Proteas pull off thrilling fightback to set up T20 decider
England's two debutants endured sharply contrasting fortunes at Taunton on Friday as South Africa staged a thrilling late fightback to prevail by three runs and set up an unlikely Twenty20 series decider.
Fast bowler Tom Curran starred after the hosts had elected to field, striking with his second delivery in international cricket and finishing with 3-33 to help limit the Proteas to 174-8 despite a 20-ball 46 from AB de Villiers.
However, fellow new cap Liam Livingstone (16 off 18 balls) endured a painful struggle with the bat that culminated in a shambolic run-out as England lost their way badly following a century stand between Jason Roy (67) and Jonny Bairstow (47).
When the rejuvenated Roy fell victim to the rarely seen dismissal of obstructing the field at the start of the 16th over, his side required just 42 from 29 balls on a pacy surface, with seven wickets still in hand.
Livingstone - a renowned big-hitter in county cricket - was unable to find any rhythm, though, and fine bowling from Chris Morris, Dane Paterson and Andile Phehlukwayo limited England to 171-6.
Liam Dawson hit the penultimate ball of the match for four after Livingstone had run himself out, but the former could not repeat the feat to secure victory as Phehlukwayo delivered a superb yorker.
Although the big-hitting JJ Smuts, who was out to the first ball of the match on Wednesday, and Farhaan Behardien contributed 45 and 32 respectively, De Villiers was a class apart in the Proteas' innings.
After taking three fours and a six off Liam Plunkett in the 10th over, South Africa's captain looked to be in ominous form when he walked across his stumps to David Willey and got down on one knee to flick the ball high over fine-leg for a stunning maximum.
However, De Villiers skied Willey's next ball to Eoin Morgan at cover and England were able to limit their opponents' acceleration thereafter as Curran continued to impress.
Roy and Bairstow both excelled in the reply, but the impressive Morris accounted for the latter and South Africa had a lifeline when Roy was given out after he was adjudged to have deliberately put his body in the way of a throw to the non-striker's end.
England simply could not get going again thereafter and the series will now be decided in Cardiff on Sunday.