Captain Graeme Smith led South Africa to a series win with a superb unbeaten century on day four of the third Test against England. South Africa lead 2-0 with one Test to play.
On a day that swung one way and then the other, full of tension, drama and passion, South Africa were brilliantly lead by Smith to chase down a target, that just a few hours ago, had looked beyond them, to claim their first test series win against England in England since 1965, and their first since readmission.
Morne Morkel and Kallis wrapped up the England innings just before lunch, but with Collingwood’s career saving innings of 135, when he was last out, England had set South Africa a difficult, and far higher than expected, target of 281, on a pitch that was taking a lot of turn, and conditions that could be exploited by the bowlers, particularly Flintoff with his full pitch balls.
The South African innings began steadily with Smith and Mckenzie looking in total control, until Freddy entered the scene. Mckenzie and Kallis were sent packing, both LBW to full balls from Flintoff that they couldn’t pick, and Amla was out, LBW as well, to Panesar in between. Kallis was fuming at his dismissal, whether from frustration that he had been caught out twice in the same way, or because of anger about the side screen issue, and may find himself fined by the match referee.
With South Africa wobbling at 93/4, after Prince was dismissed cheaply, having been 65/0, England began to smell blood, and South Africa were beginning to feel like the match was slipping away from them. Yet again it seemed that South Africa would fail to push home an advantage in England, and end up squaring the series, just as they had in their previous tours since readmission.
This is where Smith shone. While everything was going on around him, he kept calm and controlled and concentrated on the task at hand – seeing his team to victory. First with de Villiers, who scored 27 and managed to halt the slide, and then with Boucher, who joined his captain in a match winning unbroken stand of 112, Smith took the match away from England, with perhaps his best innings to date, finishing unbeaten on 154.
Smith’s ton was the first fourth innings century ever scored at Edgbaston, and that stat is testament to the magnitude and achievement of his innings. The mental strength shown by Smith, and later by Boucher, stands this South African team apart from earlier South African teams, and is the reason why this series has been won.
South Africa have a few days to celebrate their achievement, and then it’s back to the task at hand, and the final Test at the Oval. But for now the joy of todays result will carry them through the night and tomorrow.
Well done to Smith and his team.
(pic from cricinfo.com)