The South Africans barely broke sweat in this, the first of their warm-up games for the forthcoming one day international series against England which begins at Headingley a week today. Despite a solid 50 by Rob Key, the England Lions captain, and a couple of chunky, but ultimately inadequate contributions with the bat from Luke Wright, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara, the Lions were unable to set a challenging enough total for the South Africans to chase.
"We let ourselves down a bit," said Key. "We weren't particularly smart with the bat and did not threaten with the ball."
Spearheaded by Herschelle Gibbs (81), the tourists cruised to a comfortable victory with 68 balls to spare. The veteran 34-year-old Gibbs, who was playing in his 344th 50-over match, had his share of luck. When he had made 13 he clipped a ball from Steve Kirby straight to Key at short mid-wicket, but a no ball was called. Later Gibbs admitted: "I was lucky to get away with being caught off a no ball, but I thought then that maybe it was going to be a good day for me."
That was as close to understatement as it gets. He had stroked his way to within sight of a deserved hundred when he stepped down to Luke Wright and edged an attempted drive to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
By the time of his dismissal South Africa were within 31 runs of victory. Gibbs' innings had lasted two hours and on the way he passed 10,500 runs in List A cricket. He faced 104 balls and hit half a dozen fours as well as one of only two sixes in the match – the other was by Key to round off a savage little burst at the expense of Makhaya Ntini.
Gibbs and acting captain AB de Villiers laid the foundations for the win with a 49-run third-wicket stand. JP Duminy then joined Gibbs in the biggest partnership of the match, 66, which looked to have demoralised the Lions, who had been disappointingly limp with bat and ball.
The England total flattered them a little, since South Africa put down four catches, one of them before Shah had got off the mark. A clip to square leg would have resulted in a brilliant catch had Duminy managed to get more than a finger tip to the ball.
Shah was also dropped on 20, opener Joe Denly on two and Bopara on five. But the Lions still gave away some soft wickets. They travel to Derby for the second warm-up match tomorrow.