reports from Durban
England 184 South Africa 185-5 (S Africa win by five wickets)
A decisive 118-run partnership between the South African captain, Hansie Cronje, and his young cohort, Jacques Kallis, laid the platform for South Africa's fourth win out of five. It was the victory that clinched the series, too, after four early wickets from Allan Donald had limited England's total to 184, a strike that earned him the man of the match award.
Kallis was almost as deserving, scoring his first fifty in international cricket. His sparkling form after another fumbling performance from England allowed South Africa home by five wickets with 10 balls to spare.
England have been continually outplayed by the home side in spite of Michael Atherton's claim that: "Any England 11 out of the 17 present are capable of beating South Africa" after his side had lost the third game at The Wanderers.
Indeed, if anything has been gleaned from England's experimentations, it is that not for the first time they batted and fielded poorly. Presumably the timespan for the captain's assertion spans generations and not a mere series.
The Cronje-Kallis pairing took the home side from a shaky 9 for 2 to 127, a South African record for this wicket. Kallis, in particular, came of age, and his 67 was the comfortably the dominant innings as Cronje shrewdly allowed him his head, though he too went past fifty, albeit at a slower pace.
Kallis is a lusty striker of the ball when the urge takes him, mainly to the off, though one on-drive off Dominic Cork had all the hallmarks of Greg Chappell. However, this urge got the better of him as he perished, caught by Graeme Hick at deep midwicket, as he tried to hoist Philip DeFreitas for six.
After their poor start South Africa did not panic as Cronje and Kallis carefully went about their initial repairs, like students at an archaeological dig. That they lagged some 17 runs behind England at the 20-over stage did not seem to perturb them.
When the moment came, they attacked by hitting clean and straight, though some buttery English fingers doubtless helped smooth their acceleration. DeFreitas, in particular, dropped a skier from Cronje that was always Jack Russell's catch as it spiralled down from among the floodlights, and later Alec Stewart split the webbing between the fingers on his left hand when he dropped a fierce pull from Kallis at midwicket, a wound that needed stitching.
England began far more fortuitously than they had last Tuesday, when the ball had traversed every part of the ground long before the first 15 overs were up. A wide ball from Dominic Cork that Gary Kirsten would have dispatched dismissively for four in the last game suddenly found the edge.
What had taken England almost 30 overs to achieve at Centurion Park had arrived in the second over, a feat that quickly turned to celebration when Andrew Hudson was adjudged lbw two overs later as Cork won his appeal off umpire Dave Orchard.
Having been put in by Cronje, mainly because of rain being forecast, England once again passed fifty, the third time they have done so in the series. But if such starts normally bode well for the whole innings, Allan Donald's three-wicket strike in 14 balls downgraded any early forecasts of a big total.
In his second over he removed both openers: Atherton edging a ball that got too close to him to cut, while Stewart, squaring up like a street pugilist, was bowled neck and crop. Soon after, England's plight worsened further, when Hick toed a cut shot that Dave Richardson caught diving low to his right.
Donald, who had been criticised in the local press for being too costly for one-day cricket, must have wondered at the inexact science of it. In the last game at Centurion Park, Donald went for 72 runs off nine overs. Here at Kingsmead, he claimed 4 for 41 from his full quota of 10, and England's top four to boot.
He bowls from so wide of the crease that when he gets it right he has batsmen in two minds over where their off-stump is. Not so left-handers, and Graham Thorpe played him better than anyone by clipping him off his hips before twice pulling him to square leg for four when the fast bowler dropped short. England had 164 on the board when he was sixth man out, bowled by Craig Matthews around his legs - the first of three England batsmen to suffer this indignity, the others being Cork and Darren Gough - having scored just four fours in his 63.
Judging by the big shots played in this series, Thorpe appears to be England's only batsmen capable of knocking the ball into gaps and picking up singles when under pressure, though Craig White, too, played sensibly as the pair put on 54 together.
