This has been Hashim Amla's summer. The weather might have been constantly awful but nothing has rained on his parade.
His first innings for South Africa in the one-day series against England was simply an extension of the time of his life he was having in the Test matches. After scoring triple and mere single hundreds in his side's conclusive 2-0 series victory in the longer game, he added a sublime 150 yesterday at Southampton as a perfect complement.
It put the match out of England's reach, allowed the tourists to go ahead in the NatWest Series and move to top place in the ICC rankings in all forms of cricket – Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20. All tour, they have been the superior side playing the better cricket, with their opponents vainly trying to hang on to their coat tails.
England's response was occasionally worthy but they paid too little regard to preserving their wickets. The loss of five before the midway point of their reply converted their task from improbable to impossible. A scintillating 10th wicket partnership of 37 from 18 balls between Samit Patel and Steve Finn was designed only to stop the crowd storming the departure gates. England were dismissed for 207 in 40.4 overs.
The record-equalling run of 11 games without defeat under Alastair Cook this year was thus brought to a shuddering halt. It is hard to escape the feeling that their every move is being stalked by the player who is with them no longer, Kevin Pietersen, whose blazing century for Surrey yesterday only prolongs the whole sorry saga.
Cook said: "We just didn't play well enough in all three aspects. We were up with the rate but we just didn't build that partnership. It was gettable – and the reason we have had a really good 2012 is because people have got in and gone on. We've got to look at ourselves and stand up and be counted."
Some time England had to lose, but to lose in this fashion after such a long winning run was unexpected. That was something Amla's innings was not. It took only 124 balls yet it was one of those that never seemed spectacular while it was being played.
"I didn't think I'd be achieving this," he said after being made man of the match. "It's an honour." To have had a hope of retaining their unbeaten sequence in 2012 England needed runs at the top of the order. At least when Cook was bowled second ball, playing round a full-length delivery, they recovered well. Ian Bell looked in prime form, while Jonathan Trott bedded in.
But when Trott was caught wonderfully by Dean Elgar and Bell was beaten by a turning ball from Robin Peterson the challenge grew tougher. For a while, as Eoin Morgan took stock with Patel, the rate was within their grasp. One mistake was all it would take – and England proceeded to make several more.Reuse content