South Africa became the first side to be ranked No. 1 in all three formats and did it in fitting style, with a crushing 80-run victory in the second one-day international to end England's run of 10 consecutive wins. South Africa's success was, not for the first time on this tour, set around a fantastic innings from Hashim Amla as he made a career-best 150 from 124 balls on a pitch that was far from easy for strokeplay.
Amla's innings, South Africa's sixth-highest in one-day internationals, marshalled South Africa to an imposing 287 for 5 and England never really threatening to get close once Ian Bell's sprightly knock was ended by Robin Peterson. The spinners played a key role on a helpful surface - England's had earlier found some turn, too - and when Eoin Morgan pulled JP Duminy to deep midwicket the game was up.
This match, though, was about a man who is having a defining tour. It was another day when Amla's run-scoring feats came into clear focus as he became the fastest man to 3000 ODI runs, beating the previous record held by Viv Richards. His innings included 16 boundaries, ranging from the expansive flick over midwicket to the cover drive to the wonderfully cheeky deflection past the keeper off Tim Bresnan late in the innings.
Amla and Graeme Smith added 89 for the first wicket - after being forced to battle against some lively new-ball bowling - which laid the platform for South Africa. Amla then took over with one of the finest pieces of one-day batting you could wish to see. Amla's hundred, his tenth in one-day internationals, came off 96 balls and it was an innings full of deft placement. He toyed with the England bowlers right to the final moment when he threaded Steven Finn through backward point to reach 150; his third fifty needed just 27 deliveries.
England, though, did not help their cause as far as Amla was concerned. He could have been run out twice - on 1 when Samit Patel, preferred at the last minute to Chris Woakes, was slow to the ball from mid-off, and then on 62 when James Anderson produced a poor throw from short fine leg - and was also dropped twice. The first catching chance came on 42 when Craig Kieswetter put down a thin edge off Patel and the wicketkeeper dropped another, one-handed down the leg side, when Amla had 92.
It was a poor day for Kieswetter and a bad time for fallibility to rear its head, with Jonny Bairstow and Matt Prior breathing down his neck. In a tough analysis of his performance he also missed a chance offered by AB de Villiers, on 1, diving full stretch to his right. It was the hardest of his chances, but the type Kieswetter had started to pluck out of thin air.
The early stages looked much like the Test series. Smith and Amla resisted whatever pressure the England bowlers were able to exert although both had moments of fortune, especially during the first spells from Finn and James Anderson. South Africa waited until the sixth over for their first boundary when Smith, in typical style, took a ball from well outside off straight past mid-off when most batsman would have driven through extra cover.
The acceleration started towards the end of the mandatory Powerplay when overs seven to nine went for a combined 32 runs, including eight boundaries. Fourteen of those runs came off Bresnan's opening over and he remained the most expensive bowler. Swann was introduced in the 12th over but it was Patel who caused the greater problems, particularly to Smith who was intent on trying to sweep the left-arm spinner.
Smith reached his fifty from 70 balls before his eagerness to press on during the bowling Powerplay brought his downfall when he top-edged Bresnan. South Africa's momentum stalled for a period as Duminy sacrificed himself in a mix-up with Amla (the end result of the innings showed that was the correct decision) and Dean Elgar, in his first ODI innings after the Cardiff washout, struggled to tick the scoreboard over, especially against the spinners. He had laboured to 15 off 28 balls when Swann turned one past his outside edge to take middle. It was a rare moment for Swann to enjoy in a difficult season.
It took South Africa just two balls to make a breakthrough when Lonwabo Tsotsobe, the left-arm quick, speared a full delivery under Alastair Cook's bat to take the off stump. Generally, however, the quick bowlers pitched a touch too short, which allowed Bell to score freely although his intent in using his feet also played a part in disrupting the bowlers' length. No one, though, had the staying power of Amla.
Just as the second-wicket stand was building Jonathan Trott top-edged a pull towards long leg where Elgar, having almost misjudged the chance and come in too far, took a stunning catch over his shoulder and managed to hold on when he hit the ground. It was the sort of fielding brilliance that England have lacked in recent months.
Peterson's wickets came in contrasting style. His first was the perfect left-arm spinner's dismissal as Bell, lunging forward, was beaten by one that turned and struck his off stump. The second was the type a spinner will happily take an embellish for future reference when Ravi Bopara, trying to regain form after his time out of cricket, carved a long hop to cover.
Briefly, Bopara had started to look as though form was returning with a sweetly struck square drive and a crisp pull - reaching double figures for the first time since his personal problems curtailed his Test series against South Africa - but the manner of his dismissal will bring the pressure back on him. Kieswetter's day did not get much better when he became Elgar's first international scalp as an outside edge rebounded off de Villiers and looped to slip; Kieswetter had done himself no favours by trying to play to leg against the turn. This batting, on a slow but hardly threatening pitch, did not bode well for the subcontinent.
To highlight the excellence of what Amla had produced Morgan, one of the finest timers and placers of a ball in world cricket, struggled to adjust to conditions and was barely striking above 50 when he picked out the man at deep midwicket. As Bresnan and Swann offered limp edges to de Villiers against Wayne Parnell it did not go unnoticed that England, as a team, were struggling to match what one player, Kevin Pietersen, had scored on his own at Taunton.