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 tourney and move to top place in the ICC rankings in all forms of cricket – Tests, one-dayers and Twenty20.
They are some team, winning this by 80 runs, showing the sort of hard-headed discipline and pizzazz that has been their forte since they arrived, and with three 50-over matches left they will not be easily caught. 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 off 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 three games to bounce back. But against Pakistan we lost the Test series and turned it round in the one-dayers. We've got to look at ourselves and stand up and be counted."
Cook praised the contribution of Amla, and said: "They are playing some good cricket and a lot of credit must go to them, especially Amla.
"His innings showed us how to play. He's in fantastic form. It's frustrating as a captain but he played beautifully. But our dropped catches are slightly disappointing ... they're not sticking at the moment. You can't give good players chances like we are doing."
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. In this type of display, observers tend to look up at the scoreboard and wonder where all the runs came from. That probably included England.
Without ever seeming to hurry, Amla went along at around a run a ball from the start. He has a wonderful sense of where the gaps are and marvellous feel for placing the ball there.
"I didn't think I'd be achieving this," he said after being made man of the match. "It's an honour." Part of his trick is that he has no particular favourite shot, and if 60 per cent of his runs yesterday came on the leg side a high proportion of those were scored by moving across his stumps and flicking it with powerful wrists from outside off. But he was equally adept at using those wrists, which are snappier than Rice Krispies, to hit over the off-side.
He thus reached 3,000 runs in one-day internationals in his 57th innings, the quickest to the landmark by 12 innings, leaving Sir Viv Richards himself trailing. He was dropped twice, with the wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter at fault on both occasions. On 42 Amla faintly edged Patel, and if it kept low it could be said that Kieswetter rose too quickly. It should have been taken.
Fifty Amla runs later, he glanced down the leg side and Kieswetter, who normally has this kind of offering for breakfast, could not get his glove round it. Both mistakes were hugely costly, more of the poor catching that has dogged England in the field.
South Africa rode their luck in a solid start. Jimmy Anderson, as is his apparent lot in life, sent the ball past Graeme Smith's edge with regularity. But he is destined never to touch it and Smith eked out 52 runs, without much fluency. The rest played round Amla, with no partnership under 32.
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 flicked off his hip to be caught wonderfully by Dean Elgar running back at deep backward square leg, and Bell was beaten by a turning ball from Robin Peterson because he did not play forward far enough, the challenge grew tougher.
For a while, as Eoin Morgan took stock with Patel, the rate was within England's grasp. But one mistake was all it would take – and England proceeded to make several more.
Rose Bowl scoreboard
The Rose Bowl (Second ODI; first ODI rained off): South Africa beat England by 80 runs; South Africa won toss
G C Smith c K'tter b Bres' 52/0/5/76/77
H M Amla c Bresn' b Finn 150/0/16/124/204
J P Duminy run out 14/0/1/24/22
D Elgar b Swann 15/0/1/28/23
*†A B de Villiers b Swann 28/0/1/29/39
F du Plessis not out 22/0/2/19/29
W D Parnell not out 0/0/0/0/1
Extras (b1 lb4 w1): 6
Total (for 5, 50 overs): 287
Fall 1-89, 2-121, 3-165, 4-230, 5-285.
Did not bat R McLaren, R J Peterson, M Morkel, L L Tsotsobe.
Bowling J M Anderson 9-0-53-0, S T Finn 10-0-59-1, T T Bresnan 8-0-61-1, G P Swann 10-0-50-2, S R Patel 10-0-47-0, R S Bopara 3-0-12-0.
*A N Cook b Tsotsobe 0/0/0/2/1
I R Bell b Peterson 45/0/5/41/74
I J L Trott c Elgar b Morkel 23/0/2/37/52
R S Bopara c du Pl' b Peter' 16/0/2/21/29
E J G Morgan c Elg' b Dum' 27/0/1/48/76
†C Kieswetter cSmith b Elg' 20/1/1/20/19
S R Patel c de Vill' b Morkel 45/2/3/51/74
T T Bresnan c de Vill' b Parn' 0/0/0/1/1
G P Swann c de Vill' b Parnell 0/0/0/2/1
J M Anderson run out 5/0/0/13/13
S T Finn not out 15/0/3/8/9
Extras (b3 lb7 w1) 11
Total (40.4 overs) 207
Fall 1-0, 2-64, 3-77, 4-90, 5-118, 6-159, 7-159, 8-159, 9-170.
Bowling L L Tsotsobe 6-0-29-1, R McLaren 7-1-31-0, M Morkel 5.4-0-29-2, W D Parnell 7-1-30-2, R J Peterson 9-0-51-2, J P Duminy 3-0-16-1, D Elgar 3-1-11-1.
Umpires R J Bailey and S J A Taufel.Reuse content