Prince trumps Pietersen to secure SA victory
South Africa 241 for 7 (Prince 62*, Smith 47) beat England 240 (Pietersen 116, Giles 41) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Three centuries in five innings, and not a victory to show for them. Kevin Pietersen kept his most extraordinary performance of an extraordinary series until the very end, but it was not enough to rescue England from a dire start to the seventh and final one-day international at Centurion. Pietersen made 116 from 110 balls - including 82 in a rollicking last 37 - to haul England back from the brink at 68 for 6 after 25 overs, but South Africa were always ahead of the rate. Despite a late clatter of wickets, Ashwell Prince scored his maiden one-day fifty to guide South Africa to a 4-1 series win.
The match ultimately came down to the penultimate over, but at the mid-point of England's innings, it didn't seem as though things would last beyond the lunch break. Four South African bowlers - Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and Nicky Boje - all struck in the opening over of their spells, as a succession of English batsmen came and went in a series of limp dismissals. Marcus Trescothick made a second-ball duck, Michael Vaughan was bowled by Ntini for 1, and when Paul Collingwood was run out while seeking a suicidal single to square leg, it was as if the team was already checking out the duty free at Johannesburg airport.
Pietersen, however, remained steadfast throughout the collapse, hoping against hope that one of his colleagues would find the necessary resolve to stay with him. His faith paid off, however, as Ashley Giles proved once again what a staunch batsman he has become. He and Pietersen set about rebuilding the innings, adding 104 in 13 overs of increasingly assured strokeplay, and the platform was laid for Pietersen's habitual late assault.
The revival began slowly as Pietersen and Giles put mere survival ahead of any run-scoring intent, and by the start of the 35th over, England were still three short of reaching three figures. But Giles responded by clubbing a Pollock slower ball over midwicket for four, and when he followed up with a deft late-cut that also flew away to the boundary, that was the cue for Pietersen to cut loose at the other end as well.
Up to that point, Pietersen had made 34 from 73 balls with just two fours to his name, but he then swept Boje over midwicket for six twice in three balls, and would have added a straight-driven four as well, had it not been for the stumps at the non-striker's end. He brought up his half-century - his fourth in six innings - in the next over before driving Nel through the covers for four, and he had cleared the midwicket boundary on two more occasions before Ntini yorked Giles for 41 - his highest and timeliest one-day score - with his first ball of a new spell.
That didn't stop Pietersen's fun, however. He cracked Ntini over long-on in the same over, before taking 11 runs from Jacques Kallis's first over of the match, and six balls later he had reached his hundred - an Ntini full-toss was biffed for four, a length delivery was moosed over midwicket, and with one ball of the over remaining, Pietersen scampered through for a tight single, and celebrated his century with an undignified and unintended moon to the crowd, after an accidental collision with the retreating Ntini.
Two more fours and a sixth six followed as the runs continued to pour, although Andrew Hall eventually removed his off stump with 14 balls of the innings remaining. The Centurion crowd put aside the controversies and stood as one to acknowledge his phenomenal efforts, and though Hall cleaned up with two wickets in three balls, a total of 240 was perhaps 100 runs beyond England's wildest expectations.
South Africa made a measured response - given England's early travails, they hardly needed to blast out of the blocks - as Smith and Hall added 46 for the first wicket without a great deal of hassle. In the absence of Darren Gough, who was suffering from a virus, England opened with Alex Wharf and the recalled Steve Harmison, who bowled with pace and looked as threatening as he has done all tour. He, at least, seemed inspired by the prospect of a flight home, and demonstrated this with a fantastic low catch at fine leg to remove Hall for 23.
With yet more of Centurion's notorious bad weather lingering, both sides had an eye on the Duckworth-Lewis calculations - and South Africa were easing in front by the 20-over mark, the point at which a result may be calculated. An unforced error from Smith, however, opened the door again for England, as he chipped Giles to mid-on for 47. Harmison immediately returned to the attack and trapped Herschelle Gibbs for a second-ball duck, but he was unable to make any further impressions, as Prince fended him off with skill and style in the gloomy conditions.
Harmison's eventual figures of 1 for 55 didn't do his efforts justice, but they did reflect the fact that South Africa were firmly in command. That remained the case, even when Jacques Kallis inexplicably holed out to long-on, to give a gobsmacked Vaughan a wicket from his very first ball of the match. It was the start of an impressive spell from Vaughan, whose slow loopy deliveries proved tricky to get off the square, but Mark Boucher chipped in with a punchy 44 from 40 balls to fend off England's advances.
Boucher was run out in a mix-up over a second run, and Justin Kemp and Shaun Pollock fell cheaply, but with Prince in command, the victory was a formality. Which, after reducing England to 68 for 6 after 25 overs, was always likely to be the case, Pietersen's heroics notwithstanding.