Raymond Ilingworth, the England manager, confirmed as much when he said: "Most of the batsmen played as if they wanted 300. It was not that kind of pitch."
(South Africa won toss)
*M A Atherton c Richardson b Donald 17
(56min, 45 balls, 1 four)
A J Stewart b Donald 31
(61min, 44 balls, 6 fours)
R A Smith c Richardson b Donald 8
(39min, 24 balls)
G A Hick c Richardson b Donald 6
(17min, 11 balls)
G P Thorpe b Matthews 63
(102min, 74 balls, 4 fours)
C White b Pollock 16
(58min 4 balls, 1 four)
R C Russell run out 21
(47min, 36 balls)
D G Cork b Matthews 1
(9min, 7 balls)
P A J DeFreitas b Pollock 3
(12min, 8 balls)
D Gough b de Villiers 3
(7min, 6 balls)
P J Martin not out 2
(5min, 3 balls)
Extras (b1, lb6, w6) 13
Total (49.5 overs) 184
Fall: 1-51 (Atherton), 2-52 (Stewart), 3-61 (Hick), 4-78 (Smith), 5-132 (White), 6-164 (Thorpe), 7-170 (Cork), 8-177 (Russell), 9-178 (DeFreitas), 10-184 (Gough).
Bowling: Pollock 10-1-31-2 (w1) (6-1-19-0 2-0-7-1 2-0-5-1); Matthews 10-1-37-2 (w3) (5-1-17-0 3-0-13-0 2-0-7-2); De Villiers 9.5-0-35-1 (w1) (6-0-15-0 2-0-14-0 1.5-0-6-1), Donald 10-0-41-4 (8-0-34-4 2-0-7-0), McMillan 8-0-25-0 (w1) (6-0-18-0 2-0-7-0); Cronje 2-0-8-0 (one spell).
Progress: 50 in 53 min, 80 balls. 100 in 124 min, 176 balls. 150 in 170 min, 245 balls.
Thorpe's 50: 83 min, 59 balls, 3 fours.
A C Hudson lbw b Cork 5
(17min, 17 balls, 1 four)
G Kirsten c Russell b Cork 0
(6min, 2 balls)
*W J Cronje b White 78
(197min, 133 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)
J H Kallis c Hick b DeFreitas 67
(140min, 107 balls, 6 fours)
B N McMillan c Hick b DeFreitas 14
(24min, 19 balls, 2 fours)
J N Rhodes not out 12
(25min, 9 balls, 1 four)
S M Pollock not out 0
(4min, 6 balls)
Extras (lb 2, w3, nb4) 9
Total (for 4, 48.2 overs) 185
Fall: 1-1 (Kirsten), 2-9 (Hudson), 3-127 (Kallis), 4-150 (McMillan), 5-183 (Cronje).
Did not bat: D J Richardson, C R Matthews, P S de Villiers, A A Donald.
Bowling: Martin 10-2-34-0 (nb1,w2) (6-2-12-0 4-0-22-0); Cork 9.2-3-29- 2 (nb1) (6-3-8-2 2-0-9-0 1.2-0-12-0); DeFreitas 9-0-41-2 (nb1) (4-0-15- 0 5-0-26-2); Gough 10-0-32-0 (w1) (6-0-22-0 4-0-10-0); White 8-1-40-1 (4-0-23-0 4-1-17-1); Hick 2-0-8-0 (one spell).
Progress: 50 in 87 mins, 122 balls. 100 in 126 mins, 181 balls. 150 in 182 mins, 257 balls.
Cronje 50: 145 min, 97 balls, 4 fours.
Kallis 50: 105 min, 79 balls, 4 fours.
Umpires: W A Diedricks, D L Orchard. TV Replay Umpire: C J Mitchley. Match Referee: C W Smith. Man of the match: A A Donald. Adjudicator: P W E Rawson.
South Africa won by five wickets and took series 4-1.Reuse content