The Proteas won the toss and put England in to bat on a sluggish surface at Kingsmead with spinner Bjorn Fortuin brought into the team in place of Dale Steyn.
Fortuin bowled the first over of the match but was withdrawn from the attack after going for nine in his first over. Beuran Hendricks got clobbered for four by Jason Roy but came back well to concede just seven. England were 16 without loss after two overs and it was time for the Proteas lynchpin Lungi Ngidi to be introduced.
Ngidi steamed in bending his back to get something out of the pitch and got his reward when Jos Buttler (2) nicked off. Jonny Bairstow joined Roy at 17 for 1 and Fortuin was brought back into the attack after an extensive delay caused by a malfunctioning sightscreen.
Fortuin spilt a difficult caught and bowled chance to give Bairstow a life. He moved sharply to his left but couldn’t hold a well-struck drive. Bairstow ended the over in style with a lofted drive that went for four to release the pressure building on the tourists.
Despite the early loss of Buttler, Roy rode his luck but importantly kept the scoreboard moving and Bairstow joined him in taking on the Proteas bowling.
Bairstow hit the innings’ first six after spotting an Ngidi slower ball and lofting it over long-off for a maximum. He punished anything over-pitched and wasn’t afraid to hit over the top.
A mixture of luck and aggression powered England to 55 for 1 after the six overs of the powerplay.
Bairstow slapped successive sixes off Andile Phehlukwayo to bring up the fifty partnership off just 22 balls.
Phehlukwayo hit the seam to find some movement off the pitch and a way through Bairstow’s defence to castle the Englishman for 35. England were 69 for 2 after seven overs with a decent platform laid for the middle order.
England stayed well ahead of the rate required to achieve a par-score at Kingsmead and were able to dictate the pace of the game through Eoin Morgan and Roy.
Roy lucks out
Roy fell ten short of a second fifty in the series, holing out when he tried to hit Tabraiz Shamsi over long-on but couldn’t clear David Miller.
In an attacking response England sent in Ben Stokes ahead of Joe Denly. England were 90 for 3 at the end of the tenth over and still looking on course for a big score to put the Proteas under pressure in their chase.
England were becalmed by some tight bowling from Dwaine Pretorius but then Morgan laid into Shamsi, swatting him over midwicket for six and the runs began to flow again.
Hendricks got in a muddle as Stokes went aerial and couldn’t get to the catch or stop the boundary leaving Shamsi fuming. England’s charge had waivered but at 115 for 3 with six overs remaining they were still tracking for an imposing total.
Proteas peg England back
Stokes struggled to get going until he absolutely smashed Pretorius over cow corner but soon after Morgan (27) scooped a nothing shot down Temba Bavuma’s throat at long-off.
Denly (1) didn’t get going before being bamboozled by a Phehlukwayo cutter that ricocheted off his elbow and onto the stumps and handed the initiative back to the Proteas.
Moeen Ali emerged from the dressing room with a chance to redeem himself after failing to get England over the line in East London.
Hendricks got things wrong in the 17th over giving England a few freebies on a tough pitch. England took 21 from the over to lift them to 157 for 5 ensuring the Proteas would need to break the record for the highest chase at Kingsmead in order to win.
Moeen took the Proteas to task with some incredible hitting that gave England the initiative. He blitzed 39 off 11 balls before finally picking out a boundary rider to give Ngidi his second wicket.
Stokes (47*) kept going and Chris Jordan got in a big six before he was well caught by Bavuma in the final over and England powered to 204 for 7 to leave the Proteas a mountain to climb.