England win one-day series
Friday 29 August 2008
Andrew Flintoff's resurgence on the international stage hurtled England to NatWest Series glory over South Africa.
All-rounder Flintoff struck his second half-century in as many visits to the crease as South Africa were crushed by 126 runs at The Brit Oval to open up an unassailable lead.
Although England might have cursed the fact they had not made more of a blistering start, their score of 296 for seven maintained their momentum in the series.
The 30-year-old also struck 78 in the campaign-opening win at Headingley to signal his return to form at the top level.
He followed up with two wickets as England continued their dominance over the Proteas which began on the same ground earlier this month when they triumphed in the final Test.
Three one-day internationals under Kevin Pietersen since and three comprehensive wins.
Now a 5-0 whitewash, an unthinkable result a fortnight ago, would catapult England above the South Africans into second place in the official one-day standings.
In five years of official rankings, England have never occupied such a lofty position.
The latest success included a first one-day 50 for Ian Bell this summer and a fine display from Nottinghamshire all-rounder Samit Patel, who followed up a mature 31 with a maiden five-wicket international haul.
The platform was laid by a first three-figure opening stand in nine completed matches, and only their second in 35.
Bell was in supreme form and along with Matt Prior shared 101 for the first wicket, making the most of the powerplay periods and South Africa's distinct loss of confidence.
Bell and wicketkeeper Prior, who oversaw the 10-wicket victory at Trent Bridge on Tuesday, rattled regular boundaries against the new ball despite South Africa stand-in captain Jacques Kallis hoping to exploit the overhead cloud cover after winning the toss.
It was an extraordinary fourth over from Makhaya Ntini which developed the English momentum, however, as a couple of no-balls offered Prior the chance for free hits.
His response was emphatic - edging the first over the top of the slips and following that boundary with a straight six.
That over cost 17 runs and Bell soon took over the bulk of the scoring, hitting his first runs off Ntini to bring up the team's 50, having previously struck Dale Steyn for five boundaries from the pavilion end.
Bell then blasted his way to a half-century from 36 balls when he pierced the covers with a four, lofted a classic straight six and cut another boundary in one Ntini over.
But Bell's innings lost some of its impetus after opening partner Prior miscued a pull and he struck only one more boundary after registering his half-century.
He would have been run out in the 24th over when Owais Shah dropped the ball square on the off-side and set off for a single, which would have left a diving Bell short of his ground had AB de Villiers' under-arm throw hit its intended target.
But he failed to add to his score of 73 when he was pinned by a quicker ball from spinner Johan Botha.
When Shah inside-edged Kallis' first delivery from the Vauxhall end into his stumps, and Pietersen perished cheaply for a change, walking across the crease to the same bowler, England had lost three wickets for 11 runs and forced into consolidation mode.
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