England comfortably handled South Africa and a lively Oval pitch to take the opening match of the Cricket World Cup by 104 runs with 10 overs to spare.
It was the statement win sought by the hot title favorites, but not as expected on Thursday. The bowlers and fielders starred rather than the batsmen, notably newcomer Jofra Archer, who took three wickets and generated pace that scared the South Africa top order, and Ben Stokes, who capped an all-round effort with a brilliant, high one-handed catch while running backwards and side on to the ball.
"To be honest I was in the wrong position," Stokes said. "If I was in the right position it would have been regulation."
Because England has been putting up huge totals, 311-8 on a green-tinged pitch seemed only decent, though the home side was content. They were certain they could defend it, despite chasing sides having an excellent record at the Oval.
Their cause was helped by South Africa blowing the script, again. The pressure was too much to bear on a batting lineup not as deep as England's and South Africa was all out for 207 in the 40th over.
The last seven wickets cost England only 78 runs. Plunkett took two wickets and Stokes took the last two in two balls, and that catch at deep midwicket.
South Africa put pressure on itself before the match when bowler Dwaine Pretorius was picked ahead of batsman Chris Miller. The bowlers had to restrict England, which was made to bat first, and the plan seemed to work perfectly two balls into the match when Jonny Bairstow became the first opening batsman out for a golden duck in the opening innings of a World Cup.
Imran Tahir, the first spinner to bowl the first ball of a men's World Cup, induced a faint edge behind from Bairstow and, arms out, went flying around the offside in celebration. Here's a look at all the numbers from the tournament opener.
- Eoin Morgan became the first player to play 200 ODIs for England. He also completed 7000 runs in his ODI career. He has now hit 19 sixes for England in ODIs against South Africa which is the most by any player.
- This was the first time that four England batsmen scored fifty-plus runs in the same innings of an ODI World Cup match. Also, Jason Roy scored his fourth consecutive fifty-plus score in ODIs.
- Imran Tahir became the first spinner to bowl the first over of a World Cup.
- England have now amassed 300-plus totals in their last five ODI matches – the fourth team to do so after Sri Lanka (2006), Australia (2007) and India (2017).
- Jonny Bairstow became only the second player to be dismissed in the opening over of a World Cup. New Zealand's John Wright was the first one - in 1992 CWC.
- South Africa lost the match by 104 runs against England at The Oval – their second largest defeat by runs in ODI World Cup matches. Moreover, this was England’s fifth consecutive victory at The Oval in ODIs.
With inputs from AP