England and South Africa will face each other one final time in the Twenty20 global series at Sophia Gardens on Sunday with the victor taking it all.
Jos Buttler, standing in as captain for the rested Eoin Morgan, paid tribute to Malan's knock, while also praising the character of 20-year-old leg-spinner Mason Crane (1-38), who came in for some punishment at the hands of AB de Villiers before snaring the South Africa captain for his first worldwide wicket.
Jos Buttler took over the captaincy from the rested Morgan with Jonny Bairstow and Liam Dawson also dropping out from the side which had lost by three runs at Taunton on Friday.
Chris Jordan took 3-31 and Tom Curran - in only his second game - 2-22 to restrict the Proteas in their chase.
But the skipper's absence from a pivotal match, with the series tied at 1-1, drew the ire of several pundits and former players.
But it was another debutant, Dawid Malan who really saved Morgan's face with a superb 78 as the rock of England's strong total of 180-8. "It's tough, but it's a call you have to make looking to the long-term".
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"I don't think playing one game, you can't think you've made it", he said. The SA skipper was going at two runs per ball and Crane was under a lot of pressure bowling to one of the best batsmen in the world and getting hammered.
Normal service resumed for South Africa's men in Cardiff, where England clinched the T20 series but their women counterparts got their World Cup campaign off to a rousing start with victory over Pakistan in Leicester.
But when he was out for 35, caught in the deep off leg-spinner Mason Crane, the Springboks never got going again.
He brought his half-century up with a clip to the fine leg boundary off Tahir and looked well set to go onto an even bigger score before miscuing a big swipe down the ground off the same bowler, Dane Paterson holding the catch to dismiss him for an unforgettable 78.
This high-profile first scalp for the leg-spinner was the moment when the game's destiny felt secure too, with De Villiers responding to three early wickets from Jordan, Curran and Liam Plunkett through some typically brutal hitting. The young team has bounced back well and will be hoping for another good show in Cardiff.
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