In a sight that will warm the hearts of England cricket fans, Jofra Archer has roared back onto the international stage with a match-winning six-wicket haul in just his second ODI in two years, propelling England to win the third match against South Africa.
Captain Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan made centuries and dragged England back from 3-14 to post a big total before Archer blew the Proteas away with 6-40 to carry England to its 59-run win in Kimberley.
Archer fittingly finished it off by bowling Tabraiz Shamsi to leave South Africa all out for 287 chasing England’s 7-346.
“It is good being back. It has been a long road,” Archer said after the match.
Archer will now head to the IPL ahead of a busy summer that includes Australia’s Ashes defence in June and July, where England will hope he can replicate the venomous form of the 2019 series that saw him explode into international cricket.
“This is a small tick but I want to see how I am in April, June, July and September,” he said.
“Being back after however many weeks, months it is kind of surreal. This is just the first series, there is loads of time to get the fine-tuning done.”
South Africa had already won the series after taking a 2-0 lead and while the victory in the final game of the series was a consolation for England, it had repercussions for South Africa.
South Africa is still outside of the automatic qualifying places for the 50-over World Cup in India this year and needs every win it can get. The Proteas have two ODIs left against the Netherlands to clinch automatic qualification.
World champion England is already assured of a place at the World Cup.
England built its daunting total in Kimberley through a magnificent partnership of 232 for the fourth wicket between Buttler and Malan.
Opener Malan made 118 off 114 balls and Buttler hit 131 off 127 to turn England’s innings around after Jason Roy (1), Ben Duckett (0) and Harry Brook (6) all went cheaply.
From 3-14, England had surged to 4-246 by the time the partnership was broken when Malan miscued a slog high in the air and was caught by wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen.
Moeen Ali cracked 41 from 28 at the end to help England to the highest ODI total at Kimberley by some way, surpassing the 5-304 Sri Lanka got in 2012.
With South Africa resting top fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi put in the best performance with the ball for the Proteas with 4-62.
South Africa wasn’t able to maintain the rate needed to win and Archer, who returned for England in the first game of the series after a long absence with elbow and back injuries, made all the meaningful breakthroughs.
He removed Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, dangerman David Miller and top-scorer Heinrich Klaasen (80) in his six wickets as England won comfortably this time after letting dominant positions slip in the first two games of the series.