In a blaze of unfettered strokeplay, South Africa made 311 for 7, the highest score in a limited-overs match at the ground. It meant that England had to make their highest total anywhere, any time, to win.
The astonishing element of the home side's score was that they are supposed to be in disarray, have just effectively sacked their temporary coach and are searching for a successor to their interim chairman of selectors. If ever they should manage to put their house in order, the opposition could be in real trouble.
The fifth match of a series which is apparently not interminable but will be called to a halt after seven, was played amid lakes of sawdust dotting the outfield after a deluge the previous night. They represented what England's hopes of levelling the series at 2-2 had become.
None of England's bowlers went for fewer than five runs an over, two of them went for more than seven. The largest contributor to South Africa's innings was Graeme Smith, who scored his second century of the series. Before it began he had not scored a single hundred in 56 matches, so England can be said to have pointed his limited-overs career in the right direction.
Smith, however, paled by comparison with Justin Kemp who is in the form of his life. He scythed his way to 80 from 50 balls, an innings which included seven sixes and four fours. He shovelled plenty in the direction of cow corner but can also hit good length balls straight back over the bowler's head.
Where Kemp has got this from is anybody's guess. Before this series began he had played 14 undistinguished one-dayers with a top score of 46. He has now scored 202 runs in five innings against England in the last 11 days at the phenomenal scoring rate of 120 runs per 100 balls.
His audacity seems controlled and it seems that having realised what he is capable of, he can keep on doing it. He put the sword to both Kabir Ali and Matthew Hoggard. Kabir's figures were bizarre even by the peculiar standards of this form of the game.
His first over was struck for 20 by Jacques Kallis in a mature batsman's decision to take on an inexperienced bowler. But when he was recalled to the attack, Kabir then bowled seven overs for 21 runs and took two wickets including that of Kallis, an admirable response in which he combined clever mixtures of pace with an accurate length.
These attributes were to no avail in his ninth and last over which yielded another 25 runs. Kemp simply slogged him at will. Smith was forced into the role of a sleeping partner while much of this merrymaking went on. He struck no boundaries between 50 and a 100 and did no more than keep the board ticking over.
The last 10 overs throughout this series have been profitable for one side or the other, usually South Africa and this time they added 111. Of those, 62 came in the last five, which included a strange over from Darren Gough in which three wickets fell in three balls.
Gough, who was once more England's best bowler, accounted for Kemp and Mark Boucher and then ran out Shaun Pollock as he attempted a third run. England's reply varied between the innocuous and the pedestrian and a score of 169 for 3 after 36 overs left them with an unscalable mountain.Reuse content