The 2012 Basil D’Oliveira series had a bit of everything, and with the latest chapter in the book fast approaching, we revisit the series that took the Proteas to the top.
It was the tour that saw the Proteas soar to the No 1 spot in the world. It was the one that made history as Hashim Amla scored South Africa’s first ever triple hundred. It was the one that left Kevin Pietersen red-faced and untrustworthy. It was the one that marked the beginning of a downward spiral for England. Here is how it all went down…
England started the series as the No 1 side in the world, but a crushing 3-0 defeat to Pakistan and a battling 1-1 draw against Sri Lanka earlier in the year meant they were teetering on the edge of their status. The Proteas won the series 2-1 the last time they met in England. Skipper Graeme Smith was the Man of the Series, as he was in 2003 when he struck double centuries in the first two Tests.
England won the toss and chose to bat, and an Alastair Cook century guided his side to 385. What appeared a respectable total was completely blown out the water on day three, as just one South African wicket fell with Smith, and then Hashim Amla, bringing up centuries.
It was day four that saw the records tumble, as Amla’s double century very quickly became his country’s first-ever triple century: a lofted drive through the covers saw him post the highest ever individual score between the sides (311), and with that, a daunting 637-2 declared as Jacques Kallis remained unbeaten on 182.
A shell-shocked England couldn’t bring themselves to mount a successful survival mission. Dale Steyn picked up five wickets as they were skittled for 240 – an innings and 12-run victory for the visitors.
Alviro Petersen was the only one to miss out in that mammoth first Test-innings with a duck, but he would plunder a century on day one of the second rubber at Headingley. The Proteas, full of confidence and hunger to wrap up the series, posted 419, thanks to Petersen’s career-best 182 in Test clothing.
England put up a good fight in response. James Taylor, then 22 but already captain for his County side Nottinghamshire, made his debut, but would struggle to cope with the pace and bounce of Morne Morkel, and was dismissed by him in the two matches he played in the series, only to play again three years later. One man who had no such difficulty, however, was Kevin Pietersen, who struck 149 to give his side a six-run first-innings lead.
Day five proved to be a slightly chaotic one as both sides searched for victory. The Proteas declared on 258-9, allowing England a target of 253 from 39 overs. England had a crack at it with Pietersen coming out to open, but it soon became too much, and both sides settled for the draw.
All the drama unfolded leading up to the third and final Test. Despite Pietersen’s Man of the Match performance in the second Test, he was swiftly dropped from the side for the next one, after allegations surfaced that he’d sent text messages to some of the Proteas players that gave away tactics and were defamatory to Andrew Strauss. He strongly denied it, but was still removed from the side for not clarifying his actions, and Jonny Bairstow came in.
Steven Finn and Jimmy Anderson were lethal on day one as they picked up seven wickets between them, before the Proteas posted 309. Ironically, it was Bairstow who impressed with the bat in response, scoring 95 and then 54 in the second innings. Like the second Test, they carried through a six-run lead.
Amla was back in the runs in the second innings with 121 with others chipping in around him to post an extremely competitive 351. England lost Strauss and Cook cheaply in the evening session of day four, to leave the hosts with it all to do.
In the end it was all too much for the English, as Vernon Philander picked up his fifth wicket of the innings and his side’s 10th in the final session, to wrap up the 2-0 series victory. Graeme Smith paraded around the Oval with his teammates, hoisting aloft the Test mace which confirmed their place at the top of the rankings.
That Philander delivery was the last delivery to be bowled between the sides, and they now meet again, more than three years later, in a week’s time.