Eoin Morgan’s side were set 190 to win
England are into the T20 World Cup semi-finals as winners of their Super 12s group but a first defeat of the campaign against South Africa was compounded by a leg injury to Jason Roy.
Rassie van der Dussen’s career-best 94 not out and a sparkling, unbeaten 52 off just 25 balls from Aiden Markram in a boundary-laden unbroken 103-run partnership underpinned what was an insurmountable 189 for two for the Proteas.
After clearing hurdles of 87 and 106 to respectively secure a place in the knockout stages and then top spot in group one, England finished on 179 for eight to lose by 10 runs following Kagiso Rabada’s last over hat-trick.
They raced to 37 without loss in four overs but Roy then collapsed in agony after setting off for a run, completed with a hobble, and was carried off the field, with England now facing an anxious wait over the opener’s fitness.
The teams served up an instant classic in their last meeting in this tournament, with England reaching a 230 target five years ago, and they required 14 from the last over here, but Rabada held his nerve spectacularly at the death.
He had earlier been hammered for three successive sixes by Liam Livingstone, the first measured at a tournament-record 112 metres, but then snared Eoin Morgan, Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan, who were all caught in the deep.
While England reflected on a first defeat of the campaign after four successive wins, South Africa’s inability to restrict their opponents to 131 or less means Australia qualify along with Morgan’s side for the last four.
South Africa finished level on eight points alongside England and Australia but it was the old rivals who progressed courtesy of their superior net run-rate.
Australia’s handsome victory over the West Indies meant South Africa needed a big win but they lost the toss ahead of their first night game, with England opting to field and bringing in Mark Wood for the injured Tymal Mills.
Moeen Ali was once again tidy and had his fifth powerplay wicket of the tournament when Reeza Hendricks was castled after missing a slog sweep to one that kept low, but Quinton de Kock’s reverse sweeps and Van der Dussen combining raw power with some shrewd scoops soon put England under pressure.
While Van der Dussen was fortunate to survive an England review for lbw off Chris Jordan due to umpire’s call on impact alone and then spliced into a vacant short cover in the returning Wood’s first over, De Kock was not so fortunate as he slammed Adil Rashid to long-on to depart for 34 off 27 balls.
It proved to be England’s last breakthrough of the evening. Wood’s 90mph-plus pace was used against him as Van der Dussen pulled the bowler mightily to take South Africa into three figures, shortly after bringing up a 35-ball fifty via a scampered single, while Markram was soon into the action with a huge mow over midwicket off Rashid.
Woakes disappeared for 21 in his final over to collect unflattering figures of 4-0-43-0 while Wood conceded 47 on his comeback as Van der Dussen and Markram finished with a flourish, adding 71 runs in the last 30 deliveries.
England’s ragged fielding towards the conclusion saw them concede several overthrows before Markram brought up a 24-ball half-century with the last of his four sixes in Jordan’s last over, with Van der Dussen also clearing the boundary for the sixth time to go with five fours although he finished six shy of a ton in a fine 60-ball knock.
Jos Buttler started his innings with a tournament average of 214 and got into a groove with three fours in four balls off Rabada but after Roy retired hurt on 20, Buttler slammed to mid-off for 26 off 15 balls.
There were some nerves when Jonny Bairstow was lbw to Tabraiz Shamsi but Moeen (37) and Dawid Malan (33) steadied course, with the former making sure they would finish ahead of Australia in the standings with a meaty, straight 102-metre six off Shamsi.
Moeen holed out from the next ball and South Africa started to put on the squeeze. England needed 71 from the last 31 balls but Malan cleared long-off before Livingstone (28) tucked into the expensive Rabada (three for 48) with gusto.
Malan and Livingstone fell to Dwaine Pretorius to catches outside the ring and while a couple of big hits from Morgan and Woakes made sure England were still in with a fight heading into the last over, Rabada had the final say with three wickets from the first three balls.