Few weak links as seniors stand tall
The leading run-scorer of the series, with 207 runs more than his nearest rival, and the only one with two centuries from the three matches, Amla's form has hit its peak. At The Oval, he broke the South African record for the highest individual Test score with a sublime, undefeated 311 in an innings of class, finesse and style. He wrote his name onto the Lord's honours board for a second time with a score, with a more contrasting knock of grit and grind. Like all the other batsmen in the match, Amla struggled to time and place his shots but unlike them, he survived and gave South Africa the base from which they could win the match, the series and rise to the top of the Test rankings.
He did not account for an England captain this time - at least, not yet - but he did take something of equal importance from the opposition: the No.1 Test ranking. His development as a leader was evident as he made two positive declarations at The Oval, a decision which saw South Africa take the series lead, and Headingley, where if weather had been better, a result could have been achieved. A hundred in his hundredth Test match was his best contribution with the bat and it was an innings that set up a massive victory but he also weighed in with two half-centuries. More telling than his individual efforts was his tactical management of the bowlers and it was evident that he had a plan for every England batsman. Smith is world cricket's longest serving Test captain, having broken Allan Border's record at Lord's, and after this triumph, few would argue that he is not also world's cricket best captain.
The world's best fast bowler showed why he is the world's best fast bowler. Steyn steamed in every time he had the ball - bar the first day of the series at The Oval. He swung it prodigiously and attacked from all angles. His five-for at the Oval won the match for South Africa and he finished the series as the overall leading wicket-taker. Steyn did not bowl with the new ball - a mystery to many - as part of a strategy to avoid having him bowl to left-handers and to save him for targeting Jonathan Trott, who he has dismissed seven times over the course of his career. Steyn also batted in nightwatchman capacity twice, one failing but the second time doing his job and more when, at Lord's, he shared in a stand with Amla that lasted 12.4 overs.
Five wickets in the second innings at Lord's will be what Philander is remembered for but that was not his only contribution to the series. Philander bowled well throughout, using the same skills that brought him to the fore in the seven Tests he had played before this tour. He maintained a line around off-stump, more than half his deliveries were on a good length and he got seam movement and occasional swing. The result was that he ended as the second highest wicket-taker, the lowest average and the lowest economy rate. Although his claim to being an allrounder was laughed at, Philander scored vital runs at Lord's, with an accomplished 61 in the first innings and a handy 35 in the second. As a measure of the significance of his batting, he scored more runs than England captain Andrew Strauss in the series.
World cricket's premier allrounder ended what could well be his last tour of England on a high, having previously had a poor record in the country. Kallis averaged less than 30 before this tour but righted that with an undefeated 182 at the Oval which pushed it up to 35.33. His name will not appear on the Lord's honours board after a two umpiring decisions with which he was unhappy about ended his innings on both occasions. Kallis was used in his new impact role with the ball and took four wickets, including two in the Oval Test, of Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen, which helped South Africa open England up. What the numbers could not tell was that Kallis, the senior most member of the squad also played an important part in the leadership of the side and the advice he provided to Smith is unquantifiable in its value. His catching was also outstanding.
He accounted for Strauss twice to bring his head-to-head record against him to nine times in 11 innings and found what Allan Donald called his "mongrel." Morkel was more aggressive than before, attacking the stumps, the batsmen and their heads. His bouncer will be remembered as one of the best weapons of the series. If not for his splatterings of inconsistency, which were at their worst at Lord's, he may have had better figures. He ended as South Africa's third-highest wicket-taker, behind Steyn and Philander, but encouragingly, did well with the new ball again since it was taken away from him after Philander's meteoric rise. No bunny with the bat, Morkel also ensured South Africa's tail was not hollow and provided resistance as far as he could.
A hard-fought 182 made Petersen's series, after a lean run with the bat in the warm-up matches and the county season. Petersen's century in Wellington was forgotten when he made a duck at the Oval, sandwiched between the hundreds but he returned to see off a more determined England attack at Headingley. He held the South African line-up together there and was impressive in the way he continued his innings on the second morning, where others, like Kevin Pietersen, were out early. Injuries also played a part in Petersen's tour. A food niggle kept him out of the first warm-up and a hamstring strain out of the last one and problems in playing across the line returned at Lord's, where he was out cheaply in both innings.
He made a case for himself to leapfrog Jacques Rudolph in the queue should South Africa want to field a batsmen less in future. Duminy's maturity was obvious as he batted with the lower order at Headingley and Lord's, showing patience and aptitude that many thought he had lost after he broke onto the scene against Australia in 2008. His 72-run partnership with Philander in the first innings at Lord's proved to be more significant than initially thought, given the margin of victory at the end. Duminy is an energetic outfielder and offers a few overs, which make an attractive option for future South African sides.
AB de Villiers
Thrown into a double role - of batting in the middle order and keeping wicket - at the start of the tour meant it was always going to be an experimental tour for de Villiers. In four innings his top score was 47 and his usually fast-paced belligerent batting style was shelved away. As a wicketkeeper, he averages significantly less with the bat, 30.33, than he does when not burdened with the task - 48.85. His glovework was solid, although he initially struggled with keeping to the legspinner at the Oval but he made few errors.
Another series has ended without Tahir having officially "arrived," on the international stage. This time he had more suitable surfaces to work with, particularly at Lord's, but there was still not a lot of turn on offer. Tahir made a crucial breakthrough in the second innings at The Oval, where he removed Matt Prior, wrapped the tail in the first innings at Headingley and created the opening at Lord's when he bowled Jonny Bairstow. He may be remembered most for his run out of Graeme Swann, an effort which involved throwing the ball at the stumps, rather than simply breaking them. Still guilty of using too many variations and giving away too many runs, Tahir has plenty to work on before South Africa's next tour.
The one forgettable member of the South African squad, Rudolph did not have the same impact as the rest of the team. His only innings of substance was the 68 he scored at Headingley, when he opened the batting in place of the injured Petersen. Rudolph looked uncomfortable against the short ball and offspin - he was Pietersen's victim twice at Headingley and he only faced two balls from him. If South Africa have one concern after this series, it will be the No.6 position, which Rudolph has so far failed to make his own.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent