24 July 2012
The South African cricket team scored one of its finest wins ever in the first cricket test against England at The Oval on Monday, triumphing by an innings and 12 runs. It was just the fifth time in history that a team has won a test for the loss of only two wickets.
However, none of those previous victories came against a team of England’s stature; Andrew Strauss and company are currently ranked number one in the world.
“It’s certainly an extremely proud moment for all of us,” South African captain Graeme Smith said at the post-match presentation.
While the Proteas’ batsmen shone, piling up 637 for 2 declared in their only innings, Smith said it was the team’s bowling attack that made the big difference. “All credit to our bowlers, they set the tone for us in this test match and managed to finish it off on a really good batting wicket.”
He reserved some individual praise for Hashim Amla, who made 311 not out to become the first South African to score a triple-century in a test match.
‘An incredible achievement’
“I must give credit to Hash. It was an incredible achievement from him,” reckoned Smith. “For a player of our team to go out and put in a performance like that, we’re extremely proud of him.”
Amla, the easy choice for man of the match, was as humble as ever when asked what getting a triple-century at The Oval meant to him. “Obviously, I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to contribute and get a big score like that, but you can never do it alone. Fortunately, I had Graeme and ‘Jakes’ with me to guide me along and that was a lovely experience.”
He, too, was quick to credit the South African bowlers for a job well done, saying: “Credit to our bowlers…the wicket was good to bat on, and they put in a fantastic job for us.”
England captain Andrew Strauss credited the South African batsmen for their exceptional performances, but said he expected his bowlers to produce much better performances in the two remaining test matches.
‘You’ve got to give them credit’
“I think we’ve got an outstanding bowling attack,” he opined, “so I think you’ve got to give them South Africa credit for the way they batted, but I still back our bowling attack to take 20 wickets on most wickets, not this one, unfortunately.”
After the first day at The Oval, England held sway as they finished play on 267 for 3, with opening batsman Alistair Cook on 114 not out. The following four days, however, belonged firmly to the Proteas.
On day two, they captured the remaining seven first innings wickets for only 118 runs, with Cook adding just one run to his overnight score before being bowled by Dale Steyn. Jonathan Trott weighed in with 71 and Matt Prior with 60 as England tallied a very decent 385.
There was also early success for England in the South African first innings as James Anderson trapped Alviro Petersen in front for a duck, with the total on one. By close of play, the Proteas had reached 86 for 1.
A century in his 100th test
On day three, Graeme Smith became only the seventh player in history to score a century in his 100th test. He made 131 before turning a ball from Tin Bresnan into his pads and onto his stumps. He and Hashim Amla had put on 259 for the second wicket.
Matters were not about to improve for England as Jacques Kallis replaced Smith.
By stumps, Amla and Kallis had taken the total to 403 for 2 with some outstanding batting. Amla was undefeated on 183 and Kallis on 82.
On day four, the Proteas advanced their total to 637 for 2 at tea, which is when Smith declared. Amla was on 311 not out and Kallis on an unbeaten 182. Their unbroken stand of 377 was the third highest by South Africa in test history.
England’s bowlers had looked toothless as the South African batsmen dominated them, but it was a different matter when England batted as the Proteas’ bowlers quickly found success.
Vernon Philander had Alistair Cook caught behind for a duck and Dale Steyn then had Jonathan Trott caught by De Villiers for 10.
After working over Kevin Pietersen, Morne Morkel clean bowled him for 16, and Imran Tahir removed England captain Andrew Strauss, caught by Philander, to reduce the hosts to 67 for 4. At the close of play, England had reached 102 for 4.
Ravi Bopara was an early victim of Steyn on the final day, but Ian Bell and Matt Prior then stuck around stubbornly and took the total from 117 to 203 before Prior was caught by Kallis off the bowling of Tahir.
The new ball was taken and Steyn quickly showed why he is the world’s number one ranked test bowler. With a spell of 3 for 4 in 16 deliveries, he all but ended England’s resistance.
He had Bell, England’s top scorer with 55, caught by Kallis in the slips with a beautiful away swinger and then dismissed Broad, caught behind for a duck, after the batsman tried to fend off a short ball. Graeme Swann followed after an 11-ball innings, easily caught in the covers by Petersen for seven.
Steyn finished with the excellent figures of 5 for 56.
Imran Tahir wrapped it all up when he trapped James Anderson plum in front for four to end with a return of 3 for 63 off 32 overs.
England were all out for 240 and 12 runs short of forcing South Africa to bat again. The Proteas had secured their first victory at The Oval in 14 tests.
The second test takes place at Headingley, starting on Thursday, 2 August. The Proteas have won their two most recent tests at the venue: by 191 runs in 2008 and by 10 wickets in 2003.
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