South Africa Dethrone England In Gripping Finale
South Africa 309 & 351 (Amla 121) beat
England 315 & 294 (Prior 73) by 51 runs
Third Test, Lord's
South Africa gained the number one ranking in Test cricket by beating England by 51 runs on the final day of an enthralling third and final Test at Lord's.
England did not let the mace - awarded to the world leading team by the ICC - disappear from their grasp lightly, half-centuries from Jonathan Trott, Jonny Bairstow and Matthew Prior ensuring the Proteas fully earned their deserved victory.
Prior struck a combative and inspired 73 balls to take England from 221 for seven at tea to 294 for eight and still retaining a glimmer of hope before South Africa made the second new ball pay.
Prior was caught by Graeme Smith off Vernon Philander and one ball later, South Africa ascended the top step of the rankings when Philander had Steven Finn caught by Kallis.
With the 2-0 series win, Gary Kirsten thus became the first coach to take two different sides to the number one spot having achieved the feat with India in December 2009.
England began the day in trouble at 16 for two and visions of a close finish seemed a long way off although right from the start, they appeared keen to give their victory target of 346 a good go, Jonathan Trott scoring a flurry of early runs before Ian Bell (4) perished to an over-ambitious stroke outside off stump, caught by Smith at slip off the irrepressible Philander, who would go on to return figures of five for 30 - his seventh five-wicket haul in just his ninth Test.
James Taylor was given little opportunity to show his temperament on the most testing of stages after he was run out by Trott for the same score, chasing a fourth run before he was sent back.
Bairstow then came in and threatened to overtake Trott as he took the attack to South Africa, playing in the manner of a player using the game as an extended net for the upcoming One-Day International series, or even, dare it be mentioned, reminiscent of a certain player named Kevin who the bookmakers have already made odds-on to not play for England again.
On this evidence, Bairstow, who scored 54 in 47 balls, has a long future in international cricket but his superb knock came to an end when he was bowled by Imran Tahir and soon after Trott was brilliantly caught by Kallis off Steyn for 63.
That though, was not it as far as England were concerned as Prior joined forces with Stuart Broad and the pair put on 62 together in quick time, Broad striking the ball cleanly to make 37 in 42 balls but even his dismissal failed to halt England's remarkable charge.
Graeme Swann smashed five fours and two sixes as he and Prior put on 80 together in a stand full of boundaries and drama. Prior was caught by JP Duminy only to be invited back as Morne Morkel had overstepped and their partnership was ended with another run out, this time Swann hesitating with the inevitable consequence, although Tahir did excellently to divert the ball onto the stumps after Jacques Rudolph had returned to him.
A further ten runs were added by Prior and Anderson (4 not out) before South Africa finally delivered the coup de grace, and the finish - administered with the new ball by Philander - neatly encapsulated the Test as a whole.
England gave their supporters plenty to cheer as they went down fighting but they will reflect on their fielding performance thoroughout the series. Nine catches went down in all but there can be no doubt about the outcome.
South Africa were the best team on display, outplaying England in all departments and their 2-0 success was just reward for their endeavours. Now their challenge is to keep the mace longer than both India and England managed it.
© Cricket World 2012
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