|First Twenty20, Newlands, Cape Town|
|South Africa 179-6 (20 overs): Du Plessis 58 (40), S Curran 3-28|
|England 183-5 (19.2 overs): Bairstow 86* (48), Stokes 37 (27), Linde 2-20|
|England won by five wickets|
Jonny Bairstow made his highest Twenty20 international score as England beat South Africa by five wickets in the series opener in Cape Town.
Coming to the crease at 27-2, chasing 180 to win, Bairstow hit nine fours and four sixes in a magnificent unbeaten 86 off 48 balls.
He was ably supported in a 85-run partnership with all-rounder Ben Stokes, who made a 27-ball 37.
Earlier, Sam Curran – chosen over spinner Moeen Ali – recorded his best T20 international bowling figures as he took 3-28, including the key wicket of Faf du Plessis for 58.
South Africa’s total of 179-6 was 21 more than the average first-innings T20 total at Newlands, and England were struggling at 34-3, but Bairstow’s brutality guided them to an excellent win with four balls to spare.
The second game of the three-match series takes place at Boland Park, Paarl on Sunday at 12:30 GMT.
Bairstow shines in new role
Before the game England captain Eoin Morgan spoke about using this series to find roles and a batting order that players were happy with the World Cup in India just 11 months away.
Bairstow may have found his at four.
Often known as a belligerent opener, he rescued England after Jason Roy fell in the first over and Jos Buttler moments later, and his ability to latch on to anything short and punish deliveries that were too full was immediately evident.
Dropped on 24 at long-on by Du Plessis, Bairstow scored 49 of his runs through mid-wicket and mid-on as he and Stokes swung the game in England’s favour.
Even once Stokes fell, Bairstow – showed maturity and stayed calm when Morgan was struggling at the start of his innings.
It paid dividends as a wayward 17th over from Beuran Hendricks cost 28 runs, and Bairstow – on the ground where he scored his maiden Test century in 2016 – completed the job with a four and a six off Lundi Ngidi.
Sam Curran the pick of the bowlers
Morgan also spoke about seven or eight World Cup positions being solidified, but the number seven spot is one that is up for grabs.
Despite the tournament being in the sub-continent and perhaps favouring the option of Moeen, Sam Curran is on course to nail the position down.
The left-armer has a canny knack of picking up wickets at crucial times in the game, alongside getting out high-class players as he demonstrated in dismissing Temba Bavuma and Du Plessis.
His ability to read conditions, knowing when to go to a variation, alongside whether to bowl round or over the wicket is constantly improving.
Du Plessis, whose place in the side was in doubt during England’s tour of South Africa in February, was excellent.
He, like Bairstow, came to the crease after an early wicket and played well on both sides of the wicket.
His innings gathered momentum when he took Tom Curran for 24 off the fifth over, including two massive sixes.
England have managed only eight powerplay wickets in nine games in 2020, and that will concern Morgan with the greater challenges that lie ahead.
‘Jonny had an unbelievable day out’ – what they said
Man of the match Jonny Bairstow: “Cape Town seems to be one of my favourite grounds. It’s an amazing place to play cricket. It was just unfortunate we didn’t have a special crowd to witness a game like that.
“I want to be playing cricket for England – that is first and foremost. As long as I am contributing and putting in match-winning performances, whether that be opening, batting at four or six, then so be it.
“We’ll look to improve in the next game. There are people throughout our side that are able to take the game away from other teams.”
England captain Eoin Morgan on Sky Sports: “It’s extremely pleasing. It’s a very good win.
“We were pretty average apart from two or three guys. Jonny has had an unbelievable day out. Jonny and Stokes set it up nicely, and to win when you’re not at your best is pleasing.”
South Africa captain Quinton de Kock: “We did think it was a good total. But unfortunately it didn’t come off tonight.
“Jonny batted really well – he changed his game plan to the pitch and conditions.”