England comfortably handled South Africa and a lively Oval pitch to take the opening match of the 2019 World Cup by 104 runs with 10 overs to spare. The Englishmen dished out a clinical and disciplined performance to dominate the field in all three areas. (Match Highlights)
It was the statement win sought by the hot title favourites, but not as expected on Thursday. The bowlers starred rather than the batsmen, notably newcomer Jofra Archer, who took three wickets and generated pace that scared the South Africa top order. (Match Scorecard)
Because England has been putting up huge totals, 311-8 on a green-tinged pitch seemed only decent, though the home side was content. They were certain they could defend it, despite chasing sides having an excellent record at the Oval.
Their cause was helped by South Africa blowing the script, again. The pressure was too much to bear on a batting lineup not as deep as England's and South Africa was all out for 207 in the 40th over.
The South Africa innings was highlighted by opener Hashim Amla rebounding from being hit in the grill by a 145-kph (90 mph) Archer bouncer in the fourth over. He walked off for concussion tests, and returned in the 37th over to immediately face Archer. Amla lasted two more overs and was out for 13, nicking behind a Liam Plunkett bouncer.
Quinton de Kock was put under pressure to dig in and deliver, but after he was out for 68, South Africa's chase faded.
Only Rassie van der Dussen, who was dropped on 6, resisted for long with 50.
The last seven wickets cost England only 78 runs. Liam Plunkett took two wickets and Ben Stokes snared the last two wickets to fall, not long after taking a brilliant, one-handed outfield catch.
South Africa put pressure on itself before the match when bowler Dwaine Pretorius was picked ahead of batsman Chris Miller. The bowlers had to restrict England, which was made to bat first, and the plan seemed to work perfectly two balls into the match when Jonny Bairstow became the first opening batsman out for a golden duck in the opening innings of a World Cup.
Imran Tahir, the first spinner to bowl the first ball of a men's World Cup, induced a faint edge behind from Bairstow and, arms out, went flying around the offside in celebration.
But if there was any more wickedness in the green-tinged pitch, as South Africa hoped, the bowlers couldn't find it.
England used two stands of 106 to pass 300 for the fifth match in a row.
Jason Roy and Joe Root scored easily, troubling only umpire Kumar Dharmasena, who was hit on the elbow by a Roy drive that deflected off Root at the non-striker's end. The second-wicket pair seemed to do everything in sync. They reached their half-centuries in the same over, the 18th, with singles, and they were out to self-inflicted mistakes within four balls of each other.
After completing their third century partnership in five ODIs, Roy miscued a pull shot and top-edged to du Plessis at mid off. He made 54 off 53 balls. Root was out for 51 off 59 deliveries.
Eoin Morgan enlivened the near-full crowd with England's only three sixes, and made 50 off 50. Stokes, slow to the party but motivated by his captain, reached his 50 off 45.
Tahir's return to the attack paid dividends again, though it took a great diving catch by Markram at long-on to remove Morgan on 57 at 217-4.
He and Stokes' stand of 106 came off 108 deliveries.
Then Stokes and his teammates suddenly found scoring harder, under dark clouds. They hit only six boundaries in the last 10 overs.
Stokes went on to 89 off 79 balls, out in the 49th over trying to up the rate.
England next plays Pakistan on Monday. South Africa remains at the Oval to meet Bangladesh on Sunday.
(With AP Inputs)