England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 5th day August 20, 2012

South Africa hold nerve to take No. 1


South Africa 309 (Philander 61, Duminy 61, Finn 4-75) and 351 (Amla 121, Finn 4-74) beat England 315 (Bairstow 95, Bell 58, Morkel 4-80, Steyn 4-94) and 294 (Prior 73, Trott 63, Bairstow 54, Philander 5-30) by 51 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

South Africa displaced England at the top of the Test rankings with a 51-run victory in the third Test at Lord's to secure a 2-0 victory in the series. It was a thoroughly merited victory by a side that had dominated the series but England, forced by desperate circumstances to play with daring, went down with a spirit that for a partisan crowd made their failure easier to bear.

For South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, there must have been just a few flutters of doubt before the greatest triumph of his formidable reign was confirmed and he received the mace from the ICC chief executive, Dave Richardson. He has had too many disappointments for there not to be. It was appropriate that the moment he knew victory must belong to South Africa was when Matt Prior was ninth out for 73 and he plunged for the red ball at first slip with hands like an apple catcher.

One ball later came South Africa's victory, Steven Finn pushing at Vernon Philander and this time Jacques Kallis holding on at second slip. Philander, who until Lord's had been largely overshadowed. finished with 5 for 30 and had top-and-tailed England with each new ball in turn. Good runs as well made him a worthy recipient of the Man-of-the-Match award.

England had tried, and failed, throughout the series to overcome South Africa with tight disciplined cricket. They had been rolled by an innings in the first Test at The Oval but, in the closing moments of another defeat at Lord's, they had at least piqued their superior opponents with adventure. Perhaps it carried a significant message that their strategy had been too narrow. Perhaps it was nothing more than a last fling.

What could not be disguised was that England's reign at No 1 has been nightmarish: six defeats in 11 and Test series defeats against Pakistan and South Africa, this latest setback representing their worst home defeat since the 2001 Ashes series. Despite that, the captain, Andrew Strauss, is still held in high regard, although he will want this praise to centre upon run-making, a united dressing room and tactical acumen rather than his undoubted managerial skills.

At tea, England needed 125 from 33 overs with three wickets left and the new ball 10 overs away and calculated that the difference between old ball and new had been so pronounced in this Test that those 10 overs should be met with all-out attack. Prior and Graeme Swann added 62 from 8.4 overs, but Swann perished before the new ball, skilfully thrown out by Imran Tahir at the bowler's end as he tried to steal a single through gully.

Prior survived Duminy's catch in the deep when Morne Morkel overstepped and survived again when AB de Villiers narrowly missed a stumping chance off Imran Tahir, both on 67, but from the moment the new ball was taken, the match shifted South Africa's way.

It was Jonny Bairstow whose ebullient half-century - 54 from 47 balls from the depths of 45 for 4 - first sought a route to victory, an overgrown path strewn with pitfalls, a fourth-innings target of 346 of a magnitude England had never achieved. Tahir, bowling his legspin around the wicket into the rough, scuttled one through his defences three overs into the afternoon session as he trusted to the back foot.

Broad was in jaunty, stand-and-deliver mode, a suitable approach considering his long-standing run of failures playing in more orthodox style, never better than when he pulled Dale Steyn into the grandstand for six. Another hook, an excellent bouncer delivered by Kallis in the penultimate over before tea, brought his downfall as Hashim Amla took an assured catch at long leg.

Jonathan Trott was the mainstay of England's subjugated top order, making 63 from 159 balls, an innings ended by Steyn in mid-afternoon, courtesy of a fast catch, diving to his left at second slip, by the evergreen Kallis. But until his ambition was recalibrated by the example of Bairstow, Trott had been in danger of burying deep into his own brain. The situation demanded that he played well out of his comfort zone and he gave the impression of attacking zeal without really moving the score along, playing and missing regularly.

Any batsman had a right to struggle against an attack of high quality in what, while the ball retained its hardness, were favourable bowling conditions. South Africa had had his measure throughout the series and it showed.

Trott was also stung forward by a mix-up that led to the run-out of James Taylor. This was England's nadir, for which Trott had to take the majority of the blame.

When Trott clipped Steyn wide of mid-on, and Amla chased towards long-on, the lack of running urgency suggested that both batsmen had settled for a dawdling three. In fact, were it not for an outfield slowed by repairs after the Olympics archery, it would have been four. The final arrow was about to plunge deep into England's ambitions that they might square the series.

Steyn, the bowler, was so convinced all meaningful action was complete that he collected his sun hat from the umpire before the call of "over." But Trott turned in invitation of a fourth. Taylor, who was running to the danger end, accepted with alacrity only for Trott to turn his back and leave Taylor stranded as Steyn transferred to the wicketkeeper.

England's 16 for 2 from 13 overs overnight was no sort of platform. Trott and Ian Bell had clung on during the fourth evening in expectation of a more comfortable morning. But the morning was overcast and the ball hooped around for every South Africa pace bowler in turn. Instead of easing into the task, they began as if disorientated by an unwanted alarm call.

Bell did not manage to add a run, his score 4 from 37 balls when he drove without conviction at Philander and was caught by Smith, second attempt, at first slip. When Taylor became the fourth batsman to fall, England had scrambled 29 in 13 overs, aware of the target but unable to develop any coherent approach to it.

