Jofra Archer’s career-best six for 40 after a rescue act with the bat from Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler ensured England ended their tour of South Africa with a consolatory victory.
Archer had never before recorded a five-for in one-day internationals but his breakthroughs at crucial junctures helped England snap a five-match losing sequence in this format as they prevailed by 59 runs in Kimberley.
England earlier lurched to 14 for three after losing the toss following Lungi Ngidi’s triple strike but Malan (118 off 114 balls) and Buttler (131 off 127 deliveries) staged a remarkable recovery.
While South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals, Heinrich Klaasen threatened to set up a grandstand finish with a sparkling 80 off 62 balls.
But with England desperate for a wicket as the target came down to 69 off the last 63 balls, Archer – who took one for 81 in his international comeback after a 22-month absence last Friday – was recalled and his slower ball did for Klaasen, with South Africa then subsiding to 287 all out in 43.1 overs.
England lost the series 2-1 but avoided a second consecutive clean sweep, which looked a distinct possibility at the start of the day.
There were 52 dots in a powerplay which England ended on 20 for three while Buttler got off nought from his 14th ball, cutting away Marco Jansen for four, as he and Malan rebuilt with caution.
Aiden Markram’s part-time spin offered respite from the seamers and Buttler gratefully tucked into the weak link, giving a glimpse of what was to come with a towering six. Malan’s first four was off his 48th delivery but two balls later, he grazed the fingertips of Markram at midwicket.
England reached three figures at the innings’ halfway point and Buttler brought up the 100-run stand with a monster 105-metre six off left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi – five of his seven maximums came off the slower bowlers – but there was still work to do on 129 for three after 30 overs.
The race to 100 was won by Malan while Buttler joined two balls later, the pair both getting there off 106 deliveries. However, Malan’s fun ended after toe-ending Sisanda Magala’s off-cutter high into the air.
Moeen Ali missed with a peculiar attempt at a one-handed reverse sweep, but made contact with four sixes in 41 off 23 balls, an important cameo as Buttler started to flag. The England captain holed out to long-on but Adil Rashid’s wristy flick for six in the last over was England’s 19th of the innings as they finished well.
Archer, overlooked for new-ball duties for the first time in his ODI career, was thrust into the fray just before Chris Woakes had stopped Temba Bavuma in his tracks. The South Africa captain, a centurion on Sunday, miscued a cleverly-disguised slower delivery to depart for 35 off 27 balls.
Archer was soon into his stride and regularly above 90mph as he persuaded Rassie van der Dussen to drive loosely to backward point. While Reeza Hendricks guided South Africa into safer waters, he got in a tangle against Rashid’s leg-spin and deflected through his legs to be bowled for 52 off 61 balls.
Markram was welcomed to the crease with a bumper that clattered his shoulder and Archer later returned to snare the batter, with Moeen taking a steepler in the twilight. Archer then tickled the inside edge to see off the dangerous David Miller but South Africa kept coming through Klaasen.
Needing 154 with four wickets in hand, Klaasen batted with gusto, peeling off drives and pulls for the lion’s share of an 85-run stand in 54 balls alongside Parnell. After both batters had taken Rashid the distance within three balls, the equation came down to 73 required in 11 overs.
Sensing a real shift in momentum, Buttler turned again to Archer, whose slower ball into the pitch tempted Klaasen into a swivel pull which carried to Duckett at deep backward square-leg.
A maiden ODI five-for was Archer’s when he castled Parnell for 34 while last man Shamsi met the same fate as the England fast bowler was left celebrating his best figures in international cricket.