England captain Jos Buttler said his side “didn’t quite commit enough” to their positive brand of cricket as they gave up a dominant position to lose their one-day international series opener to South Africa.
After producing a strong bowling display to restrict South Africa to 298-7 from their 50 overs, England appeared to be cruising to victory as openers Jason Roy and Dawid Malan reached 146 without loss inside of 20 overs.
However, Malan’s dismissal for 59 set in motion the loss of all 10 England wickets for just 125 runs, with Roy’s brilliant 113 from 91 balls in vain as the tourists slumped to a 27-run defeat.
“I think we played some excellent cricket for the majority of that game,” Buttler said.
“To be in a position after that opening stand, you feel like you should go on and win the game, so we’re obviously disappointed not to finish it off.
“We were pretty happy (after South Africa’s innings). The wicket didn’t play as well as we thought it would, but it was still very good for batting.
“I think we should keep going. To have that conviction and commitment to our game and keep taking it on. I think that’s something that’s served us well for a very long time.
“That doesn’t always mean trying to hit fours and sixes, but imposing ourselves on the game, playing a very positive brand of cricket, and I think we didn’t quite commit enough to that.
“Credit to South Africa, they came back really well and took wickets, but I thought we could have kept trying to take it on a bit and put pressure on them.”
‘Roy looked more composed’
Roy had gone without a century in his previous 14 international innings, and having been dropped from England’s T20 side was somewhat of a surprise inclusion for this tour.
However, the 32-year-old produced a memorable knock in the country of his birth to provide a reminder of his talent.
With Friday’s match the first of 13 ODIs England will play this year in preparation for the 50-over World Cup in October, the Surrey batter has put himself right back in the mix to be a part of the squad that defends their title in India.
With 20-over cricket having dominated England’s agenda in the build-up to their triumph at last year’s World Cup, Michael Atherton felt the return to a longer form of the game benefitted Roy.
“Jason Roy needed this performance,” the former England captain said on Sky Sports. “All cricketers will say they don’t read the papers, they don’t listen to what’s going on, but every cricketer knows when they’re under the microscope – you can’t get away from it.
“He just looked more composed to me than we’ve seen him. Particularly in T20, when you’re out of nick, you haven’t got time really to get your form back.
“I thought he was balanced, composed, played some beautiful shots. He played as well as we’ve seen him play for a long time.
“His reaction after getting that hundred told you all you needed to know about the importance of the innings.”
‘The whole point is for Archer to play’
It wasn’t quite the return Jofra Archer had hoped for, as one of England’s 2019 World Cup heroes made his long-awaited return from injury.
After a 678-day absence from international cricket, Archer went for 41 runs from his first five overs, as he was sprayed around the ground by South Africa openers Quinto de Kock and Temba Bavuma.
The 27-year-old took further punishment from centurion Rassie van der Dussen when he returned to the attack later in the innings, but was rewarded with a wicket in his tenth and final over as he produced a trademark slower ball to dismiss Wayne Parnell.
Archer’s only competitive action ahead of his international comeback has been playing in South Africa’s inaugural SA20 competition, in which bowlers are limited to four overs.
The question now is whether he’ll be ready to play again when the three-match series resumes at the same venue on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
Both Atherton and Hussain believes Archer should keep his place – if England’s medical team declare him fit to play.
“They’re going to have to sit down with the medics,” Atherton said. “His first spell of five overs was more than he’s bowled since his comeback, so they’re going to have to work out how his body is.
“But they’ll want him to play. The whole point of this series was to build up gradually.
“He made his comeback in the SA20, and then he bowls gradually more and more through this series, and he builds up to the point they get to red ball cricket in the summer.
“That was the plan, if he’s fit to go then clearly it would be great for him to play, because he’ll need a bit of time to find his best form.”
Hussain added: “I think with Archer, we’ve just got to not look at performances, just look at how his body is and how does he shape up tomorrow.
“He’ll be worried about performance, but really, it’s about getting back into cricket.
“These guys aren’t machines, and he is certainly not a machine.
“You could rest Jofra, but if Jofra wants to play again and the medics say fine, he’s waited 680 days for his first game, I might give him his second one.”