Cricket Blogs

Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer lead England to imposing win.

...

The Report by Alagappan Muthu

ngland 311 for 8 (Stokes 89, Morgan 57, Roy 54, Root 51, Ngidi 3-66) beat South Africa 207 (de Kock 68, van der Dussen 50, Archer 3-27) by 104 runs
As it happened

Ambles in like Bambi. Hunts wickets like a zombie. Jofra Archer is a #BambiZombie. And the opening match of the 2019 World Cup was all the richer for it.

By the end of the game - which England won by 104 runs - the mood at The Oval was well beyond festive. They'd found a match-winner. Across formats. For years to come. And they'd seen their firestarter up to his old tricks.

Ben Stokes was the top scorer of the day. But that wasn't his most eye-catching contribution. Scroll down the scorecard to Andile Phehlukwayo's dismissal. Doesn't say much, does it? Caught Stokes bowled Rashid. Yawn.

WATCH (India only): Highlights of Ben Stokes' innings against South Africa

Now trawl through the internet - go into its darkest corners if necessary - and watch as the allrounder tracks a brutally hit slog-sweep on the midwicket boundary. Marvel as he never takes his eyes off it. And gasp as he times his jump perfectly. Then brace yourself for about half an hour's disbelief as he sticks his right hand up over his head, and behind him, to come away with a catch that will be talked about for ages. Just like the #OhMyBroad one.

South Africa, at that point, were 180 for 7. They'd given the chase of 312 a proper go, with Quinton de Kock announcing his claim to be part of the next generation's Fab Four with a half-century that was highlighted by his maturity in respecting the bowling when it was difficult and punishing it when it gave him the slightest chance. A lofted cover drive for six off Liam Plunkett was a particularly ringing endorsement of his monster talent.

WATCH (India only): Highlights of Eoin Morgan's half-century

But even he had to be shoved into the background as Archer burst onto the stage and demanded everyone's attention. Especially the other eight oppositions'.

As England's batting revolution was waving bye-bye to uncharted territory and bounding into the never-before-imagined, there has been fear that the bowling wouldn't keep up. Their seam attack felt samey. It needed something different; something radical. Archer is exactly that.

He generates pace out of nowhere; 90 mph of it. A bouncer in the fourth over of the chase hit Hashim Amla flush on the grille. It was too quick for him. Too quick for an all-time legend. And made him retire hurt. Then Archer sprung the same trap on the South African captain. A short ball surprised Faf du Plessisand had him caught at long leg. After decades of being decimated by raw pace - Allan DonaldMitchell JohnsonMichael Holding - England now have their own bonafide speed demon.

Archer finished with 3 for 27 in seven overs, including a maiden.

Now, the other match-winner's work didn't particularly come to light until everything had ended. In fact, while Stokes was at the crease, it seemed like South Africa were on top. Having won the toss and decided to bowl, they went nearly 30 overs before realising that taking the pace off was the way to go.

Sure, they surprised England, opening the innings with Imran Tahir. At 10.30 am. In early summer. On a green pitch. In England. And they got Jonny Bairstow out. That's genius. That's maximum lolz. That's the bear you don't notice in that Youtube video.

But their fast bowlers took ages to realise that hitting the deck with offcutters was messing with the batsman's timing. Stokes spent much of the innings dinking the ball around the field. Fifty-three of his 89 runs came in ones and twos. At the time, it seemed like he was being stifled, that his power game had been taken out by South Africa's tactics.

And while that was true, it almost escaped notice that Stokes was getting into rhythm.

He got to his half-century with an audacious reverse-scoop off the bowling of Dwaine Pretorius, almost entirely because the wicketkeeper and third man had come up. There was a gap in the field and he exploited it. Batting 101. Four of England's batsmen made fifties on one of the biggest days of the 50-over cricket calendar: Jason Roy (a punchy 54), Joe Root (a smooth 51) and Eoin Morgan (a ridiculously fluent 57 in his 200th ODI) were the others. But Stokes was the only one able to push on. And that was essentially because he'd understood the pitch was offering a bit of grip to the slower balls. In those situations, you can aim lower. You can defend 300. South Africa were bowled out for 207.

England were billed as pre-tournament favourites because of their unrelenting batting line-up and that reputation should now grow because they have shown they can adapt to conditions when they aren't 500-ish.

Related Blogs