England's spirit persisted. Like Bairstow and Broad before him, Swann, ideal for such an escapade, played with dash. He sauntered down the pitch to hoist Tahir's legspin for six, and pulled Kallis high into the Mound Stand. Prior passed 50 by twice reverse sweeping Tahir and serenely drove Morkel over mid-on. It was fun but, in the final analysis, perhaps it did not mean all that much.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on August 23, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    @Wefinishthis on (August 23 2012, 09:21 AM GMT) Pretty much the same batting line up which chased 300+ vs SA last year

  • Chris on August 23, 2012, 9:21 GMT

    MattyP1979 you're having a laugh, this is Australia's most brittle batting lineup in decades, the openers Cowan (inexplicably averages in the 20's, less than our best fast bowler James Pattinson) and Warner (averages in the 40's but is wildly inconsistent and is still adapting to tests), Ponting is old and for the past few years has averaged roughly 30 without a single hundred to his name until he faced the pathetic Sharma at home. He's changed his technique and he's useless at short stuff now (he used to be the best at it). Clarke and Hussey are the only two proper test batsmen in the team but Hussey is past his best as well and Clarke bats too low. Now somehow they will have to face the no.1 ranked bowler in the world (Steyn) and statistically the no.1 bowler in the world (Philander) along with the very capable Morkel and Kallis. Our best batsmen in D.Hussey, J.Burns, K.Patterson are not even in consideration. Mark my words, get used to some more batting collapses from Aus against SA

  • John on August 23, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    @Meety - CTD re your 11 for India , I'd definitely have 2 spinners for a start. Right now my 11 would probably be Cook,Trott,Bell,Taylor,Bairstow,Prior,Woakes,Swann,Anderson.Onions, Monty. Obviously if KP patches things up he'd be there - possibly ahead of Bell or Taylor. Re Bopara , part of me thinks he'd do well in Indian conditions and his bowling may even come into use there so I can see the logic in having him over Bell but I just doubt his mental toughness esp overseas. TBH I'm not at all convinced about Bell either but that call (Bopara or Bell) is more about who is the least bad. I feel bad about not having Broad in there as he's prob my fav player but this is my honest best side for the job. Onions/Finn is the opposite of the Bell/Bopara selection in that whoever is not selected is unlucky. The only guy I might bring in as a batsman is Compton but I think he's injured right now anyway. I actually wonder if Taylor might come up trumps in India

  • John on August 23, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    @Meety on (August 22 2012, 07:16 AM GMT) Good morning - As I posted on another thread I'm not a huge Strauss fan as a captain as I feel that while he's a great guy and decent captain in that sense I feel he's too defensive which is fine when it works but showed how unadaptable he is when it didn't. Also , as pointed out previously I think he looks to have hit the end as a player. Re captaincy , re Cook , I wonder if he may just be another Strauss - ie must go with 6/1/4 , must open with Broad because it's what we do? I'm not sure whether the formation is Flower/Strauss/ both or one selecting and the other just agreeing with him

  • John on August 23, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    @praveen4honestremark on (August 22 2012, 09:35 AM GMT) of course you didn't lol

  • John on August 23, 2012, 8:04 GMT

    @karthik_raja on (August 22 2012, 10:18 AM GMT) Believe it or not I didn't deliberately leave India out of the conversation although it seems to have got you foaming there. I have never once said India were not deserving of being number 1. I only answered your comment re SA because - before this series - IMO they were not deserving of number 1 status. Now they are. End of

  • Ray on August 23, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Clearly and sadly, James Taylor is not up to test standard, it's a shame but understandable, that Ian Bell was not a little more positive against the older ball on day 4 as he has the class to have got England closer to the target before the new ball ended the brave chase. A good game however. Who also thinks that hawkeye is flawed? some balls that are shown to be hitting the stumps, would not hit a 4th stump allowing for bounce, deviation, distance to travel etc. LBW's being given nowadays to orthodox left arm spinners is incredible! I spent 36 years screaming at umpires to give me "plumb" LBWS when bowling SLA, only for my appeals to be disdainfully refused as not out as "you can't possibly expect LBW's from bowling around the wicket"! HAHA. I'd love to bowling nowadays, I'd be taking at least 25 wickets more a season!

  • karthik on August 22, 2012, 10:18 GMT

    @JG2704 on (August 21 2012, 13:24 PM GMT) Well.. So, u accept that SA deserve top ranking and Eng were also deservedly placed @ top. How about the third country, I mentioned in my comment. U r simply hesitant to mention that. right..?? Typical English attitude. It is this kinda attitude from fellow English friends which literally tuned many Ind fans against Eng supporters. Get well soon my dear mate.

  • Mudassar on August 22, 2012, 9:57 GMT

    well done SAF you are deserving Test No.1 side. Amla Steyn Kallis you beauty!!

  • Praveen on August 22, 2012, 9:35 GMT

    @JG2704 on (August 22 2012, 08:32 AM GMT)..Plenty of guesses?? ah again. I told it would we 3-0 in favor of SA and that was my one and only final predication for this series and i never appeared any of columns until the final result of 3 tests came out. Tough luck mate, :)...bye bye.

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