George Dockrell struck his highest T20 international score and Lorcan Tucker top-scored with 78 as Ireland gave South Africa a scare in Bristol last night before succumbing to a 21-run defeat in the first of a two-match mini series.

Dockrell and Tucker came together with the Boys in Green in trouble on 84-5 in the 10th over after the loss of three quick wickets, and added 86 for the sixth wicket to keep Ireland in with a sniff of chasing down a tough target of 212.

Wicketkeeper Tucker, who is relishing his new role at No 3, hit five maximums and seven fours before he mis-judged a slog sweep and departed at the end of the 17th over, and with 42 still needed, last hope Dockrell, who smashed three sixes, was caught in the deep next ball for 43.

Both players can be sure of their places in the Ireland squad for this autumn’s T20 World Cup in Australia but again there was disappointment in ‘home’ camp as they finished on 190-9 and a spirited display did not produce a first win of the summer.

In a change of tactics, Ireland had opened the bowling with Andy McBrine, who was replacing injured seamer Craig Young, and the move worked well as the off-spinner conceded just three runs in his first over.

Harry Tector then struck a key blow by running out superstar opener Quinton de Kock for seven before half-centuries from Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram laid the foundations for an above-par total of 211-5.