Cricket World Cup: England beat South Africa by 104 runs in opener

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‘Incredible’ Stokes catch removes Phehlukwayo
ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, The Oval
England 311-8 (50 overs): Stokes 89, Morgan 57, Roy 54, Root 51, Ngidi 3-66
South Africa 207 (39.5 overs): De Kock 68, Van der Dussen 50, Archer 3-27
England won by 104 runs
Scorecard. Table

Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer lit up The Oval to ensure England defeated South Africa and got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start.

Regularly bowling in excess of 90mph, Archer – playing only his fourth one-day international – took 3-27 and hit Hashim Amla on the helmet to force him to temporarily retire hurt.

After Stokes took an amazing one-handed catch on the boundary to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo, South Africa were dismissed for 207 as they lost by 104 runs.

Stokes earlier made 89 and Jason Roy, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan hit half-centuries to take England to 311-8, a total that seemed no better than par.

Quinton de Kock’s 68 seemed to have South Africa in the hunt at 129-2, but he pulled Liam Plunkett to long leg to become the first of three wickets to fall for 15 runs.

When Stokes took two wickets in two balls, the world number ones and favourites completed an ideal start to the tournament.

In a competition where the 10 teams play each other once to determine the semi-finalists, the hosts travel to Nottingham to meet Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Monday.

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South Africa, who showed enough with the ball to suggest they will contend for the semis, are back at The Oval on Sunday to take on Bangladesh.

England’s examination

England have been building to this competition for the four years since their dismal first-round exit at the last World Cup, sweeping all before them mainly thanks to their power-packed batting line-up.

But for three-quarters of a day that began with the Duke of Sussex opening the tournament, they were in danger of being upset by a well-drilled South Africa.

Indeed, on a slow pitch that produced intriguing rather than entertaining cricket, this was at times a low-key start to the tournament. Under grey skies even the crowd was subdued for long periods.

The exceptions to all of this were Archer and Stokes. For Archer, pace, aggression and hostility made it seem like a wicket was likely every time he had the ball in his hand.

However, the moment of the day belonged to Stokes, who took the most incredible catch, one that is unlikely to be bettered throughout the whole tournament.

As Phehlukwayo swept Adil Rashid towards the mid-wicket boundary, the ball seemed to be too high for Stokes to reach.

He leapt, flinging himself backwards with his right arm outstretched. As he clung on in one hand, the crowd gasped and his team-mates mobbed him for disbelieving celebrations.

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Archer takes first World Cup wicket to make England breakthrough

Archer leads England attack

Born in Barbados to a British father, Archer only qualified to play for England in March and here showed exactly why he was fast-tracked into the World Cup squad.

The wickets he took were all, at least in some part, down to his pace. After Amla took a nasty blow to the grille, Aiden Markram fended to slip and Faf du Plessis hooked to long leg.

With South Africa in danger of subsiding, De Kock added 85 with Rassie van der Dussen. Both had moments of fortune – Rashid looked to have bowled De Kock only for the bails not to come off, while Van der Dussen was dropped by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Watch De Kock’s amazing escape after ball hits stumps

The game turned after De Kock helped a short ball from Plunkett to Root and long leg. JP Duminy holed out of Moeen and Dwaine Pretorius was run out as three wickets fell in 21 balls.

Archer returned to remove Van der Dussen with another short ball and, though Amla came back before gloving Plunkett behind, Stokes took over.

First came the wonder catch, before the wickets of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir completed an impressive England bowling and fielding display.

England work to winning total

For a variety of reasons – the control of the South Africa bowlers, the sluggish nature of the pitch and maybe even a few nerves – this was not the free-scoring England of the past four years.

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The tone was set by a clever piece of captaincy from Du Plessis. Leg-spinner Tahir was chosen to open the bowling and Jonny Bairstow edged his second ball behind to become the first opener to get a golden duck in the first innings of a World Cup tournament.

To their credit, England steadied. Roy and Root added 106 and, after they both fell in the space of four balls, Morgan and Stokes shared 106 of their own.

Roy played powerful drives while Root scored almost exclusively off his pads. Morgan pulled and drove, playing the aggressor in his stand with Stokes until he was athletically caught by a diving Markram at long-on off Tahir.

Stokes began calmly – his first 31 runs came from 36 balls – but he gradually upped his scoring. Still, the biggest blow to England’s late charge came when Buttler dragged on to his stumps.

In the face of some intelligent South Africa bowling, England’s late assault never materialised, but their total proved to be more than adequate.

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