South Africa 247 (de Villiers 92, Flintoff 4-44, S Jones 4-47) and 296 for 6 dec (de Villiers 109, Kallis 136*) drew with England 359 (Thorpe 86, Flintoff 77, G Jones 50, Nel 6-81) and 73 for 4 - England won series 2-1
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa left it too late to snatch victory on the final day at SuperSport Park, as England played out a draw - and left Centurion with a 2-1 series win in their pocket. While Michael Vaughan went off to celebrate England's first series win on South African soil for 40 years, Graeme Smith was left rueing a turgid afternoon session, in which his batsmen posted just 84 runs. It allowed England, who needed 185 to win, to shut up shop. At one stage, they wobbled to 45 for 4, but in the end they held firm, crawling to the close - but, for England, time was not of the essence: the result they wanted was.
With time very much against South Africa after the loss of around 130 overs over the first four days, much depended on Jacques Kallis. That he had the ability to bludgeon the bowlers was never in doubt, but his state of mind was less certain. Reports that he was far from happy with South Africa's general approach in this match were doing the rounds, and although he started positively enough, it took him rather too long to get going. He was unbeaten with 136 from 217 balls when the declaration came, but there was a general feeling that he should have pressed the accelerator earlier. At the other end AB de Villiers struck his maiden Test century - including ten fours and a six - and shared a stand of 227 with Kallis.
But neither batsmen exactly hurried along to his hundred, as South Africa's prospects of winning the game and levelling the series receded. de Villiers was also subdued to begin with, although he later opened up with shots all around the park. With his century in sight, he stuck to collecting the occasional single to ensure that he didn't repeat his first-innings mistake, when he was trapped lbw by Ashley Giles just eight short of that elusive maiden hundred. And he was very nearly out for 94, as he gloved an attempted hook off Steve Harmison which rolled onto his off stump, but the bail stayed put.
After that de Villiers kept his head as he steered Simon Jones through the covers for four to bring up his first Test century in his fifth match, on his home ground too. He was only the third South African - after the great Graeme Pollock, and Tuppy Owen-Smith in 1929 - to score a Test century before turning 21.
England were clearly happy to allow the game to amble along - they didn't need to force the pace - and Vaughan responded to signs that South Africa were accelerating by setting more defensive fields and bringing on Giles to bowl over the wicket into the rough. As the overs drifted on, both batsmen finally seemed to be pressing for runs, but the horse had bolted.
de Villiers fell shortly after reaching his century. He was attempting to accelerate, but his leading edge off Simon Jones only found Matthew Hoggard at deep third man, for England's first wicket of the day (256 for 3). His departure sparked a mini-collapse. Graeme Smith went cheaply for 3, as he launched a huge outside edge off Harmison straight to the substitute Paul Collingwood in the gully.
It was Harmison's first wicket for 57 overs in the series and, although he was clearly tiring, Vaughan kept him on to try to bowl him back into form. And the tactic paid off, as Harmison collected another wicket almost immediately, with a beautiful delivery: Jacques Rudolph missed one which moved away from him and clipped his off bail (277 for 5). Hoggard took the final wicket, which prompted the declaration at 296, when Vaughan caught Mark Boucher at short midwicket for 6.
England's batsmen came out after tea in defensive mode. Such a negative mindset could have made for a dull spectacle, but the South Africans ran in with aggressive intent, and soon had England wobbling, which ruled out any prospect of an assault on the target of 185 in a probable 44 overs. Makhaya Ntini was yet again the pick of the bowlers, as he snatched three deserved wickets to take his tally to 25 for the series, and leave him just one shy of 200 in Tests. Shaun Pollock added the scalp of Robert Key, but it was too little, too late.
Andrew Strauss - later named the Man of the Series for his 656 runs - was the first to fall, in the second over, as he sent Ntini to Jacques Kallis at second slip for a duck, a low catch confirmed by the third umpire. Then Key missed a straight one that he was attempting to work to leg. It was a rash shot in the circumstances, and he was leg-before for 9. And 16 for 2 soon became 20 for 3, when Marcus Trescothick played outside the line to Ntini, and his off stump cartwheeled backwards.
Vaughan and Graham Thorpe - so often England's batting hero in testing situations - dropped anchor, with a painstaking partnership of 25 as England crept along. The inevitable Ntini broke the stand, inducing Thorpe to edge to Herschelle Gibbs at slip (45 for 4). But there were only 12 overs left at this stage, and Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff stood firm until, ironically, failing light brought a slightly early end.
While South Africa's bowlers may have not been short of fire and energy, they were left short of precious overs after that sluggish second innings, and England escaped to a deserved series victory. A tired-looking Vaughan raised the new Basil D'Oliveira Trophy to the skies, to the cheers of the remaining foot-soldiers of the Barmy Army.
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo.