far. The top-ranked T20I batsman missed out on a well-deserved century because of a minor goof-up, but he ensured England thumped South Africa by nine wickets in the third and final T20I against South Africa. Malan remained stranded on 99* but helped England complete a 3-0 whitewash.
Opting to bat, Rassie van der Dussen (32-ball 74*) and Faf du Plessis (37-ball 52*) put on 127* for the fourth wicket and propelled South Africa to 191/3 in their 20 overs. However, Malan and Buttler (46-ball 67*) made a mockery of the target and chased it down in just 17.4 overs. The two put on a partnership of 167* runs, which is the highest-ever second-wicket stand in T20Is.
FAF AND RASSIE COME TO THE RESCUE
Despite struggling in the first two encounters, South Africa stuck with Temba Bavuma up the order. The 30-year-old opener didn't look fluent in the first two overs but managed to break the shackles in the third over by smashing Sam Curran for a four and a six through the on-side. Quinton de Kock (17) did the exact same to Jofra Archer in the very next over and got some momentum into South Africa's innings.
Having got identical scores of 30 in the first two T20Is, de Kock once again failed to capitalise on the start and threw his wicket away. The wicketkeeper-batsman tried to hit Chris Jordan out of the park but ended up mistiming it straight to the fielder at mid-off. It was a joyous moment for Jordan (66) who became the leading wicket-taker for England in T20Is. This was also the third time Jordan had dismissed de Kock in this series.
Eoin Morgan straightaway introduced Adil Rashid after the powerplay but it was Ben Stokes who put England in a commanding position by getting rid of Bavuma and Reeza Hendricks in quick succession. The flamboyant all-rounder kept hitting the length and didn't allow the South African batsmen to score freely. The right-arm paceman first had Bavuma (26-ball 32) caught at mid-off in his first over and then dismissed Reeza Hendricks (13) in his very next over to reduce South Africa to 66/3 by the end of 10 overs.
The onus was on du Plessis and van der Dussen to pull their team out of the bog and it was the latter who took on the England bowlers. Van der Dussen smoked Stokes for a maximum before slamming Rashid for a boundary through the leg-side. The surface wasn't the best to bat on but du Plessis and van der Dussen managed to form a partnership and kept the scoreboard moving. Du Plessis took some time to settle in but set himself perfectly for the final five overs.
The former South African skipper finally decided to cut loose in the 16th over, smashing Tom Curran for two maximums. Meanwhile, van der Dussen kept the attack going from the other end and the boundaries started to flow for South Africa. Both Tom Curran and Archer were either too full or too short and the two batsmen made the most of it. Van der Dussen whacked Archer for 22 runs in the 17th over and brought up his half-century off just 23 deliveries.
Du Plessis too didn't shy away from joining the party and made up for the deliveries he used to get himself in. It felt like Tom Curran, Archer and Jordan bowled without a plan and that made du Plessis and van der Dussen's lives easier. The duo clobbered every single bowler in the last five overs, with du Plessis also completing his fifty. The two hammered 84 runs in the last five overs and propelled South Africa to a formidable total. For England, the Curran brother, Archer and Jordan conceded more than 10 runs per over and looked way below-par.
THE MALAN-BUTTLER SHOW
South Africa were without Kagiso Rabada but George Linde and Anrich Nortje managed to keep Jason Roy and Buttler quiet in the first two overs. Linde took the new ball for the third time in the series but Roy went after him in his second over and the opener looked like regaining his form. Roy however couldn't carry on as Nortje pinned him right in front of the stumps and sent him back for 16.
Coming in at No. 3, Malan smashed two fours and a six in his first three deliveries and looked comfortable from the word go. The top-ranked T20I batsman, who crafted a match-winning 55 in the second T20I, generally prefers to take his time but that wasn't the case tonight. The left-hander took the attack to every South African bowler in the powerplay and ensured England didn't fall behind the required run-rate.
Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi tried to put some pressure on Malan but the 33-year-old tackled them very smartly and kept finding that one boundary every over. Linde finished with impressive figures of 0/26, but Shamsi was inconsistent with his line and length. Malan was operating at a strike rate of almost 200, while Buttler was scoring at less than 100 till the 10th over. It was important for the wicketkeeper-batsman to break free and that's exactly what happened in the 11th over.
Playing his first game of the series, Lutho Sipamla was put under pressure by Buttler who smacked him for 21 runs in an over to turn the tide in England favour. It was still Malan who got to the 50-run mark first, off 26 deliveries - his fastest in T20Is. Buttler too got to the landmark in the next over and the two got the equation down to 62 off 42. South Africa desperately needed to break that partnership but Malan and Buttler carried on and never allowed the home team to make a comeback. The two played all kinds of shots and smashed South Africa all around the park.
With only 27 needed off 30 deliveries, Malan kept the attack going and was closing in on his second T20I century, having scored 103* against New Zealand last year. The left-hander was on 88 when he blasted Sipamla for a six and a four, but then took a single off the next delivery and remained stranded on 99*, becoming only the second batsman after Luke Wright (v Afghanistan in 2012) to remain unbeaten on 99* in T20Is.