Proteas finish with a flourish

2010-01-18 00:00

IN the most emphatic fashion, the Proteas levelled the four match series against England with a comprehensive innings and 74-run triumph yesterday.

Having come close thrice, Graeme Smith was positively beaming after his side finally nailed England down and kept them there.

“We didn’t quite get there in Cape Town, but I am really proud of how the guys turned up and performed here,” Smith said.

“We were obviously under pressure, but the bowlers started off really well and we were able to put together a really good match.”

Indeed, the Proteas took control of the match from the first ball and never relinquished their advantage.

The newly assembled all-pace attack thrived in conditions that suited, and Smith was especially excited at the potential that he has at his disposal.

“I think having guys like Morné Morkel and Dale Steyn perform the way they did was really heartening, but Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren also did very well on debut,” Smith added.

England, showing the strain of living on the edge, finally cracked under relentless Proteas pressure.

“It is a bit of a disappointment that we were never really in this game, but I think it has been a fantastic tour,” Andrew Strauss lamented in the wake of a telling defeat.

“We can easily dwell on this ending, but I think that we have made strides during this tour and I am proud of the way the guys have stuck together and worked as a unit,” he said.

The truth, it seems, is that the tourists simply ran out of steam and never really got into the contest.

“When you are constantly behind, you will eventually find yourself on the receiving end and that finally happened here,” Strauss reflected.

Starting the day already three down, England would have been hoping for a fighting finish from the embattled Kevin Pietersen.

But, as much of his summer has gone, the Maritzburg-born Pietersen seemed to be a man battling a prolonged case of Duzi guts.

When he wafted Parnell to Mark Boucher, it marked the beginning of the end for England.

As all fell around him, Paul Collingwood stood out defiantly at the other end like the captain aboard the Titanic.

Smith described the Durham nugget as “the glue in the England side” and things might have been entirely different had he not stood up in this series.

He top scored in both England’s digs here, and the Barmy Army gave him a send-off rich in appreciation.

But this was South Africa’s day, and the steady flow of wickets was a welcome change from the cliff-hangers of Centurion and Newlands.

Morkel bowled with pace and fire, while Steyn confirmed why he is rated as the best in the world.

The series was shared, but South Africa certainly held the upper hand in the series. However, Smith was not about to claim moral victories.

“I don’t think there is any point dwelling on what we could have done. I am just happy that we delivered this sort of performance when it really mattered.”

Smith gave credit to England, saying both sides had contributed to the tightest of series. “When you play the big sides, it ebbs and flows and there is always excitement. I think England have given us a great fight, but we would have been really disappointed to lose a series where we put so much in.”

South Africa will perhaps rue not adopting a “horses for courses” approach sooner. They finished strongly, but could just as easily be reflecting on a series win rather than one shared.

The pitch, sporting but certainly not treacherous, was also key. It really shouldn’t be rocket science, but South Africa’s attack showed what they can do when they are handed conditions that play to their strengths.

We can be sure that India will not be leaving any grass on their feather beds next month. And that really should be the way it is.

SCOREBOARD

England first innings 180 (D. Steyn 5-51)

South Africa first innings 423 for seven (G. Smith 105, H. Amla 75, A. de Villiers 58, M. Boucher 95; S. Broad 3-83).

ENGLAND SECOND INNINGS

A. Strauss lbw b Parnell 22

A. Cook c Smith b Morkel1

J. Trott c De Villiers b Steyn8

K. Pietersen c Boucher b Parnell12

P. Collingwood c Morkel b Duminy71

I. Bell c Kallis b Morkel5

M. Prior c Smith b Morkel0

S. Broad c Boucher b Morkel1

G. Swann c De Villiers b Steyn20

R. Sidebottom b Duminy15

J. Anderson not out1

Extras (lb-6, w-1 nb-6) 13

TOTAL (all out, 42.5 overs) 169

Fall of wickets: 1-6 2-21 3-48 4-84 5-103 6-103 7-104 8-134 9-154 10-169

Bowling: Steyn 14-1-64-2, Morkel 16-5-59-4, Parnell 8-1-17-2, McLaren 3-1-13-0, Duminy 1.5-0-10-2.

Result: South Africa won an innings and 74 runs

Series: drawn 1-1

Man of the match: M Morkel (South Africa) and DW Steyn (South Africa)

Man of the series: MV Boucher (South Africa) and GP Swann (England)

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