CHESTER-LE-STREET: Jacques Kallis guided South Africa to a seven-wicket win over World Twenty20 champions England in the first Twenty20 international at Chester-le-Street on Saturday.
The Proteas were in trouble at 29 for three, chasing a seemingly modest 119 for victory.
But opener Kallis, returning to international duty after being rested from the drawn one-day series between the two countries, made 48 not out off 44 balls with seven fours.
Together with left-hander JP Duminy (47 not out) he shared an unbroken stand of 90 in 91 deliveries as the Proteas, who won with an over to spare, went 1-0 up in a three-match series ahead of this month's World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
“We were 20 or 30 short, we didn't adapt to the condition of the pitch or bat to our average,” England Twenty20 captain Stuart Broad told Sky Sports.
“We got a little bit stuck with the spin. We played nicely through the first six overs, but struggled in the middle period. We are aware of that and we know where to improve.”
England can expect to face plenty of spin on receptive pitches in Sri Lanka but Broad, like Kallis returning after being rested from the one-dayers, had no undue worries about his team's ability to play slow bowling.
“It's not too much of a concern, we need to adapt and learn from this game,” he said ahead of Monday's second match in Manchester.
South Africa captain AB de Villiers praised his attack, with man-of-the-match Dale Steyn taking one for 13 in four overs and spinners Robin Peterson and Johan Botha sharing four wickets, for setting up this victory.
“The bowling was brilliant, led by Dale Steyn. He bowled with a lot of pace and looked like taking wickets throughout,” said de Villiers.
“We never allowed England to get momentum.”
Steyn added: “I can live with bowling one-over spells. It's a lot easier than Test matches.”
South Africa saw hard-hitting opener Richard Levi caught in the slips off Jade Dernbach and Twenty20 international debutant Faf du Plessis lbw to fast bowler Steven Finn.
De Villiers was then caught behind by Craig Kieswetter off Dernbach for 10.
South Africa were now 29 for three and England, all but out of the contest after their innings, were back in the game.
But if South Africa could produce one decent partnership they would win and in world class all-rounder Kallis and left-hander Duminy they had the men for the job in the absence of the rested Hashim Amla.
Ultimately England's 118 for seven – their third lowest total in this format – did not give their bowlers enough of a score to defend.
Spin bowling, long regarded as the Proteas' Achilles heel, accounted for four England wickets with Botha (two for 19) and left-armer Peterson (two for 27), striking after de Villiers won the toss.
At 85 for seven, England were in danger of posting their worst Twenty20 total before an unbroken stand of 33 in 27 balls between Broad and Graeme Swann, who both finished on 18 not out, gave them a foothold in the match.
No England batsman made more than opener Kieswetter's 25.
England's collapse started with a needless run out.
Alex Hales, who made an England Twenty20 best 99 against the West Indies in June after replacing the still exiled Kevin Pietersen, charged down the pitch for a non-existent single and, turning back, was run out by Kallis's direct hit.
Kieswetter then fell when he was plumb lbw to Botha's first ball.
And Ravi Bopara, who averaged just 5.50 with the bat during the one-dayers, fell cheaply in familiar fashion when he edged Steyn to Botha at slip.
Botha then struck again when he bowled dangerman Eoin Morgan for 10, after the former Ireland left-hander bottom edged a pull-sweep.