Roy made a welcome return to form as he took South Africa apart with a 45-ball 67, but was adjudged out obstructing the field. © Getty Images

Roy made a welcome return to form as he took South Africa apart with a 45-ball 67, but was adjudged out obstructing the field. © Getty Images

England lost their way after Jason Roy was extraordinarily adjudged out obstructing the field as South Africa completed a three-run heist to level the three-match Twenty20 International series at Taunton on Friday (June 23).

Skipper AB de Villiers had set South Africa on their way with a 20-ball 46 to offset Tom Curran’s 3 for 33 on his England debut as the visitors made 174 for 8 after being put in by Eoin Morgan. England looked on course for another bruising victory as Roy smashed 67 off 45 deliveries and Jonny Bairstow made 47, but were pegged back in the final overs and were forced to settle for 171 for 6.

The result leaves the three-match series all square at 1-1, following England’s nine-wicket win in the first game in Southampton on Wednesday. The decider will be played in Cardiff on Sunday.

Roy made a welcome return to form as he took South Africa apart despite losing Sam Billings early in the chase. He and Bairstow added 110 for the second wicket, Bairstow having reached 47 off 37 when he was dismissed by the niggardly Chris Morris.

England began the last five overs needing 42 for victory with eight wickets standing, but Roy was adjudged obstructing the field by Tim Robinson, the TV umpire. Having been sent back by Liam Livingstone, another debutant, Roy seemed to change direction as he ran across the pitch on turning, and the throw struck him on the boot. Morris followed it up by conceding just two runs in the next five deliveries, leaving England requiring 40 off 24 deliveries.

Dane Paterson and Andile Phehlukwayo took out the key wickets of Morgan and Jos Buttler respectively so that when the final over began, England required 12 to wrap up the series. Phehlukwayo conceded a single each off the first three deliveries, Livingstone was run out off the fourth looking for a non-existent second run, and Liam Dawson then struck a boundary to bring it down to four needed off the last ball.

Dawson swung and failed to make any contact off the final ball as South Africa got out of jail famously, scoring an unlikely victory to keep the series alive.

“Everyone in the changing room thought it could go either way so it’s not massively controversial,” said Morgan after the match. “You can see why the umpires gave him out. Jason obviously looked at the fielder but after that he ran in a straight line so that’s why it was a 50-50 call. They were certainly entitled to appeal and the spirit of the game is open to interpretation.

“We were going really well for much of the chase but we lost a wicket at a crucial moment and nobody was able to take it up after that. We still had me and Jos (Buttler) coming in after that so we had enough firepower and experience to win the game but we didn’t. We didn’t deserve to win because we didn’t capitalise on the start we had.”

In the evening, Curran, the son of Kevin, the late former Zimbabwe international, struck with just his second ball in international cricket when Reeza Hendricks bottom-edged a pull onto his stumps.

But Mangaliso Mosehle, the wicketkeeper-batsman promoted up the order, pulled the lively Curran for six. He broke his bat in the process but, with a new blade, still drove the next ball down the ground for four.

Jon-Jon Smuts, the opener, hit a scorching straight four off Curran that would have taken out Michael Gough, the umpire, but for a deflection off the stumps. But Mosehle (15), after breaking his second bat as well, was caught behind gloving a slower ball from Liam Plunkett (2 for 36).

Smuts struck Dawson for six but the left-arm spinner had his revenge when the batsman, on 45, completed mistimed a full toss and was caught by Plunkett at short fine-leg. The dangerous David Miller fell for just eight when he edged Plunkett through to Buttler behind the stumps.

De Villiers kept the runs coming, hitting four sixes in his 20-ball innings — including an extraordinary sweep off one knee against David Willey, the left-arm paceman, that saw the ball fly out of the ground and into the River Tone. Willey, to his credit, had de Villiers caught in the covers next ball.

Curran then had Morris, the allrounder, caught in the deep off a slower ball. Curran, 22, showed his range of deliveries by bowling Phehlukwayo for a golden duck with an excellent yorker. Farhaan Behardien added a useful 32 before he was lbw to the often wayward Chris Jordan in the last over.