AB de Villiers scored his 24th ODI hundred as South Africa won the series against England 3-2 with a five-wicket victory at Newlands on Sunday.
It was a fantastic captain’s knock from De Villiers – in what was his 200th ODI – at a time when his team needed it the most and will ease the pressure on South Africa after a tough few months on the international stage.
It has been an incredible comeback by the Proteas to win a series they were once trailing 2-0. It’s only the third time a team has come from 2-0 down to win a five-match series and the second time South Africa have done it. They beat Pakistan 3-2 back in 2003.
The Proteas chased down their target of 237 in 44 overs with 36 balls to spare.
The foundation for the victory was laid by De Villiers (101 not out from 97 balls) and Hashim Amla (59), who shared their 11th 100-run partnership in ODIs for South Africa, a record they now share with Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs.
The 125-run partnership was a match-winning one after Reece Topley (3-41) ripped through the top order, removing Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis with the first two balls of the sixth over. In a surprising move Rilee Rossouw, in for JP Duminy in this game, walked out at No 4 ahead of De Villiers but he fell two overs later to leave South Africa in big trouble on 22-3.
It brought together the home side’s two best and most experienced batsmen in the middle and together they calmed things down and started chipping away at the target.
With them at the crease South Africa were in complete control of the game and the longer they batted together, the smaller England’s chances became of winning the series.
Amla eventually fell to a stumping off Moeen Ali’s bowling while trying to go after a wide delivery. Farhaan Behardien hung around for five overs and South Africa were still in control with no need for big, risky shots.
However, Behardien went after an Adil Rashid delivery which he mistimed completely as Ben Stokes took the catch at mid-on to leave his team on 166-5.
David Wiese (41 not out) had more composure, recognising that no big hitting was needed and together with De Villiers they knocked off the remaining runs in a 71-run stand which gives South Africa something to cheer about after a difficult tour against the English.
Alex Hales finally scored his first hundred of the series but the rest of the England batting line-up shot themselves in the foot to reach 236 all out.
England were the architects of their own downfall because even though the scoreboard will suggest otherwise, the bowling was mediocre at best.
Hales was the exception for England and his 112 was his first century of the series after he had scored a fifty in each of the previous four games.
Cruising at 155-4, England collapsed to 192-8 as their ultra-attacking approach failed them. They were aided by some poor bowling from the home side where Chris Morris, the hero in the previous game on Friday, became the villain.
He conceded 15 runs in his first over and 29 in his first three. Kyle Abbott bowled with the most discipline, but the rest of the attack bowled too many leg-side deliveries and were too inconsistent with their line and lengths which England duly punished.
Despite losing the toss under overhead conditions, the visitors scored at a healthy rate for most of their innings and looked like they could post a score close to 300.
An inspiring spell from Kagiso Rabada changed the innings as he struck twice in one over to remove England’s two most destructive batsmen, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.
Stokes was bowled for 29 while walking across his stumps to try and flick Rabada through the leg side. He missed the ball which went on to remove the bails. Buttler was bowled with a beauty from Rabada for his second golden duck in three innings which took England from a promising position to a precarious one.
Hales, in the nineties, stood at the non-strikers end and watched as Ali and then Chris Woakes gave their wickets away. Behardien took a good jumping catch to get rid of Moeen while Woakes flicked a poor delivery down the leg side from Wiese straight to Abbott at fine-leg.
Hales eventually reached his hundred with a glorious on drive off Morris for four but once he was caught on the boundary by Rossouw England didn’t last long.
De Villiers had a good day as captain by using his bowlers well throughout. His move to bring Imran Tahir into the attack as early as the fifth over paid off when the leg-spinner had Jason Roy trapped lbw off the last ball of his first over.
Joe Root was given out lbw as well but only after Tahir convinced De Villiers to review the original decision which was not out.
Rabada was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3-34 in nine overs.