Eoin Morgan hailed Mark Wood's final-over heroics
Morgan’s men snuck home in a nerve-jangling finale after setting the world’s No1 side a target of 331 for victory at the Ageas Bowl.
Ben Stokes, passed fit on the eve of this match following a knee injury sustained in the series opener at Headingley on Wednesday, was dropped twice on nought before going on to hit his second ODI century.
That helped his side post 330-6 and it looked enough to seal an eighth successive win and a an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
Yet half-centuries from Quinton De Kock, Proteas captain AB De Villiers and David Miller took this contest right down to the wire.
South Africa needed seven runs to win from the final over. But Wood held his nerve, conceding just four from it, to get the hosts over the line.
Mark Wood held his nerve, conceding just four from his final over
Tomorrow’s final match of the series at Lord’s is a dead rubber and Stokes, whose fitness concerns remain after he bowled just three overs following his batting heroics, will surely be rested.
Given England begin their Champions Trophy campaign against Bangladesh at The Oval on Thursday, it seems pointless taking risks with their star all-rounder.
Yet the character shown by Morgan’s team bodes well for a tournament they will enter as favourites following their renaissance in one-day cricket.
Morgan said: “Those are the sorts of games you really want to win. You learn a lot more. The game got away from us quite a lot. Woody was awesome. The tournament is bound to be pretty tight, so this sort of prep is ideal.”
Man of the match Stokes said: “You want to be in those situations. The nerve Woody showed to defend seven was an amazing effort. It’s a massive confidence-booster.”
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Express Sport runs through the England squad for the ODIs against South Africa and the ICC Champions Trophy
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Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, captain)
However, the admission by Stokes that he is still being troubled by pain in his left knee is a worry on the eve of a major tournament.
“The bowling is getting affected by the knee,” he said. “I’ve got a few more scans coming up. Batting and fielding are fine and it’s nice to hit the ball well.”
Jos Buttler struck an unbeaten 65, his first ODI half-century in seven months, as England recovered from 80-3 in the 16th over to post their 21st 300-plus total since the 2015 World Cup.
England benefited from six dropped catches, which ultimately proved the difference.
England will now turn their focus to the ICC Champions Trophy
Miller can feel hard done by as he ended it with an unbeaten 71 from 51 balls.
De Kock, dismissed on 98, and De Villiers, one of three wickets for Liam Plunkett, also contributed towards a thrilling finale.
South Africa recovered from 93-2 in the 17th over, Stokes having removed Hashim Amla early, to put themselves in a winning position.
But a steady flow of wickets left them needing 65 from 39 balls before a late blitz from Miller cut that equation down to seven from the final over.
Yet Wood kept his cool brilliantly to get his side over the line.