England captain Eoin Morgan remained upbeat despite South Africa taking the one-day international series into a decider after a tense one-wicket win in Johannesburg.
Last man Imran Tahir struck the winning runs to help the Proteas chase down a victory target of 263 in a thrilling climax, to ensure everything is to play for in the fifth match in Cape Town tomorrow.
That the tourists managed to get close to clinching the series yesterday was first down to Joe Root’s sensational 109, his second successive century, as they posted what appeared to be a below par 262 all out.
Then an exceptional collective bowling effort saw South Africa slip to 210 for eight before Chris Morris’s dazzling 62 off 38 balls took them to the brink of success.
There proved to be one more twist in the tale as Morris was bowled by Adil Rashid with just one run needed, but Tahir, who earlier claimed three for 46 with the ball, cut the next delivery for four to spark jubilant celebrations.
Morgan said: “I think at the halfway stage it was probably South Africa’s game to lose after we fell about 30-40 runs short.
“Joe Root played magnificently well again, which is great to see. His run of form has been magnificent for the side. We managed to peg it back with some fantastic bowling, we managed to get the ball moving around, create a bit of pressure and continue to take wickets.
“Having lost a game like this where we could have clinched the series is disappointing, but to see the fight in the guys tonight, having not batted as well as we’d like to do, is a really positive sign for us.”
England were profligate in the field, and while the drops of dangermen AB de Villiers and JP Duminy did not prove too costly, Rashid’s grounding of Morris when he was on 14 proved damaging.
Morgan added: “We had chances in the field. That’s the most disappointing thing.”
England’s batting group suffered a rare day to forget, with Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali all falling for single-figure scores.
Morgan, though, believes they were due a low score, having been largely outstanding in the 12 months following last year’s horrendous World Cup showing.
He said: “I’m surprised it’s taken this long to fall this short. We’ve scored 300 a lot of the time, scored 400 once, and we’re encouraging guys to come out, even today when the wicket’s a little bit trickier, and express themselves.
“I’m glad that they did, and again the experience of Joe Root coming through and scoring a magnificent hundred was brilliant.”