Sooner or later, a team batting second under the Newlands floodlights will prevail.
On a sun-drenched afternoon, with Table Mountain looking over, etched in brilliant relief against a cloudless sky, and on the most sedate of pitches, AB De Villiers ensured yesterday that it would be later. Much later.
He scored a blisteringly seamless hundred for South Africa in the third one-day international against England, and if it was assisted by bowling that could not come to terms with the benign surface, that barely diminished it. The innings supplied the sort of scoreboard pressure that would affect teams anywhere and was always likely to prove terminal to the opposition.
South Africa duly won by 112 runs with nearly eight overs left, their seventh consecutive victory in day-night matches in Cape Town after winning the toss and batting. They set a target 355 which, had England made it, would have been the highest floodlit chase anywhere, let alone at this ground.
Paul Collingwood was England's highest scorer for the second match in a row but while his 86 from 83 balls was again a splendid reflection of his return to form he needed a partner playing in similar vein. But South Africa deserved to level the series, as England had merited taking the lead in it.
Andrew Strauss, England's captain, said: "They took the game to us early on which was a shame and a disappointment. Inconsistency is frustrating and something we need to eradicate. It's not going to happen overnight. We have to learn from our mistakes but I don't want to admonish the players too much for that performance."
Nor should he. De Villiers was relentless in his determination to keep the scoring rate above a run-a-ball. His success in doing so was marked less by his 14 fours out of 121 than by the statistic that he failed to score from only 20 of his 85 balls. De Villiers gathered 37 singles which required peak fitness as well as an ability to find the gaps in the field.
South Africa's total of 354 for six was the joint-highest in a one-day match at Newlands. After De Villiers had finished, abetted by a spurt in the closing overs, South Africa had a score that went far beyond the ground's reputation of favouring the side defending a total.
The destiny of the match was not quite decided by the flip of a coin 30 minutes before it began but when Strauss called wrongly it did not prompt many pundits to make a cast iron case for the tourists' prospects of taking a 2-0 lead.
South Africa, with much to prove to both themselves and their supporters after their perfunctory performance at Centurion five days earlier, came out swinging from the hip. At various points a total of 400 looked feasible.
Smith and Hashim Amla gave the home side – and they must feel like Cape Town is their home at home considering their record of 24 wins in 27 matches – a corking start. Smith's dismissal, which had seemed improbable until he stepped away against Luke Wright and dragged a flailing drive on to his stumps, brought in De Villiers. He eased himself in and never let up. He ran the legs off England without ever seeming to hurry.
In its composure and command there was something of Ricky Ponting about it. He and Alviro Petersen rattled along as the innings entered the later stages, enjoying the width that England's bowlers gave them. They put on 95 in 62 balls and England's finest, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, who was also coming back from injury, were picked off as easily as anybody else.
It was De Villiers' fourth one-day hundred, his first for two years and scored at a punishing rate. Broad finished with four wickets which hardly constituted pegging back the South Africans but was the sixth time he had done so in a one-day innings.
As they had promised, England came out blazing away, and declared their intent by opening the batting with Luke Wright. But they did not quite get going as they might have liked and the absence of a major innings at the top of the order told its own story.
The pitch stayed true but the asking rate was relentless. South Africa's introduction of the pace duo of Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkell was a success. They shared eight wickets, Parnell, with accurate close to the wicket bowling, taking five wickets for the second time in eight matches.
*England have dropped Adil Rashid from their one-day squad to ensure he has more cricket ahead of the Test series. He will play for the England performance squad in a four-day match against Highveld Lions starting on Monday.
Newlands scoreboard Third one-day international
South Africa won toss
South Africa beat England by 112 runs
H Amla c Prior b Broad: 86
*G Smith b Wright: 54
A de Villiers c Trott b Broad: 121
J Duminy c Morgan b Wright: 6
A Petersen not out: 51
†M Boucher c Wright b Broad: 22
R McLaren b Broad: 0
Extras (b 2, lb 4, w 8): 14
Total (6 wkts, 50 overs): 354
Fall: 1-107, 2-201, 3-217, 4-312, 5-349, 6-354.
Did not bat: W D Parnell, M Morkel, R E van der Merwe, D W Steyn.
Bowling: S Broad 10-0-71-4, L Wright 8-0-66-2, J Trott 1-0-8-0, P Collingwood 5-0-38-0, G Swann 9-0-49-0, J Anderson 7-0-55-0, T Bresnan 10-0-61-0.
*A Strauss c Boucher b Morkel: 24
L Wright c McLaren b Parnell: 24
J Trott c Smith b Parnell: 9
K Pietersen b Duminy: 45
P Collingwood c Amla b Parnell: 86
E Morgan c sub b Duminy: 0
†M Prior c Smith b Morkel: 16
T Bresnan c Smith b Morkel: 7
S Broad b Parnell: 10
G Swann not out: 6
J Anderson lbw b Parnell: 1
Extras (lb 4, w 10): 14
Total (41.3 overs): 242
Fall: 1-41, 2-58, 3-58, 4-142, 5-150, 6-214, 7-223, 8-227, 9-236, 10-242.
Bowling: W Parnell 9.3-1-48-5, J Duminy 6-0-25-2, M Morkel 9-1-39-3, R McLaren 5-0-34-0, D Steyn 6-0-42-0, R van der Merwe 6-0-50-0.
Umpires: M Erasmus & R J TuckerReuse content