South Africa won by 51 runs
Some thrilling batting in the evening only delays the inevitable defeat.
Let’s face it: the main damage to England’s innings was done late on Sunday when Vernon Philander took the wickets of Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss. It was therefore fitting that he took today’s first wicket – Bell flashing stupidly to slip – and the final two dismissals of Matt Prior and Steven Finn to clinch the win. His 5/30, to accompany 2/48 in the first innings and a total of 96 vital runs with the bat, was his seventh 5-for in just ten Tests. Who knows when his hot streak will come to an end, as surely it sometime must, but for now he is integral to South Africa’s success and their rise to the mace-lifting position of the Bestest Team in Test Cricket Until the Next One.
Moment of the day
After Bell’s early departure to general ambivalence from the already gin-affected onlookers, James Taylor joined Jonathan Trott at the crease. For a short while he looked composed, but then came the sort of amateurish act of sloppiness that has defined much of England’s 2012. With the side looking intent on batting for a draw, Trott clipped Dale Steyn into the outfield. After an easy three runs, both batsmen turned; Trott jogged a couple of steps and paused, Taylor pegged it towards the bowler’s end (the danger end). As Trott stopped and sent his partner back, Steyn had time to take the throw and send the ball to the wicket-keeper. Taylor was stranded mid-pitch and England as one facepalmed. That the home side then recovered was largely down to a positive approach from Jonny Bairstow (proving once and for all that the West Indies’ fast bowlers are better than South Africa’s). Trott was out early afternoon with England 146/6, but Broad clearly had watched videos of Headingley ’81 before his innings and made 37 quick runs.
Until the arrival of Graeme Swann, Matt Prior had played an anchoring role, but England had nothing to lose in playing aggressively. After tea the scoring rate accelerated, with Imran Tahir in particular taking an absolute shoeing (15 runs conceded in one over, eight in his next). In dramatic, tense and exciting cricket, Swann was run out attempting a red bull single off Tahir (who acted smartly to take the throw from JP Duminy and throw down the stumps, thus paying back for some of the dross he had bowled), before the hitherto excellent Prior then whacked Morne Morkel into the stratosphere. Duminy took the catch before the umpires realised who the bowler was and checked for a no-ball. Cue much laughter (the English) and weeping (the South Africans). A few balls later and Prior was again saved by the width of a woodlouse’s chest hair as de Villiers attempted a stumping. Prior’s heel may have been stuck in Trott’s ravine-like mark, but it was too close to tell whether the bails were removed in time. Sadly for England, who by now had had their hopes unfairly raised by this avalanche of boundaries like an internet blogger has his by pictures of scantily clad stunners on dating websites, Graeme Smith asked for the new ball and Philander pounced. As thrilling as the last 90 minutes of play were, a win for England would have been amusingly unfair on South Africa, who thoroughly deserved the 2-0 series victory.
The next item on the agenda is the five-match one-day series, lingering after the three Test matches like a can of Asda smart price lager after a fine steak dinner. However the two sides are at the top of the rankings in this format as well, and there is much to play for. Then clear the diaries for November, which sees both teams’ next Test action, with England touring India and South Africa travelling to Australia. Sadly however, these teams won’t meet each other again until December 2015, by which time we expect Kevin Pietersen to have retired from Strictly Come Dancing due to controversial tweets sent to Bruce Forsyth about Erin Boag’s foxtrot, and Alastair Cook to be quaking at the prospect of being the fourth England captain to be biffed into retirement by Graeme Smith.