A pair of Jacques proved to be the aces in South Africa's pack here last night as the tourists walloped England to go to the top of the NatWest Series table. Set 224 to win Jacques Kallis and Jacques Rudolph, in an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 145, allowed South Africa to stroll past their target with 15 balls remaining. It means England will be in danger of not qualifying for next Saturday's final should they fail to beat Zimbabwe in Bristol on Sunday.
England will not be sorry to leave Lancashire for the final time this summer after losing their fourth one-day match in a row here. On a typically murky Manchester day they were no match for a team desperate to gain revenge for their heavy defeat to England six days ago.
The form of Kallis since his arrival here has been superb - he has now made 314 runs in three innings, two of them not out - but it was his young partner, Rudolph, rather than England's bowlers, who deprived him of becoming the fourth player to score centuries in three consecutive one-day internationals. Ending the match with another man-of-the-match award thanks to an unbeaten 82 is not a bad day's work though.
Little was known of Rudolph before this tour - other than that he has a Test average of 293 after an unbeaten 222 and a 71 in two games against Bangladesh - but looking at the way he compiled his 71 this will not be the last time he will be a nuisance to England. Like all talented left-handers there is an effortless elegance about the way he scores his runs. Aged 22 he is a player with a very bright future.
England were given early hope when Vikram Solanki ran out Herschelle Gibbs and James Anderson bowled Graeme Smith, the South African captain, with a beauty, but these were the only moments when they had a real chance. Andrew Hall scored a typically belligerent 29, but then it became the Jacques show.
England's innings was dominated by a partnership of 114 between Marcus Trescothick and Anthony McGrath, who scored his maiden one-day international fifty. That they started slowly - Trescothick took 18 balls and McGrath 15 to score their first runs - was due to an exemplary spell of fast-medium bowling from Shaun Pollock. Without the pair, however, England would have sunk quicker than Jacques Cousteau. On the day the Warwick Road End was renamed in memory of Brian Statham, one of Lancashire's best loved players, it was a spell of which the former England great would have been proud.
With Pollock bowling a probing line to both left and right-handers and seaming the ball both ways it took England 29 balls to score their first run off him. This was bowling that justified his rating as the best in the world and such was the stranglehold he had that only three runs came off the bat in his opening seven-over spell. He deserved more than the solitary wicket of Michael Vaughan, but the two balls he bowled at the England captain certainly gave Vaughan something to think about on the walk back to the pavilion, not least his decision to bat first on a pitch offering plenty of assistance to the quicker men. After stating he would bat at four for the remainder of this triangular series it was a surprise to see Vaughan walk out after Solanki fell in the fourth over.
The constant changing of the middle order highlights the problems England are having, but McGrath's return to form gave encouragement. He and Trescothick responsibly worked England to 121 for 2 by the 30th over, but after they fell in a five-over period to Martin van Jaarsveld and Nicky Boje, two spinners of limited ability, Andrew Flintoff and Jim Troughton again looked uncomfortable as they attempted to knock the ball around. Each perished to a weak shot.
With the score in the 45th over on 176 for 7 a total of 200 looked some way off. That the innings finished with a flourish was down to Chris Read and Ashley Giles, who put on 47 from 35 balls. They at least gave a full house crowd something to cheer about. It did not last long.
* Gloucestershire's director of cricket John Bracewell was named as New Zealand's new coach late last night. The former New Zealand off-spinner takes over from Denis Aberhart in November.
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