Ellie Cardwell scored 34 goals as England got off to a winning start in their Netball International Series against South Africa in Manchester.
In their first home match since claiming the runners-up spot in the World Cup in August, the hosts held off a strong South African fightback to come through 54-51 in the first of their three-match series.
Jess Thirlby, the head coach, handed out five debuts and England started well with Imogen Allison especially impressive as they finished the first quarter with a 16-11 advantage.
England extended their lead to eight points after the second quarter but South Africa edged the third by a point and came on strong late on, forcing the Roses to hold on to secure their win.
“We know we’ve got more to come but that is really exciting,” Thirlby told Sky Sports. “I am really pleased with the players that came off the bench as they are perceived to be the lesser experienced ones.
“There were some really pleasing signs and to know we’ve got more to come but to still be able to take a win against a stellar team like South Africa, with some really experienced players, is a great sign.”
Fran Williams captained England for the first time while Cardwell, Funmi Fadoju and Allison featured for the first time since the World Cup.
“It felt great to be back out there,” Allison, who was named player of the match, told Sky Sports.
“You could feel they were on a run (in the final quarter) so it was important to stay connected as a unit. We went a bit quiet in the third quarter so that’s maybe why she moved me to wing defence so I had more in my lungs to shout.
“This squad is really special. It is really special to be there. We’re really gelling as a team and coming together. There is a huge sense of pride. We are loving the journey.”