South Africa were made to work hard for their well-deserved share of the series, but eventually broke England's resistance in a floodgate-opening victory at the Wanderers. Andrew McGlashan casts his eye over the men who contested the series.
Graeme Smith - 9
In his country's hour of need Smith, once again, came forward to accept the challenge. After a poor start at Centurion he became increasingly dominant and his back-to-back innings of 183 and 105 would, in most circumstances, have been enough to secure a series victory. With James Anderson struggling to find his inswing to the left-handers, England didn't have a bowler to control Smith as Matthew Hoggard did so well five years so. Still, he came to the Wanderers as a captain under pressure, but galvanised his team in produce a commanding display. As an opener Smith is right at the top of the pile and if he is hungry enough, and his team can build on their efforts in the last two Tests, he has many years in front of him. Should have been Man of the Series.
Ashwell Prince - 2
He has always been a reluctant opener and Prince's results reflected his unease at the position. The series started promisingly enough with a gusty 45 in the first innings at Centurion, but after that it was a case of diminishing returns. He was on the receiving end of some good balls, especially in the first innings at Durban and Cape Town, but also became paralysed against Graeme Swann which isn't a good sign with a tour to India looming. His place for the trip is under threat and his future, if he has one, should lie in the middle order.
Hashim Amla - 7
Amla is a vastly improved player from the one labelled a "walking wicket" by the visitors during the 2004-05 tour. England still felt they had his number, but Amla's results suggest otherwise with three important innings during the series. His second-innings hundred at Centurion was a masterful display on a tricky surface, while his punchy displays at Cape Town and the Wanderers were ideal counter-attacking knocks, tailor-made for the situation. Apart from a ropey match at Durban, he was also impressive at short leg. A possible future captain.
Jacques Kallis - 9
What a phenomenal cricketer. The game will only truly appreciate how great Kallis is when he eventually retires. He will leave a gaping hole in South Africa's team. The series began with doubts over his fitness, but they were immediately allayed with a superb opening-day hundred, a feat repeated in tough conditions at Newlands. That both centuries came after South Africa were put in is further evidence of his skill. After his rib injury healed he returned to bowling duties and provided a useful holding role, and the imbalance of the team when he couldn't provide those overs highlighted his importance to the side.
AB de Villiers - 7
It was a strange series for de Villiers, who never quite cashed in as his form threatened he might, yet he played some momentum-seizing innings. At Centurion and Newlands he helped take the game away from England with counter-attacking displays, always keen to try and dominate Swann with swift footwork. Was involved in a horrid mix-up with Smith at Durban and gifted his wicket in the first innings at Cape Town, but played selflessly when the team needed it. Electric in the field and wasn't afraid to get under England's skins.
JP Duminy - 3
Duminy was a shadow of the player that took Australia by storm a little over a year ago and now faces a challenge to reaffirm his credentials. England targeted him with the short ball in the ODIs and began with the same plan in the Tests, but he also had plenty of problems against Swann. In fact, Duminy's own offspin was his main contribution to the series as he sparked England's last collapse at Newlands, but if Prince is moved down the order he could find himself out of the side. Remains a huge talent.
Mark Boucher - 8
You can't buy experience like Boucher's. He has seen everything the game can throw at him and remains vital to South Africa as they try to rediscover their top form. Before the series there were suggestions that his time may be coming to an end, but after consistent contributions with bat and gloves he showed he has plenty of time left in the game - not that there are many challengers for his position. His 95 at the Wanderers was just the innings South Africa needed and he passed 5000 Test runs. He will soon overtake Adam Gilchrist as the highest scoring wicketkeeper of all time and he still catches everything behind the stumps
Dale Steyn - 8
If Steyn had been fully fit through the series, South Africa would have emerged on top. As it transpired, he missed the first Test and wasn't fully recovered at Durban. Only at Cape Town and the Wanderers did he hit his straps, and in those two Tests he was simply awesome. It's still impossible to work out how he didn't remove Paul Collingwood at Newlands and he fully deserved his five-wicket haul in the final Test. With such a smooth action he is wonderful to watch and is comfortably the leading quick bowler in the world. His batting is also improving and the No. 8 position can be a long-term aim.
Morne Morkel - 8
South Africa's biggest gain from this series has been the development of Morkel. The expectations have always been huge and Morkel hadn't quite lived up to the hype earlier in his career. Now he looks ready to become the ideal new-ball partner for Steyn. His height creates disconcerting bounce from a good length while he has the pace to go along with it. His hold over Andrew Strauss was a key feature of the series and gave South Africa vital control over the England captain. His five-wicket haul at Cape Town, and the way he regularly roughed up the tail, bodes well for the future.
Paul Harris - 5
Harris himself knows he isn't the most talented spinner in the world and some of the criticism he receives is unfair, but when South Africa were twice aiming to bowl England out in the second innings he couldn't do the job. He started well with a five-wicket haul at Centurion, but from there his confidence ebbed away. His performance at Cape Town was particularly disappointing as he struggled to find the correct length and was outbowled by Duminy. After a horses-for-courses omission at the Wanderers, Harris will regain his place for India where he must at least provide his captain with control.
Friedel de Wet - 5
His future appears in doubt after he picked up a serious back injury at Newlands and he faces a lengthy period on the sidelines. It's sad because, while not being an outstanding prospect, he certainly appeared capable of holding his own. He almost secured victory on his debut with a late final-day burst with the new ball at Centurion before being omitted for Steyn's return. Despite being in pain he ran in for his captain at Cape Town which showed his heart.
Makhaya Ntini - 2
It's always sad to see a player who has provided so much for his country fade away however, Ntini's decline had been apparent for some time. He was always going to play his 100th Test at Centurion and it became an emotional affair and a hugely significant moment for South Africa. He was given a final chance at Durban but cut a forlorn figure as he went wicketless and was targeted by England. His axing, amid plenty of conjecture, didn't come as any surprise and he looks set to end short of the 400-wicket mark. Expect plenty of success in county cricket.
Wayne Parnell - 6
He's billed as the Next Big Thing in South African cricket and after a nervous first-innings display on debut he gave a glimpse of his potential with the wickets of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen. He is a combative character and may need a controlling arm at times, but Smith is strong captain who can provide that. Was down to bat at No. 11 but is seen as an all-round option in the years to come.
Ryan McLaren - 5
Whether McLaren has a long-term future a Test level is debatable, although he let no one down on his debut at the Wanderers. His accurate seam helped keep the pressure on England in the first innings and accounted for the in-form Paul Collingwood, while he clubbed useful runs before the declaration.