England have ended their run of five consecutive ODI defeats with a 59-run win over South Africa, after captain Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan both smashed centuries in a mammoth 232-run partnership and Jofra Archer showed why he has been so sorely missed.
Having been put into bat, England lost three early wickets as Lungi Ngidi wreaked havoc with the new ball, dismissing Jason Roy, Ben Duckett and Harry Brook fell. Brook's dismissal left England in serious trouble at 14-3, before Buttler and Malan produced a remarkable rebuild.
The pair were initially watchful before looking to accelerate, with Buttler taking 14 balls to get off the mark and Malan only hitting his first boundary off his 48th delivery. After 30 overs, England were 129-3 meaning Buttler and Malan had scored 115 runs off 206 balls since coming together in the sixth over.
Malan smashed the very next ball for six to bring up his half-century and England then proceeded to brutalise South Africa's bowlers for the remaining 20 overs of their innings. Buttler and Malan smashed a further 117 runs off their next 64 balls, both reaching 106-ball hundreds in the same Sisanda Magala over.
Malan ultimately fell to Magala for 118, but his dismissal did not stem the flow of runs as Moeen Ali joined the fray and smashed a brutal 41 off just 23 balls in a 67-run partnership with Buttler. England added 217 runs off the last 20 overs to post a total of 346-7, their second highest in South Africa.
In response, the Proteas made a positive start as Bavuma and Reeza Henricks added 49 for the first wicket. But England's seamers were able to find their rhythm after a poor start, with Archer undoubtedly back to his best as he picked up 6-40.
Chris Woakes outfoxed Bavuma with a slower ball, before Archer removed the in-form Rassie Van der Dussen for just five. Hendricks reached a fifth ODI half-century, but was unable to go on as he was utterly bamboozled by Adil Rashid, who bowled him through his legs for 52.
Archer then returned for a second spell and removed both Aiden Markram and David Miller in consecutive overs, before Heinrich Klaasen threatened to win the game for South Africa alive with an outstanding 80 in partnership with Wayne Parnell. However, Buttler turned to Archer once again and the 27-year-old delivered for his captain as he dismissed both Klaasen and Parnell to wrap up a much-needed victory.
Ngidi blows away England's top order
England got off to a horror start as Roy, Duckett and Brook fell to Ngidi, who took all three wickets in the space of just 11 balls. Ngidi's length was spot on from ball one as he twice beat Roy's bat before getting him caught at mid-off.
He then ended what has been a disappointing series for Duckett by getting him caught behind for a five-ball duck. Brook then failed to build on his impressive 80 in the last match as he was caught behind for five.
It was a brilliant opening spell by Ngidi, who ended with figures of 4-62. He did struggle at the back end of the innings, though, only dismissing Moeen after he had bowled two no balls and been tonked for back-to-back sixes.
Malan lays down World Cup marker
Speaking after injury forced him to miss the T20 World Cup final, Malan spoke of his desire to feature at the upcoming 50-over World Cup, having repeatedly asserted that ODI cricket is his "strongest" format.
Despite this, ODIs are actually the format where Malan has earned the fewest England caps, largely due to the presence of Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root in the top three. However, with the format taking a backseat in recent years due to back-to-back T20 World Cups in 2021 and 2022, England's top stars have regularly been rested and Malan has been afforded more opportunities to impress.
Since 2021, Malan has earned all but one of his ODI caps and struck 620 runs at an average of 56.36 across 14 innings, including three centuries and three fifties. The 35-year-old is in with a real chance of featuring at the World Cup and could either open or take one of the vacant slots in the middle order following Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes' retirements.
Buttler leads from the front
Having come out to bat with his side in serious trouble at 14-3, Buttler played a real captain's innings as he smashed 131 to propel England to 346-7. He shared a magnificent 232-run partnership with Malan, before adding a further 67 off just 36 balls alongside Moeen.
In the process, Buttler overtook Kevin Pietersen to go sixth on the list of England's all-time ODI leading run scorers and also passed 10,00 international runs in all formats. It was an innings that showcased every facet of his game, with Buttler forced to soak up pressure early on after the loss of Roy, Duckett and Brook.
However, once he and Malan had stabilised the innings, he accelerated ruthlessly and smashed a total of 13 boundaries. "Outstanding work from Jos Buttler," former Australian cricketer Mike Haysman said on commentary. "The patience he showed right at the top was really impressive and now [it's] paying dividends."
Moeen the finisher
After Malan and Buttler's brilliant partnership came to an end, Moeen produced a thrilling cameo as he smashed 41 off just 23 balls. Having found some form with an impressive half-century in the previous match, his first in ODIs since 2017, Moeen was able to tee off in Kimberley.
He took England past the 300 mark with back-to-back sixes off Ngidi and even attempted a remarkable one handed switch hit, but ultimately failed to make contact.
Moeen eventually departed when Ngidi uprooted his stumps, but his cameo helped England finish their innings with aplomb. Most importantly, Moeen has excelled in two different roles in the last two ODIs, with his half-century in Bloemfontein a much more traditional innings.
Archer back to his best
After an understandably rusty return to the international stage after spending 22 months out injured in the first ODI, Archer enjoyed a much more successful outing in the third.
Having been England's most expensive bowler in Bloemfontein, conceding 81 runs from his ten overs and picking up just the one wicket, Archer was truly outstanding in Kimberley. The 27-year-old regularly hit speeds of 90mph+ and picked up 6-40, the third-best figures by an Englishman in ODI cricket.
Buttler twice turned to him with the game in the balance and Archer delivered both times. In his second spell Archer dismissed both Markram and Miller in consecutive overs, before being brought back for a third spell and ensuring England won the match after Klaasen and Parnell's 85-run partnership threatened to secure victory for South Africa.