England impress and justify tag of Champions Trophy favourites with 72-run victory over South Africa

 
Ross McLean
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Morgan scored his 10th one-day century for England (Source: Getty)

England skipper Eoin Morgan revelled in his side beginning the final countdown to their Champions Trophy campaign with victory over South Africa, the No1 ranked one-day side in the world, at Headingley.

The hosts prevailed by 72 runs after Morgan had struck a century – his third in eight one-day internationals – and all-rounder Moeen Ali weighed in with an enterprising 77 not out to fire England to 339-6 from their 50 overs.

South Africa were handily placed at 145-1 but the departure of opener Hashim Amla for 73 triggered a stream of wickets which resulted in the Proteas being dismissed for 267. Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes claimed 4-38.

The success enhanced England’s status as favourites for the Champions Trophy, which starts on 1 June, and boosted hopes of Morgan leading the country to its maiden piece of international 50-over silverware.

“It was a pretty good day at the office for us,” said Morgan, whose side face South Africa at Southampton on Saturday and then at Lord’s on Monday.

“Not having been quite sure what a good score on that wicket was, with the partnerships we built, we gave ourselves the best opportunity to score and beyond.”

Morgan also played down injury fears over all-rounder Ben Stokes, who earlier this week was named the Indian Premier League’s most valuable player following his stint with Rising Pune Supergiant.

“I don’t know the latest. It’s in his knee, but there’s no significant swelling or anything,” added Morgan. “He came back onto the field and was able to bowl, we just didn’t need him. Given the stage we got to, I didn’t want to risk him.”

Morgan’s ton was his 10th one-day hundred for England and helped his side to their highest one-day total at Headingley and their 20th knock in excess of 300 since the 2015 World Cup.

The 30-year-old’s tally of 107 came off 93 balls and included seven fours and five sixes and added real middle-over stability following an England slump to 122-3 after Joe Root was dismissed for 37. Opener Alex Hales had been removed four overs earlier for 61.

England were rocking at 198-5 but a swashbuckling 77 from Moeen, an innings during which he also cleared the ropes on five occasions, moved the hosts to a position of strength.

After the early dismissal of Quinton de Kock, the Proteas steadied the ship until the quick-fire loss of Amla and then Faf du Plessis, who were snared by Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett respectively, gave England control.

JP Duminy, David Miller and Chris Miller failed to fire, while the wicket of skipper AB de Villiers, caught by Plunkett off the bowling of Moeen, all but ended South Africa’s chances.