Sophia Dunkley makes history as England cruise past South Africa

Sophia Dunkley made history at ­Bristol by becoming the first black woman to score a century for ­England – an innings which helped propel her side to an unassailable 337 for five and go 6-2 up in their multi-format series against South Africa.

Half-centuries from Emma Lamb, Tammy Beaumont and Nat Sciver provided good support for Dunkley, England’s newly promoted No 3, before debutante Issy Wong (three for 36) combined with Charlie Dean (four for 53) to bowl South Africa out for 223 in 41 overs as England sealed the one-day international win by 114 runs.

“It was nice to get some runs in my new role at No 3 and show people what I can do,” Dunkley said. “For me it’s just going out and playing how I can, batting quite aggressively. At the start I did struggle a little bit but settling in and getting a partnership with Nat really helped.”

South Africa had reached 87 without loss, keeping well up with the required rate thanks to a 41-ball half-century from Laura Wolvaardt. But when Dean had her caught at mid-on in the 16th, it sparked a collapse of six wickets for 51 runs which fatally dented their chase.

Both Wong and Lauren Bell chimed in with maiden scalps – Bell holding on at mid-on after Wong tempted Lara Goodall into the drive, before Dean returned the favour at mid-off to hand Bell the scalp of Shabnim Ismail. Only a 59-ball 73 from Marizanne Kapp provided any resistance.

South Africa had hoped the reintroduction of Ismail would reinvigorate their bowling, after she missed the Test and the first ODI with a calf strain. But while her opening over featured a beauty of a nip-backer to Lamb, followed by a maiden to the in-form right-hander, she finished up her duties by feeling the sharp end of Dunkley’s prodigious talents – punished for 16 runs off a single over. That included a six uppercut over backward point in picture-perfect fashion.

Earlier, Lamb and Beaumont had cashed in on the consistent width offered up by the South African attack, bringing up half-centuries within three overs of each other. It’s a mark of how at home Lamb already looks in international cricket that her innings was the crisper and speedier of the two – taking 54 balls, in comparison to Beaumont’s 64.

The only dip came when Chloe Tryon was introduced in the 22nd over: the change of pace disrupted the England openers, and both fell rather limply. Lamb top-edged a rank full toss to short fine leg, and though Beaumont was handed a life by Nonkululeko Mlaba at mid-on on 52, she fell in the next over, tonking an easy catch to Ismail at mid-off.

Dunkley began cautiously, not helped by being rapped on the helmet by an Ismail bouncer early in her innings. But the respite did not last long for the South Africans. With Sciver continuing her outstanding form at the other end, eventually sweeping Ayabonga Khaka to bring up her fourth consecutive fifty-plus score in international cricket from just 39 balls, Dunkley was given license to hit out and she did.

England added 105 runs in the final 10 overs; by the time Dunkley brought up her century in the 48th, South Africa’s captain, Sune Luus, had no answers except a respectful handshake.