England Lions 321 for 4 (Smeed 90, Duckett 85, Banton 57, Eskinazi 52*) beat South Africa 318 for 9 (Malan 103, Miller 55*, Klaasen 51, Payne 4-39, Ahmed 3-54) by six wickets

Was this a case of mistaken identity? As England’s full-strength 50-over side capitulated to a ten-wicket defeat in south London, bowled out for 110 by India, their second-string counterparts blitzed their way to a target of 319 in just 37.1 overs against South Africa in Taunton.
Somerset had made 265 for 5, the highest total in the history of English domestic T20, at this ground on Saturday night and the short boundaries are notoriously inviting. On another excellent batting pitch at their home ground, Will Smeed and Tom Banton added 113 for the first wicket in 13.4 overs – more than the ODI side had managed in 25.2 – to remove any kind of scoring pressure from the chase.
Smeed eventually fell for 90 off 56 balls in what was his first senior 50-over innings, hitting seven fours and six sixes against the same South Africa attack that will be used in next week’s ODI series against England. Ben Duckett and Stephen Eskinazi added 127 for the fourth wicket in 15 overs; Duckett fell with two to win, but Eskinazi hit the winning runs by crashing Marco Jansen through point, bringing up his half-century in the process. The margin of defeat was six wickets, but with as many as 77 balls remaining, this was a genuine thrashing.
South Africa were not overly concerned. “It was good for the batters to spend some time in the middle and get used to the conditions,” Janneman Malan, who top-scored with 103, said. “We always saw today as a warm-up: time in the middle for the boys, time on our feet. Their guys were prepared well for today and they played well but we saw this as a proper warm-up game and it’ll be a competitive game in two days’ time.”
Keshav Maharaj, standing in as captain for the 50-over leg of this tour with Temba Bavuma absent through injury, juggled his bowlers and the tourists used 16 players with either bat or ball; Quinton de Kock, who was rested as a precaution due to a bruised finger, was the only squad member who did not play some part. Thursday’s second tour match, which has List A status, will be a better test of their standing heading into the England series.
But this was still a significant result, one which reasserted the extent of England’s depth in limited-overs cricket – even if the cream of the crop were enduring a rare off-day simultaneously. Like Manchester City, Barcelona and Ajax’s football academies, England have encouraged their developmental sides to play in the same manner as the first team, as evidenced by the team that reached the Under-19 World Cup final earlier this year, and the Lions’ romp had all the hallmarks of the first team’s style. “They fell into the brand that England want to play perfectly,” Malan said. “They obviously have their structures and their blueprint. It looks like they bought into it.”
South Africa started cautiously, working their way to 39 for 1 after the powerplay after Kyle Verreynne had slashed Sam Cook to point. Malan and Reeza Hendricks took a liking to George Scrimshaw’s extra pace, adding 80 for the second wicket, but England’s slower bowlers dragged things back: Benny Howell, making his Lions debut at 34, restricted the scoring with his unique brand of “fast spin” and Jake Lintott, the left-arm wristspinner, had Hendricks caught behind, edging a googly through to Banton.
Malan continued to accumulate, reaching a 112-ball hundred, but was one of three men to fall to Rehan Ahmed, the 17-year-old legspinner, as South Africa looked to take him down. He finished his six overs with figures of 3 for 54 as Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller attacked, but David Payne nailed his yorkers at the death, taking four late wickets to restrict South Africa to 318.

Smeed and Banton, Somerset’s opening pair, were both beaten outside off stump early on but soon found their range, adding 78 inside the 10-over powerplay and taking on Anrich Nortje’s express pace. Banton reached his half-century off 43 balls and whacked his next for six off Maharaj, but then fell looking to repeat the trick as he top-edged to short third.

Smeed, the 20-year-old batter, will not make his List A debut until Thursday and last played a 50-over game in club cricket, but looked like a natural after getting himself set. He generated remarkable power off the back foot against South Africa’s spinners, clubbing Maharaj for two sixes in the space of four balls before hitting a back-to-back pair off Tabraiz Shamsi to fly into the 70s.

He was in no mood to slow down, reaching 90 with a hoick over midwicket off Andile Phehlukwayo, but was bowled a ball later, looking to swing him across the line once more. His innings, off 56 balls, reinforced his status as one of England’s brightest young talents; a full international debut is a matter of when, not if.

Sam Hain came and went for a 17-ball 20 at No. 3 but Duckett and Eskinazi did not let up. Duckett breezed along, scooping and dinking South Africa’s seamers and accumulating at will against spin, while Eskinazi – overlooked by all eight teams in the Hundred – brought up a 36-ball half-century when he hit Jansen for the winning runs, crashing him through point. If England need reinforcements for the second ODI at Lord’s on Thursday, they will not have to look far.