Crane is a hit on England cricket debut against South Africa

Sussex-born and raised Mason Crane made a fine England debut as their t20 series with South Africa got under way with the most emphatic of victories at the Ageas Bowl.

Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 11:58 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 5:14 am
Mason Crane on his England debut / Picture by Dave Vokes -

Crane, 20, was joined by Sussex's Chris Jordan in Eoin Morgan's side as they went head to head with the South African tourists - and showed he was totally unfazed by playing on the international stage as he bowled four tidy overs to restrict one of the best batsmen in the world, skipper AB de Villiers.

He helped restrict the tourists to just 142-3 in their 20 overs after they elected to bat - before England knocked off the runs with almost third of the innings to spare.

The former Lancing College and Worthing Cricket Club leg spinner was handed his international cap before the start at what is now his home county ground.

It continued what has been a remarkable year for Crane, who became the first overseas man to appear for New South Wales in just over 30 years when he played in a Sheffield Shield game against South Australia in March.

He didn't have long to wait to get in the action as South Africa chose to bat first and he watched on as David Willey removed JJ Smuts by bowling him first ball.

Reeza Hendricks soon followed Smuts back to the pavilion when he was caught by Willey pulling Mark Wood's first delivery.

de Villers and David Miller began the repair job with a handful of boundaries but Miller's time at the crease was shortlived - he inside-edged Wood to Jos Buttler for nine, leaving South Africa 32-3.

Farhaan Behardien joined his captain and a period of relative calm followed as they sought to build a decent score.

Crane was soon in the action as Morgan brought him on to bowl the eighth over, immediately after his Hants team-mate Liam Dawson had begun the spin spell. Crane's first ball brought an LBW shout, not given, and he could be very satisfied with his first over, which went for only six and included four dot balls.

The Hampshire pair bowled extremely tidily and de Villiers and Behardien just couldn't get them away, so much so that South Africa were on only 73-3 after 12 overs.

Dawson ended with 0-17 off his four overs, Crane with 0-24 - and that would have been better had his final ball not been a full toss despatched to the boundary through the leg side by de Villiers - perhaps with Crane trying a little too hard to get a wicket to finish his spell.

Inevitably the run rate increased once the fast bowlers returned with both Behardien and de Villiers moving towards their 50s with some flamboyant strokes - much-needed if the visitors were to post a defendable total.

de Villiers passed 50 with an impressive six backward of square leg but Jordan came back for a couple of late overs that gave the batsmen further problems, although Behardien did smash Wood for 14 off the penultimate over.

The South African innings ended on 142-3 with Behardien unbeaten on 65 and de Villiers on 64 - leaving England favourites to go one up in the three-game series.

Where South Africa had made batting look hard, as the sun went down, England made it look easy as Jason Roy and Alex Hales set about the run chase with ferocity, both finding the boundary from the word go and Roy seeing 23 runs come from one Wayne Parnell over.

Roy's fun was soon ended as Andile Phehlukwayo trapped him LBW with his first ball as he tried a reverse sweep, the Surrey man frustrated to get out for 28 off just 14 balls at a time when he needs to get a big score behind him for his country.

Hales and Johnny Bairstow continued England's impressive start, taking the score past 70 in the eighth over - and it was a former Hampshire spin bowler, Imran Tahir, in particular who was coming in for some punishment, especially from Bairstow.

England's 100 was up, still with only one man back in the hutch, before the end of the 11th over and the only disappointment for the crowd, if you were looking for a negative, was that they were not going to see anything like the close finish that these games so often throw up - like the one between these two teams in a recent 50-over clash at the same venue.

The victory canter meant none of the Hampshire or Sussex boys got a chance to bat, but they'd done their bit with the ball, so no-one was really complaining.

The winning runs came in the 15th over and Bairstow ended on 60 not out, scored at almost two a ball, and Hales on 47.

The series continues at Taunton on Friday and Cardiff on Sunday.