Rilee Rossouw hits 96 as South Africa win, level T20 series against England

South Africa leveled the series with a mighty 58-point win over England in Cardiff on a night of glorious rediscovery for the tourists, for whom Rilee Rossouw and the ability to catch returned in phenomenal style .

The Proteas’ defeat in Wednesday’s opener at Bristol was marred by an unfortunate line-up, but here they were almost faultless. Their improvement was not limited to catching but nonetheless not a single real chance was made up for, Keshav Maharaj providing the highlight with a fabulous diving hold to brush aside Moeen Ali leaving England’s score at 88 for four and their odds at a minimum.

Several bowlers emerged in significant credit, including Tabraiz Shamsi, who leaked 49 runs in three unwicketed overs the night before and took three for 27 of four here. But if they made the deal on the pitch, it was with the bat that South Africa built the platform.

Rossouw, 32, was instrumental in that effort. For six years, he wanders, of his own free will, in the international desert. The series marks his first appearance for South Africa since signing with Kolpak in Hampshire and leaving his homeland in acrimony at the 2016 T20 World Cup.

He finished undefeated on 96 after facing 55 deliveries, stalled short of his century thanks to a superb finish from Chris Jordan, which cost just four points. “Achieving such a performance for my country is special for me,” Rossouw said. “Since Brexit I have performed very well and the management have supported me and selected me. Representing your country is the proudest thing one can do and today was emotional for me .

Although Quinton de Kock fell early, South Africa fought their way through the middle without much drama or other loss. Reeza Hendricks instantly returned to the form that had earned him half a century at Bristol when at this stage Rossouw was simply trying to keep up.

Hendricks eventually came across an excellent catch from Jonny Bairstow after scoring 53 of 32. Although his innings contained two sixes, his final shot was the furthest he had hit the ball all evening, but he flew to the furthest point on the longest boundary and didn’t quite travel far enough.

Rossouw reacted to the end of their 73-run partnership as if personally offended, hitting 36 in his next 16 deliveries despite shoving one into the underside of his own chin. First Heinrich Klaasen and then Tristan Stubbs watched it go from the other side, the latter kept under control after Wednesday’s fireworks display.

England’s innings were not ones they will want to dwell on, but along the way Jos Buttler demonstrated the first clear difference between his captaincy and that of his predecessor, Eoin Morgan. He again promoted Moeen, the all-rounder after Dawid Malan was dropped for just five years, and was himself replaced by Sam Curran, southpaw after southpaw as Buttler favored contrasting partnerships over the theoretical batting order. But Curran only lasted three balls, at which point England ran out of southpaws and their innings went into a terminal fall.

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It had started out promisingly, with Buttler unleashing a succession of brutal blows. But like Wednesday, his time in the enclosure was brief, and after scoring 29 from 14 he tossed an Andile Phehlukwayo delivery into the sky and Hendricks collected the ball on the way down.

On an uninspiring evening for the home side, only one Englishman beat their captain and it was by just one point – inevitably it was Bairstow, who hit 30 from 21 before falling to a another exceptional take, this time from Lungi Ngidi.

The result marks what will be decisive in Southampton on Sunday, with England desperate to end a frenetic summer of clean-ball in positive style. “You want to win every series you play,” Buttler said.

“We haven’t won any yet this summer and that’s something we’re not used to as a group, but it’s the start of a new cycle as a team. We are always training and gelling and we have to do it fast. Winning a series would be great for that.

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