Jos Buttler’s hopes of a first straight win since taking over as England’s white-ball captain will be dead on after a crucial turn from Rilee Rossouw saw South Africa tie the T20 score 1-1 with a 58-run Cardiff confirmed victory.
Buttler began his tenure by losing both formats to India and seeing a 50-over playoff against the Proteas washed out.
Victory in the first T20 in Bristol on Wednesday gave England a chance to wrap things up on Welsh soil but they were unable to match Rossouw’s victorious 96-note out.
The former Kolpak player, who traded six years of international cricket for a stable appearance at Hampshire, hit five sixes and ten fours to lead the tourists for three to 207.
Having scored 234 goals in the previous game, England knew they could fight fire with fire but fell back to 149.
The in-form Jonny Bairstow took the top score again, but with a score of 30 he told his own story of a lethargic chase.
Buttler had sent South Africa into the game and saw his early hunch pay off as he handed the fourth to Moeen Ali, who immediately convinced Quinton de Kock to go for centre.
But Reeza Hendricks and Rossouw refused to worry about it as they dipped to a stance of 73 in 46 balls and took control with outbursts of controlled aggression.
They were 58-1 after the power play and rose to exactly 100 at halftime.
Hendricks managed his second half-century in as many days, this time taking just 29 balls, while Rossouw caught the eye by throwing the reliable Adil Rashid off the ground and towards the Taff River.
There was a turning point when Chris Jordan thought he’d passed Rossouw for 37, only for the third referee to rule against Buttler’s take.
Richard Gleeson had caught up well with Hendricks from Bairstow on the Border Rim, but the pace kept turning.
Rossouw continued after ramming Gleeson in his own jaw in 72 and appeared to have timed his own climb perfectly for a century.
Starting on the 20th at 93, he was hampered by the superb death bowling of Jordan, who conceded just four goals and left Rossouw dry with a point.
Buttler appeared to be in the mood, but for the second game in a row he limited himself to a briefly exciting cameo appearance.
First he whipped out Kagiso Rabada for six over midwicket, then ripped into Andile Phehlukwayo, who was deep in his crease and hit two more sixes too long before driving the all-rounder’s slower ball for four.
Phehlukwayo kept his nerve under pressure, delivering a massive top edge with his fourth delivery to send Buttler on the way for 29.
Keshav Maharaj caught another before the end of the power play, Dawid Malan screwed a high catch to the keeper looking for the leg as England reached 53 for two with momentum flagging.
The game was effectively decided during a skillful spell down the middle of Tabraiz Shamsi. Last time out he was bullied in three overs for 49 but this time he was in control and took three for 27.
He beat the colorless Jason Roy for 20 in 22 balls, a shot that did little to ease the mounting pressure on his court, and then had Moeen and Sam Curran caught in the long-off five balls apart, the first a stunning dive shot by Maharaj.
Bairstow’s amazing running form meant the game wasn’t dead until he got a slower Rabada ball to the point.
At the required rate entering the realms of fantasy, England went down in a hurry, losing their last four for just eight runs to leave 3.2 overs unused.
The series will be decided at Sunday’s Ageas Bowl, with Buttler needing a result.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/south-africa-england-moeen-ali-jonny-bairstow-t20-b2133616.html South Africa equalizes T20 series with victory over England in Cardiff