South Africa v England, 6th ODI, Durban

South Africa smiling through the rain

The Wisden Verdict by Steven Lynch

February 11, 2005

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The Wharf factor: Graeme Smith departs for 1 as the returning Alex Wharf strikes early on © Getty Images

In some ways it was a fitting way for the series to be decided. After all, England gleefully sat on their hands as it rained for much of the final Test at Centurion - so it was only fair that South Africa should clinch the one-day series while stuck in the pavilion.

But equally it was an unsatisfactory finale. For the England players, especially Kevin Pietersen on his return to his old home ground - and for the South Africans too, since they had been anxious to press home their new-found supremacy. And above all for the put-upon cricket-lovers of Durban, which surely ought to advertise itself as the Manchester of the South after this soggy showing followed that candlelit Test match, back in December, which ended with Michael Vaughan and his men sitting frustrated on the Kingsmead outfield. At least they didn't get wet.

When play was possible, there were two standout performances. Herschelle Gibbs collected his second century of this series - his 15th in all in ODIs - underlining that old T-shirt slogan about class being permanent. His place was in some doubt at the start of this series, and then he was pushed down the order after falling for 2 in the first one-dayer. Since then he has made any discussion academic with innings of 78, 50, 100, 8, and now 118. This one, like his other sizable contributions, was marked by some silky right-forward drives - and one brutal pull into the back of the stands off a wide-eyed Kabir Ali.

The other early striker was more unexpected - Alex Wharf, who had been in danger of being sighted on tour about as often as Lord Lucan. The combative Wharf had sat out the first five matches, as the tired twosome of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison tried gamely to match Darren Gough's dash and bounce. But today Wharf clicked immediately alongside his fellow Yorkshire exile, reducing South Africa to an embarrassing 1 for 2. He hit the perfect Hoggard length to have Graeme Smith caught behind, and then surprising the apparently unsurpriseable Jacques Kallis with a first-up bouncer.

Wharf did go for a few later on, showing - like Ali - a worrying tendency to prove lip-smackingly hittable when the slog is on. But Gough was superb, finishing up with 2 for 14 - including his 50th one-day wicket against South Africa - in his nine overs.

Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo.

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Steven Lynch Steven Lynch won the Wisden Cricket Monthly Christmas Quiz three years running before the then-editor said "I can't let you win it again, but would you like a job?" That lasted for 15 years, before he moved across to the Wisden website when that was set up in 2000. Following the merger of the two sites early in 2003 he was appointed as the global editor of Wisden Cricinfo. In June 2005 he became the deputy editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He continues to contribute the popular weekly "Ask Steven" question-and-answer column on ESPNcricinfo, and edits the Wisden Guide to International Cricket.
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