Prior catches the mood to leave South Africa dreaming of home

Suddenly, all is tickety-boo with England. Whether their improbable surge has been caused by the Pietersen factor, South African lassitude, or the desire to emulate British Olympians is difficult to tell – possibly a combination of all three – but so far only one team has turned up in this one-day series.

In dismissing South Africa for 83 yesterday and reaching their target with all wickets intact, England made a nonsense of the world rankings and of the less mathematically solid proposition that they are completely hopeless at limited overs cricket. Two matches under Kevin Pietersen's leadership and 19 gold medals in Beijing, and anything looks possible.

The hero of Trent Bridge was Stuart Broad, who took 5 for 23 in 10 impressively incisive overs and became the second youngest England bowler to reach 50 one-day wickets and, at 22 years and 63 days, the youngest, by two years, to take five wickets in an innings. There were records at the other end too where Matthew Prior became only the second England keeper (after Alec Stewart) to take six catches in a one-day match. Although such judgements are subjective, one of his takes, diving wide and high to his left, was simply stunning and probably in the top 10 of all England keepers' one-day catches. Broad bowled quickly and straight. He was always a handful for batsmen who looked as though they would rather be anywhere than Trent Bridge. South Africa began this series with a genuine prospect of becoming, deservedly, the number one one-day team in the world. Having won nine consecutive matches they were closing in on Australian hegemony, which would have made the expected defeat much easier to bear for England followers. To take the top spot, the tourists had to win 5-0 or 4-1, both of which seemed eminently feasible only five days ago. As it is, England might fancy their own chances of moving from seventh where they have rightly languished for long enough, to fourth. It might seem perverse to suggest it, but perhaps South Africa's cause has not been helped by the postponement of the Champions Trophy in Pakistan. While the International Cricket Council's decision was widely applauded, South Africa now know they are homeward bound. Instead of having to head for the sub-continent, as they would have done had the Trophy proceeded, it is as if they can smell brai and biltong again. The lure of overtaking Australia was palpably insufficient. Their main mission of the summer was not to win the NatWest Series (bless it) but the Test rubber, which they did in style.

Since doing so, South Africa's foot, perhaps inadvertently, has been off the gas, while somebody has been nicking their fuel. It is a salutary reminder about what matters to big-time cricketers. For instance, had the Test series followed the one-day series – which was not exactly supported by television rights holders who have other, bigger football fish to fry come early August – and South Africa had won the first of them, they would not remotely have considered their job to have been done.

It is a prompt to many people, not least those who are besotted by the cheap and potent music that is Twenty20, that Test cricket still has a uniquely significant allure to the most crucial rump, the players. Of course, all that will be nonsense if South Africa come back to win 3-2.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum