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December 4, 2009
South Africa v England - Match Abandoned
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It's not how Andrew Strauss would have wanted to lead England to a bit of history, but he'll gladly take it after rain forced the final one-day international at Durban to be abandoned and handed the tourists their first limited-overs series victory in South Africa.
There was never a realistic chance of any action at Kingsmead. Hopes were briefly raised when the covers were removed at around 2.30pm, but the forecast rain soon returned to blanket the city in the dank, grey atmosphere that has been in place for most of the past week.
As well as their first one-day success in the country, England have also become just the second team to beat South Africa on home soil in a bilateral one-day series after Australia managed it twice. That is a notable achievement for Strauss and Andy Flower considering that a little over two months ago they were turned over 6-1 by Australia.
"It's a big step forward for the group," Strauss said. "To be only the second team to win out here is an achievement to be proud of. The players had to buy into trying to play a slightly more attacking brand of cricket and at the same time to up our fielding and to be more consistent with the ball.
"I think the guys have enjoyed having the shackles taken off them to a certain extent. A lot of our one-day cricket over the last few years has been played like men under a lot of pressure. A lot of the players were under pressure, playing for their places and because the results weren't very good.
"It's encouraging to know we are going in the right direction but I'd be the last person to say we're the finished article."
The turnaround began at the Champions Trophy and has continued over the last three weeks. Playing in South Africa suits England's new brand of one-day cricket and their next challenge in that format be to adapt to different conditions in Bangladesh in February. They are unlikely to find pitches with pace and bounce at the World Cup in 2011 so the next phase of their development is to show they can combat spin attacks of sluggish, turning pitches.
Even though only three matches were actually played, this series success can still go down as one of England's finest one-day performances in recent times, on a par with beating Sri Lanka in their backyard in 2008. At Cape Town they showed they still have the capability to pull out a shocker, but to cancel out that 112-run defeat, both their victories were by convincing seven-wicket margins - a run-chase of 251 that would previously have been beyond them at Centurion, and a victory set up by James Anderson's bowling at Port Elizabeth.
England's 4-0 victory against South Africa at home last year is often pulled out when talking about impressive performances, but that was against a visiting side that had achieved their main target of a Test series victory and were ready to go home. This time there were early points to be scored - that's the advantage of holding the one-dayers first - and England have done more than enough to quieten the hosts who were quite happy to make some bombastic statements in the build-up. The hosts certainly haven't lived up to the hype.
"Our next one-day series is in India where the  World Cup is going to be played," Graeme Smith said. "Hopefully by then we will have a fully-fit squad and a squad which has developed from here.
"There's a break now and there will be a few new faces in our [Test] squad," he added. "The last two years have been really terrific for us in Test cricket and we want to carry it on. England have an Ashes-winning squad so it bodes well for a good series."
Attention now turns to preparation for the Test campaign. England head to East London for two two-day matches against a South African Invitational XI, where they will be joined by the Test-squad members who have been with the Performance Squad in Pretoria. South Africa, meanwhile, will reconvene in Potchefstroom on December 11 for a three-day camp before heading to Johannesburg ahead of the opening Test at Centurion. The battle is just hotting up.
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