England v South Africa: 3 things we learned from World Cup opener

London (AFP) –


England thrashed South Africa by 104 runs in the opening match of the World Cup on Thursday.

AFP Sports looks at three things we learned from the Oval clash:

Electric Archer makes his mark

Jofra Archer wasted little time proving England's decision to fast-track the electrifying pace bowler was a wise move.

Archer, born in Barbados to a British father, only qualified to play for England in March but the 24-year-old is such a dynamic force that he was appearing in the World Cup after just three previous one-day international appearances.

Initially, some England stars expressed frustration that Archer was being given what they perceived as preferential treatment.

But raw pace was the one element that had been missing from England's attack and it took just two balls to see the extra threat Archer brings when he whizzed a 91 mph (146 kph) rocket past Quinton de Kock at the start of South Africa's run chase.

In his second over, Archer hit Hashim Amla with a ferocious bouncer that crashed into the opener's grille.

Amla was left holding his forehead as South Africa's medical staff checked him out and he was forced to retire hurt before returning later in the match -- to be greeted by another rising delivery from the ruthless Archer.

Aiden Markram had no answer to the Archer onslaught when he fished at another scudding delivery and was caught in the slips by Joe Root.

Faf du Plessis fared no better against Archer, whose 93 mph missile forced him into a mistimed hook that was caught on the boundary by Moeen Ali.

Roaring with delight, Archer had dismantled the South African top order and underlined why his presence has strengthened the belief that hosts England are the tournament favourites.

Archer was given a standing ovation by the Oval crowd after taking his third wicket, dismissing Rassie van der Dussen with his latest lethal bouncer to complete a devastating spell.

Stokes back in the groove

Ben Stokes showed England can rely on the temperamental all-rounder as his measured 89 played a key role in their victory.

Stokes had struggled to hit the heights he showed before being acquitted of affray last year following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub.

The controversial 27-year-old all-rounder returned from the Indian Premier League earlier this year out of form with both bat and ball.

But he showed a glimpse of his magic touch during the recent one-day series against Pakistan when his unbeaten 71 steered England to a win at Trent Bridge.

Building on that morale-boosting effort, Stokes played the leading role as England combated a tricky pitch to make a winning start to their bid for a first World Cup triumph.

Stokes brought up his half-century in style with three fours in four deliveries, but this was not just a show of brute force.

Hitting nine fours in his 79-ball innings, Stokes put on a mature century partnership with Eoin Morgan to keep England on track.

Stokes' cathartic day also included two wickets and one of the most astonishing catches in World Cup history.

Diving backwards to dismiss Andile Phehlukwayo with a one-handed catch on the boundary, Stokes' sensational effort was immediately labelled "the catch of the century" by the BBC's Phil Tufnell.

Tahir twist surprises England

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis sprang an early surprise when he asked leg spinner Imran Tahir to bowl the first over of the match.

With fast bowler Dale Steyn sidelined by a shoulder injury, Du Plessis gambled that making Tahir the first spinner to bowl the first ball of a World Cup would unsettle England.

At 40, Tahir is the oldest player in this edition of the World Cup, but he has enjoyed a superb spell in the past five years and he rose to the challenge issued by De Plessis as he dismissed England opener Jonny Bairstow with the second ball of the match.

Bairstow's edge behind to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock gave South Africa a dream start but they were unable to capitalise.