|First Women’s ODI, Blackfinch New Road, Worcester|
|England 189-9 (50 overs): Brunt 72*; Ismail 3-25, Khaka 3-42|
|South Africa 193-3 (45.3 overs): Lee 92*, Van Niekerk 58|
|South Africa won by seven wickets|
England’s women were soundly beaten by South Africa to lose in their first home match since lifting the World Cup at Lord’s last summer.
The home side were reduced to 97-8 and needed 72 not out from Katherine Brunt to get them to 189-9.
When South Africa slipped to 5-2, all the momentum was with England.
But Lizelle Lee made an unbeaten 92 to guide South Africa to 193-3, giving them a seven-wicket win with 27 balls to spare at Worcester.
Lee shared 113 with captain Dane van Niekerk (58) and an unbroken 75 with Mignon du Preez (36 not out), as well as surviving an apparent catch by Brunt on the long-off boundary.
She got to the boundary edge and her replacement Marizanne Kapp was in the middle when replays showed Brunt to have grounded the catch.
After that reprieve, Lee took South Africa, the World Cup semi-finalists, to their first victory in an away ODI against England since 2003.
The defeat is England’s third in four matches in the International Cricket Council’s Women’s Championship as they look to secure qualification for the 2021 World Cup.
The second ODI of the three-match series is in Hove on Tuesday.
England homecoming falls flat
It had been a wait of 321 days for England to play on home soil, and they marked their return with a disappointing performance.
Not only that, their poor display came a day after plans to double the players’ pay by 2021 were announced.
Their top-order crumbled after captain Heather Knight chose to bat first on a cloudy, humid morning that seemed ideal for bowling.
However, the conditions had little to do with a string of dismissals that involved batters playing across the line or failing to commit to their strokes. South Africa seamers Shabnim Ismail and Ayabonga Khaka profited, taking three wickets each.
Although England were taken to a competitive total by Brunt and looked favourites after the two early wickets, the bowling behind new-ball pair Brunt and Anya Shrubsole was ineffective in the afternoon sunshine.
Brunt keeps England afloat
Number seven Brunt had stopped the rot after England had fallen to 39-4 and 64-6, even if the progress was painstaking. The 12 overs she batted with Jenny Gunn yielded only 16 runs.
After Gunn and Shrubsole fell, England looked helpless, but Brunt found willing allies in Laura Marsh and Sophie Ecclestone.
Clever running inched the score upwards and, when she reached her second ODI half-century, Brunt found the boundary with more regularity. Thirty-three runs came in the final three overs of the innings.
Her ninth-wicket stand with Marsh was worth 51 and the unbroken partnership with number 11 Ecclestone added a further 41 to give England something to bowl at.
Brunt’s 98-ball stay yielded eight fours and left her with her highest one-day international score.
Lee survives to lead South Africa home
When Brunt bowled Laura Wolvaardt, and Sarah Taylor pulled off a brilliant leg-side stumping to remove Sune Luus, South Africa were in danger of subsiding.
But Van Niekerk and Lee counter-attacked – first in the shape of the skipper, who belted a six over mid-wicket in a Gunn over that cost 17 runs.
Wicketkeeper Lee had earlier struggled with the gloves, but played beautifully through the off side, cutting and lofting the ball over the covers.
If the Shrubsole slower ball that bowled Van Niekerk gave England hope, the catch taken by Brunt to apparently remove Lee looked to have handed them a real chance – at that point there were still 52 runs required.
Kapp was about to take guard, England’s fielders were in place, and Lee was one pace from crossing the rope when she was told to wait by the fourth umpire.
The on-field officials called for the third umpire and replays showed the ball had been grounded, almost certainly without Brunt knowing.
The decision deflated England, who became ragged. Taylor missed the opportunity to stump Du Preez off Marsh before Lee hit the same bowler for six to seal victory.
England pace bowler Katherine Brunt told BBC Sport: “It’s really gutting to lose like that because we’re a much better team than we showed.
“We played a few soft shots and we were on the back foot from the beginning. Congratulations to them, they played really well.
“I always love to bowl first, I like to steam out and get my thing done. I didn’t think there was much in it and the wicket played the way it did the whole day.”
On the catch that was not: “I honestly thought I caught it. The umpires made their decision. Hopefully if we get one like that like that they will make a good decision for us.
“You can always come back stronger and that’s what we’re going to do. We need to get rid of some nerves. We’ll keep on the front foot and come out fighting next game.”