‘Oh my god’: Cricket world stunned

 

South Africa's World Cup got off to a scary start when Hashim Amla was hit in the head by a searing Jofra Archer bouncer before England star Ben Stokes stole the show with an early contender for catch of the tournament - and possibly the year - in the Poms' crushing 104-run win.

Amla copped a nasty blow in the grill when he was late on a pull shot in the fourth over as the Proteas tried to chase down England's 8/311. The game stopped as medical staff came out to treat Amla and he left the field after undergoing concussion tests. Aiden Markram replaced him at the crease but became another Archer victim when some extra pace and bounce had him edging to slip for 11.

Archer struck again when Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis was caught hooking but Quinton de Kock passed 50 and helped rebuild the innings with Rassie van der Dussen as the pair guided the visitors over the 100 mark.

However, de Kock fell for 68 when he swung Liam Plunkett away to a fielder in the deep on the leg side and the Proteas slumped to 3/130 after 23.1 overs. The hits kept coming for South Africa when JP Duminy hit Moeen Ali to long off for eight and Dwaine Pretorious was run out for one.

Van der Dussen raised his bat upon reaching a half century of his own but fell immediately afterwards for an even 50 which brought Amla back to the middle after he passed more concussion tests.

There were serious concerns about Amla’s health.
There were serious concerns about Amla’s health.

Andile Phehlukwayo was providing some solid support from the lower order but his innings was ended on 24 by Stokes' screamer. Phehlukwaya slog swept Adil Rashid to deep mid-wicket and Stokes, in off the rope, ran to his right, turned his back, leapt high and wide, stuck out his right hand and miraculously claimed a catch for the ages.

In commentary, Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara said it was "unbelievable" while former England captain Nasser Hussain was stunned.

"No way, no way. You cannot do that Ben Stokes," Hussain said. "That is one of the greatest catches of all time."

Talking about the moment of magic afterwards, Stokes, who was man-of-the-match, said: "I had a bit of a panic on to be honest. I was a little bit further in that I should have been.

"I took a step in and panicked a bit. It gets the nickname the claw so luckily it stuck.

"I didn't know how to react. I knew I shouldn't have been there. It is probably a regulation catch if I am in the right position."

The Twittersphere went wild.

The end came soon after as South Africa was bowled out for 207 inside 40 overs. Archer led the way with three wickets while Stokes and Liam Plunkett both picked up two wickets.

Earlier, it took only a couple of balls for England's campaign to cop an unexpected blow as the surprising tactic of starting with leg-spinner Imran Tahir had an immediate impact for South Africa.

It was the first time a spinner has bowled the opening ball of a World Cup and Tahir struck second ball, tempting Jonny Bairstow forward and catching the outside edge, sending the star back to the sheds for a golden duck.

The English crowd was fearful the pressure of favouritism may have been too much for its team but Jason Roy and captain Joe Root steadied the ship to take the hosts beyond the 100 mark as both men registered half centuries.

Roy (54) and Root (51) fell in quick succession as the Proteas threatened to take control before captain Eoin Morgan and Stokes maintained the rage to help push their side towards 300. Morgan's 57 and Stokes' 89 off 79 balls made it the first time England has ever had four batsmen score half centuries in a World Cup match.

Wickets continued to tumble late in the innings as South African fast bowler Lungi Ngidi mixed his pace up well to snag three scalps, but the Poms batted out their 50 overs to finish at 8/311.

Commentators said the use of spin early on in England's batting innings was part of a plan to target Roy, but the surprise tactic instead caught Bairstow off guard.

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While most are predicting flat batting tracks in the World Cup, The Telegraph's cricket writer Nick Hoult revealed before play England wasn't overly thrilled about playing on a pitch with more grass than expected.

After the first innings England star Root said the deck was tough to bat on, particularly when facing slow bowlers and quicks who were bowling cutters and mixing up their pace.

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