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England romped to a 118-run victory in the second ODI, squaring the ledger at 1-1 ahead of Sunday’s decider at Headingley after bowling out the Proteas for 83.
South Africa never looked like getting close to their target of 202 from the moment they slumped to six for four after four calamitous overs, but at one stage a light sprinkling of rain seemed as though it might save them.
Had England not managed 20 overs the game would have been abandoned without a result, effectively ruining the hosts’ chances of winning the series.
Heinrich Klaasen spotted the opportunity to hold things up, orchestrating a spurious eight-minute delay as he gesticulated and made concerns about a small patch of white at the bottom of the sightscreen, which had been exposed as part of the ground staff’s preparations for a rain break.
It was a clear example of gamesmanship, attempting to extend the innings long enough for conditions to worsen, but it merely succeeded in riling England.
Klaasen was given a verbal volley when home captain Jos Buttler stumped him for 33 and South Africa were all out four balls after the 20-over mark was reached.
Asked for his opinion on the incident, all-rounder Willey said: “What do you think? It was frustrating, to be polite.
“I think it was clear what they were trying to do. They were hoping the rain was going to stick around a bit longer and we’d be off so they could go to Headingley 1-0 up and unable to lose the series.
“I’m thinking Mother Cricket came around, they lost a couple more wickets and the game was beyond them. They knew what they were doing, we knew what they were doing and the umpires just needed to make a call and get on with the game.”
Willey was a central figure in the decisive passage of play, sharing a fine new-ball stint with Reece Topley as the South Africa top order was scattered.
With a host of seamers out injured, the left-arm pair have been reliably impressive feature of England’s hit-and-miss white-ball summer and the 32-year-old is enjoying the responsibility.
“We definitely didn’t expect to win by that margin but we knew we had to bowl well and field well. We put them under pressure and managed to keep our foot on their throat,” he said.
“Reece and I have gone pretty well so far and it helps that we’ve played on some pitches that have been bowler friendly. We’ve both got a little bit out of the pitches, but you’ve got to put the ball in the right place to get the reward. We’ve done quite well and hopefully that can continue.”
Dwaine Pretorius, who took the wickets of Phil Salt, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow in the space of seven balls and still finished on the wrong side of the result, was stoic about his side’s defeat.
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“Sometimes bad days do happen at the office and we can’t let that affect our confidence,” he said.
“Our batting unit has really been on fire and I’m sure they won’t let it affect their games.”