South Africa took a one-nil lead in the three-match series against England, beating the hosts by an innings and 12 runs and securing their first win at the Oval after a masterful display of top-order batting.
Hashim Amla’s unbeaten 311, ably supported by the 182* from veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis and 131 Graeme Smith took the Proteas to 637 for two before they declared, setting England a target of 252 to make them bat again.
But with the hosts resuming on 102 for four, England were always facing an uphill battle to save the game and despite some resistance from Ian Bell (55) and Matt Prior (40), the task ultimately proved impossible as they were bundled out for 240.
The victory is South Africa’s first in 11 matches at The Oval and they had previously lost all three Tests at the south London venue since returning to international cricket in 1991.
The last time the two teams met in England in 2008, South Africa edged the hosts 2-1 but England have been unbeaten at home since then, rising to number one in the world rankings under captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower.
South Africa, though, have not lost an away series since they were beaten in Sri Lanka in 2006. They are currently ranked third but will take the top place from England if they win the series.
The win was only the fifth time a team had won a Test losing only two wickets. The previous occasion was by South Africa against Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2002-03. All the other instances were wins by England, including one against South Africa at Lord’s in 1924.
Strauss said that England were punished for not putting up a big total in the first innings.
“We’ll have some regrets,” said Strauss. “We weren’t able to go on and get a big score.
“The odds were always against us after last evening but we’re frustrated we didn’t make them work harder. I think we’ve got an outstanding bowling attack that can take 20 wickets on most pitches. Here conditions played a part, we couldn’t get the ball swinging.”
South African skipper Smith hailed the performance of his team and said it was a very proud moment for them.
“This is an extremely proud moment for all of us,” said Smith. “In the context of the first-innings, this is a great achievement for us. We found an intensity on day two and got a few more plans right.
“I always felt we were ready and just needed to get into the game. We’ve got a batting unit that’s been successful all around the world and mentally can adapt to all conditions.”
England captain Andrew Strauss
“We’ll have some regrets. We weren’t able to get a big score. The odds were always against us after last evening but we’re frustrated we didn’t make them work harder.”
SA captain Graeme Smith
“This is an extremely proud moment for all of us, a great achievement. We’ve got a batting unit that’s been successful all around the world and can adapt to all conditions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.