Hampshire spinner Mason Crane made his international debut in front of a sell-out Ageas Bowl crowd as England cruised to a comprehensive nine-wicket victory over South Africa on Wednesday night.
Crane (0-24), aged just 20 years, and Hampshire all-rounder Liam Dawson (0-17) bowled excellently to help restrict the visiting Proteas to a vulnerable 142-3, before Jonny Bairstow (60*) and Alex Hales (47*) chased down an unthreatening total with 33 balls to spare.
David Willey had struck with the very first ball of the series as the second of three internationals at the Ageas Bowl this summer got off to a flyer, and England's dominant position in the game went unchallenged as Eoin Morgan's side closed out victory without requiring his batting services.
The match began furiously as Willey’s opening delivery defeated JJ Smuts (0) - a wicked inswinging ball chopped on cruelly – the perfect way to open the series for the home side.
England found two more early breakthroughs courtesy of Mark Wood’s pace and were firmly in the driving seat in the fifth over at 32-2, as Reeza Hendricks (3) drove to Willey and David Miller (9) edged behind.
What followed, for any Hampshire fan watching on, was an extraordinary sight.
Debutant Crane – an exciting young prospect – took it in turns with Dawson to attack South Africa’s batsman with bewitching spin, and the 20-year-old screamed for lbw as he rapped Farhaan Behardien (64*) on the pads, sadly to no avail.
It was an impressive display from the Hampshire pair, as Crane dealt well with the pressures that come with an international debut and was unfortunate not to claim a wicket, whilst Dawson went for just 17 off four overs.
England were unable to disturb a valuable 110-run partnership for AB de Villiers (65*) and Behardien but, despite the pair making key sixties and produce a series of boundaries in the final overs to increase their chances, the home side were very much the favourites when the Proteas entered the half-way stage at 142-3.
Jason Roy (28) offered a glimmer of his brilliance as England raced to 45 without loss from the first four overs, but he was soon after trapped at lbw by Andile Phehlukwayo (1-11) when swinging elaborately across the line – an all too familiar sight for Roy, evidently frustrated at his dismissal.
It was to be the only hiccup for England.
Joining Hales, characteristically cautious in the early moments, Bairstow attacked South Africa’s bowlers – racing to 34 off 18 balls – and seemed to inspired his partner to produce boundaries of his own. The Nottinghamshire opener rarely needs an invitation.
Bairstow required treatment for dehydration after the 13th over but it was to be a short delay to England's comfortable victory.
With just 14 runs required off the final 42 balls, Bairstow returned to action with an exquisite boundary to reach his fifty and punched a short single to take the home side over the line with 33 balls to spare, sealing a comprehensive series-opening win against the Proteas.