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