Joe Denly scored a gritty half-century as England beat South Africa by two wickets in the third and final match on Sunday to level the three-match 1-1 ODI series. Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root also made significant contributions to take England over the line in a cliffhanger at The Wanderers Stadium.

What appeared like an easy win for England at one stage turned into a scare after the visiting side suffered a mini-collapse. With just 25 runs away from victory, England lost four more wickets in no time to infuse life into a one-sided contest. Denly’s wicket opened the floodgates for the visitors followed by Tom Banton, Tom Curran and Adil Rashid’s wicket.

South Africa had won the opening game of the series while the second was washed out due to bad weather.

Aiming for a series win, the Proteas were restricted to 256/7 after England skipper Eoin Morgan asked them to bat first. SA skipper Quinton de Kock continued his fine form and contributed with 69 off 81 balls. David Miller also smashed a 53-ball 69 towards the end of the innings to drag the hosts from a hole and take them to a challenging total on a wicket where batting was not easy.

For England, leg-spinner Adil Rashid was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3/51.

Chasing 257 for victory, England openers Jason Roy (21) and Jonny Bairstow (43) shared a 61-run stand to provide a solid platform but once Bairstow was removed by Lutho Sipamla, they kept losing wickets with Denly (66) holding one end up.

Root (49) and Banton (32) aided the cause with handy knocks but it was allrounder Moeen Ali (17 not out) in the end who took his side over the line with 40 balls remaining and more importantly, two wickets in hand.

For South Africa, Lungi Ngidi and Beuran Hendricks picked up three wickets each.

Brief scores: South Africa 256/7 (Quinton de Kock 69, David Miller 69 not out; Adil Rashid 3/51; England Joe Denly 66; Lungi Ngidi 3/63, Beuran Hendricks 3/59)