South Africa wrapped up the first Test against England at the Kia Oval in comprehensive fashion early today, finally taking the match by an innings and 12 runs as England were bowled out for 240 in their second innings.
It was an commanding performance with both bat and ball and a thoroughly deserved victory.
The Proteas had a patchy opening day but after that they clawed back the initiative, finally finishing their first innings on a truly remarkable 637 for two declared thanks to Hashim Amla’s triple century and tons by Jacques Kallis and skipper Graeme Smith in his hundredth Test.
England’s are world cricket’s form Test side, having trounced India 4-0 in last English summer’s Test series, but this victory puts that in perspective. England were simply outplayed, their much-vaunted bowling attack being put to the sword by the sheer wilfullness of the Protea upper order.
Their batting wasn’t much better. In two innings they could only muster one century (Alastair Cook’s first innings ton) which suggests that there is some work to do for the England upper order as they re-group amidst the pressing need for introspection.
The chief architect of the South African victory earlier today (other than the batsmen earlier in the Test) was Dale Steyn, who took five for 56, adding the wickets of Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to that of Jonathan Trott on Sunday.
Bell’s was arguably the most valuable. The nuggety England right-hander battled for 220 minutes for a fighting 55, the top score of the innings, before Steyn induced the outside edge. It looked like a lazy shot but it was probably set up by the relentlessness of the South African attack and borne of fatigue more than anything else.
While Steyn bowled with pace, bounce and guile, particularly with the second new ball, Imran Tahir also chipped in with vital wickets, accounting for Bell’s partner in crime, Matt Prior. Bell and Prior combined in a backs-to-the-wall sixth wicket partnership of 86, before Tahir induced Prior (40) to sweep once too often.
The bottom edge spooned up to Kallis at first slip, a straightforward chance and a rather plaintive end to a fighting innings. Tahir returned later to snuffle the final wicket to fall – that of James Anderson for 4, finishing with figures of three for 63, after he captured the wicket of Andrew Strauss yesterday.
The second Test is at Headingley in Leeds and South Africa will hope to play as well there as they did at the Oval over the last four days.