Superb England fly into semis
England withstood a resolute hundred from Graeme Smith to prevail from a high-scoring match at Centurion and seal their place in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals.
The scourge of England on too many occasions, Smith strung together a typically composed 141 under lights that threatened to lead South Africa to an imposing chase of 324, but he received insufficient support from his colleagues.
Instead, Smith becomes the latest South Africa captain forced to stomach another failure in a major tournament, this time on home soil.
With this 22-run defeat, the Proteas were unable to reach the 313 needed to stay ahead of Sri Lanka on net run-rate.
However, after this fantastic performance, England now found themselves in the unfamiliar position of kingmakers in Group B, as their result against New Zealand on Tuesday will decide who qualifies alongside them.
Lest there be any illusions, England won this game with the bat.
Owais Shah delivered the dominant innings that England have so desperately needed of late, as he and Eoin Morgan plundered South Africa’s feted pace attack to take England to 323 for eight, a score they could barely have dreamed of a couple of weeks ago.
Liberated from the inertia that seemed to grip him in the NatWest Series against Australia, Shah played with awesome power in his 98 from from 89 balls, including six sixes.
Andrew Strauss continued his successful run with the coin. He won the toss and opted to bat first on a glorious batting pitch at SuperSport Park.
Having made a bright start in moving to 48 without loss, England lost a wicket to the final ball of the mandatory batting powerplay, when Joe Denly holed out to deep square-leg.
The major obstacle was Strauss, displaying the career-best form that has seen him dominate England batting scorecards of late.
He was on 25 when he flashed an edge behind off Wayne Parnell, which Mark Boucher brilliantly held one-handed high to his left.
It ushered in the third-wicket stand of 163 between Shah and Paul Collingwood, who made 82, that would underpin an excellent batting effort.
Shah looked energised after his important knock in Friday’s six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka. He opened up with a sumptuous pull for six off Albie Morkel just prior to Strauss’ dismissal.
He and Collingwood accumulated intelligently in their first 50 partnership, from 63 balls.
Collingwood then freed his arms with trademark flicks and a heaved six off Roelof van der Merwe’s left-arm spin as the hundred stand approached.
Both batsmen passed 50 within moments of each other, and a switch seemed to flick somewhere in Shah, who suddenly unleashed five sixes in seven overs.
With the spinners hit out of the attack, Smith turned to Dale Steyn to effect a change, but Shah simply top-edged him for six and swatted him for another maximum.
Shah’s anguish was palpable when he departed two short of a richly deserved hundred, offering a diving Boucher a leading edge. An England batsman has still not scored an ODI hundred since Strauss made 105 against West Indies in Guyana earlier this year.
Collingwood and Morgan added 40 before Parnell returned to bowl England's mainstay off an inside edge.
Luke Wright was unluckily run out backing up, the recalled Ravi Bopara holed out to a skier, and Stuart Broad was yorked, but Morgan carried on regardless with a delightful 34-ball 67.
The left-hander’s knock contained six maximums, including his change-up, before he eventually perished to a brilliant catch by Smith at cover.
Morgan was then asked to don the wicketkeeping gloves after Matt Prior was taken ill with a virus overnight.
The former Ireland international had kept wicket previously in his career, twice for Middlesex second XI and also in a match for his home nation against Scotland. And, though it was tough work standing up, Morgan did an admirable job.
South Africa responded to their mammoth task by taking 43 from the opening seven overs, but they lost Herschelle Gibbs for 22 on his recall to the side in place of Hashim Amla.
Gibbs miscued an attempted pull off James Anderson, which gave Wright an easy catch at midwicket.
Jacques Kallis lasted barely longer, when he holed out to deep square-leg off Broad, who otherwise proved expensive.
But Smith looked in rare touch, and was barely hurried in moving to a half-century featuring seven fours.
His steadying 78-run stand with AB de Villiers, who made 36, came to an end when the right-hander became the latest batsman to fail to clear the leg-side rope.
Smith, who had already escaped a potential stumping when he misread Graeme Swann, profited further when Shah dropped a straightforward chance at mid-on.
But with 118 needed from 13 overs, JP Duminy was bowled for 24 backing away to try and cut Swann’s arm-ball.
From thereon in, South Africa made it all too easy for England. When Boucher was yorked by the superb Anderson, the game was all but over.
There was added spice to the contest when Smith took treatment for cramp at the end of the 43rd over, and Strauss refused to grant his opposite number a runner, signified by the sight of de Villiers returning to the pavilion.
Morkel was then run out as a result of Smith’s sluggishness, and Botha and van der Merwe also followed without scoring.
A man alone, Smith was forced to play some high-risk shots, and, with 50 still needed, he found long-on, where Shah held on this time. Smith had faced 134 balls all told.