Jofra Archer toiled for minimal reward on his feelgood England comeback as Rassie Van Der Dussen’s 111 from 117 balls underpinned South Africa’s 298 for seven in the first ODI.
England had warned about expecting an explosive return, 678 largely injury-riddled days after Archer’s last international appearance, although he topped 89mph on an easy-paced pitch in Bloemfontein.
Archer believes he is at about “80 per cent” fitness so some rust was inevitable – and he conceded 20 runs in a nine-ball over before his spell ended on a brighter note with Wayne Parnell’s wicket.
Finishing with one for 81 – the most he has conceded in a limited-overs international – will be low down the list of concerns for England, who were grateful for Sam Curran’s three for 35 from nine overs.
Curran, who was player of the T20 World Cup in England’s triumphant campaign in November, continues to be a dependable bowler for Jos Buttler and, alongside Moeen Ali, he put the skids on South Africa.
Quinton De Kock and Temba Bavuma sprung out the traps as South Africa raced to 75 for one after the powerplay, with both openers launching Archer for six, even if Bavuma’s effort caught the top edge.
De Kock seemed particularly dangerous, driving Archer down the ground on three occasions as he capitalised on anything wide or overpitched.
Moeen was brought on for the ninth over and ended the opening stand after Bavuma (36) clothed to mid-on, where Curran caught well low down to his left.
Curran and Moeen then dovetailed effectively to dry up the scoring, with South Africa registering just one boundary between the 11th and 20th overs.
Curran also snared the key wicket of De Kock, who got a tickle on a devilish surprise bouncer to depart for 37. Curran made an impact with his variations and conceded just 17 from his first five overs.
Olly Stone struck with his first ball when Aiden Markram drove to short cover, while Heinrich Klaasen flickered before missing a sweep off Adil Rashid and was struck on the pad to depart lbw for 30.
Van Der Dussen relied on rotating the strike and the odd boundary to keep South Africa chugging along before finding support from David Miller (53), with the pair putting on 110.
Van Der Dussen moved to a 110-ball ton – his third in ODIs – and he cashed in when Archer came back, clattering a shorter ball for six.
Archer overstepped, threw in a wide and then conceded a second no-ball in his penultimate with an ugly full toss which was cut for four by Miller.
But after Curran had snared Van Der Dussen, caught at deep cover, Archer completed his allotment and was finally in the wickets column when Parnell sliced to backward point.
Curran had his third wicket in the final over, with David Willey completing a juggling catch after his momentum had initially carried over the rope, ending Miller’s 56-ball stay to keep South Africa under 300 in the first of three ODIs between the teams.
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