England all rounder Ben Stokes pulled off an absolute blinder to to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo in England’s World Cup opener at the Oval on Thursday. The allrounder, standing just off the boundary rope, turned and produced a fine one-handed grab to send his South African counterpart back in the hutch. Andile Phehlukwayo’s shot looked destined to go for a six until the Durham man stuck out a paw to take one of the great catches in the long history of international cricket.
It all happened on the first ball of the 35th over when Phehlukwayo attempted to play a slog sweep off the bowling of Moeen Ali. Stokes, who was fielding at deep mid wicket, took a few steps backward and timed to jump to perfection to pull off a one handed stunner before kicking it away and celebrating in front of the Oval crowd. Sky Sports commentator Nasser Hussain was full of praise for Stokes and branded the catch the ‘greatest of all time’.
“No way! No, no way! You cannot do that Ben Stokes!” the former England captain said.
Legendary Sri Lanka batsman Kumar Sangakkara added “It is unbelievable stuff. You have to see it to believe it. It has happened too quick for everyone here. It was travelling but it is the best I have seen for a long time.”
Those comments were echoed by Phil Tuffnell, who was reporting on the World Cup opener for BBC’s Test Match Special and branded it as the ‘catch of the century’.
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The dismissal of Phehlukwayo saw the Proteas lose their seventh wicket leaving them reeling at 180/7 in 34.1 overs chasing 312. Earlier in the day, England set South Africa a total of 311 in the World Cup opener with Stokes scoring an impressive 89. Jonny Bairstow was caught behind off the second delivery of the match but Stokes helped England post 311/8 with an impressive 89 off just 79 balls, with Eoin Morgan (57), Jason Roy (54) and Joe Root (51) also reaching their half centuries.
South Africa were eventually dismissed for 207 in 39.5 overs as favourites England started their World Cup 2019 on a winning note. England were made to wait for the breakthrough with the ball but Archer soon got to work, picking up three wickets in his opening spell to put South Africa on the back foot. Stokes however had the final say in the match as he got the last two wickets, bowling out tailenders Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada to claim victory for England.