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England were routed in historic fashion by South Africa as their tortured Cricket World Cup campaign lurched to a new low in Mumbai with their biggest ever ODI defeat.
In desperate need of a big response after their shock loss to Afghanistan last time out, the defending champions plumbed new depths as they were roundly thrashed by 229 runs at the Wankhede Stadium.
Jos Buttler’s decision to field first in sweltering heat and stifling humidity backfired badly as Heinrich Klaasen’s brutal 61-ball century powered South Africa to 399 for seven. England’s reply was wafer thin, 170 for nine in 22 shambolic overs.
In pure numerical terms it represented England’s worst ever ODI performance with the ball, shipping one run more than their previous worst against Brendon McCullum’s New Zealand eight years ago, a new nadir outstripping last year’s 221-run hammering by Australia.
On that occasion Buttler’s men were mentally checked out as they celebrated their T20 World Cup win just a few days earlier, but the stakes could not have been realer this time.
Mark Wood’s figures of seven wicketless overs for 76 took the biscuit but he was hardly alone in being put to the sword, with South Africa’s 13 sixes shared between all six English bowlers and 143 runs raining down in 10 calamitous death overs.
Klaasen, sapped by dehydration and cramp, was the star of the show with 109 in 67 balls but enjoyed a stunning stand with Marco Jansen, who cleared the ropes four times as he launched 75no from 42.
The batting unit made sure to take its share of the embarrassment, knocked over for an embarrassing 170 on the same pitch that had delivered a runfest in the preceding four hours.
England have now lost three of their first four games and, although they still have a convoluted and narrow route to the semi-finals, face the prospect of traipsing around India for the next month with their hope and their trophy gone.
Hard to believe though it was by the end, England enjoyed the perfect start when Reece Topley had danger man Quinton de Kock caught behind off the second ball of the match.
Even less plausibly, they looked to be regaining a measure of control when Topley returned from a finger injury to strike twice and leave South Africa wobbling at 243 for five in the 37th over.
Instead, Klaasen led Jansen in a merciless stand of 151 in just 77 deliveries, with boundaries pouring off their bats in every direction.
England’s teamsheet showed a significant response to their Afghanistan upset, with all-rounders Chris Woakes, Liam Livingstone and Sam Curran axed in favour of the fit-again Ben Stokes, David Willey and rookie seamer Gus Atkinson.
Buttler put his new-look attack to work straight away and was overjoyed to see De Kock nick Topley’s early outswinger.
That was as good as it got. Things veered off course in the seventh over when Topley thrust his left hand out towards a firm drive off his own bowling and damaged his index finger.
He beat an angry retreat to the pavilion, lashing out at an empty chair, and in his absence England faltered.
Reeza Hendricks, taking the place of the sick skipper Temba Bavuma, made 85 and Rassie van der Dussen 60 as they took control with a stand of 121.
Adil Rashid was also struggling physically, doubled in pain between overs as he managed a stomach upset of his own, but the leg-spinner still had the nous to prise out both set batters to give England hope.
After taking running repairs on his finger Topley came back with a double of his own to see off Aiden Markram and David Miller, but that is where the bleeding really began.
Klaasen had reached his fifty in 40 balls and doubled his score in half the time, battering Topley out of the attack once and for all with 19 off an over. Willey lost his radar totally after a bout of cramp, Wood’s woes continued and Atkinson’s last-gasp dismissal of Klaasen was the hollowest of victories.
England’s attempts at a dazzling pursuit never once looked like materialising as their top six collapsed in a heap inside 12 overs.
Jonny Bairstow lofted to deep square-leg, Joe Root flicked to the waiting leg-slip and Dawid Malan feathered one off his hip. Even the returning Stokes had no magic tricks at his disposal and pushed a low catch straight back to Kagiso Rabada. The quartet mustered 23 runs between them.
That left Buttler and Harry Brook as the last specialist batters and unheralded seamer Gerald Coetzee picked up both in the space of three balls: one caught behind, the other pinned lbw by a skidder that kept low.
A flurry of big hits from Wood, who smashed 43no off just 17 balls, and a lively 35 from Atkinson only made the batting failures more profound and the latter’s dismissal ended up horrendous night, with Topley unfit to take guard.
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