De Villiers does the damage
A brilliant century from AB de Villiers set up a comprehensive 112-run victory for South Africa in the third one-day international against England.
De Villiers’ masterful 121 off just 85 balls was the centrepiece of a dominant batting display from the hosts on a wonderfully true surface at Newlands.
He was responsible for a late-innings charge which propelled South Africa to 354 for six, their highest one-day total against England and the joint highest this ground has seen.
It was a daunting target England never came close to threatening under the floodlights, bowled out for 242 despite Paul Collingwood’s valiant 86 and 45 from Kevin Pietersen to leave the series all-square heading into the penultimate match at Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
As well as Collingwood batted, the crucial contributions came from de Villiers, for whom it was a first one-day century in two years, Hashim Amla and Graeme Smith.
Amla laid the platform with a measured 86 to complement 54 from captain Smith, his partner in an opening stand of 107, while Alviro Petersen also weighed in with an unbeaten 51.
Yet the bulk of the damage was caused by de Villiers’ bat during a rapid fourth-wicket partnership of 95 with Petersen which helped South Africa take 109 off the final 10 overs.
If those backing an England win were in the minority at tea, there were even fewer believers by the time Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott fell in the space of four balls to leave the tourists 58 for three.
Pietersen and Collingwood may have kept their faint hopes alive by adding 84 for the fourth wicket, but JP Duminy made up for his failure with the bat by removing Pietersen and Morgan in successive overs.
They were telling blows as South Africa cruised to an astonishing 25th win in 28 ODIs at this venue.
No-one, though, could match de Villiers’ excellence during an innings notable for its technical excellence and controlled aggression, and it appeared he could pierce the field at will during a brutal yet intelligent late assault.
Stuart Broad, on his return to the side after a shoulder injury, came in for the heaviest punishment, but de Villiers was one of three late wickets for the all-rounder as he finished with 4-71 from 10 overs.
Broad bowled too short, a failing evident early on as Amla whipped him off his hips and cut him over point while Smith swatted Tim Bresnan over and wide of mid-on.
Smith served further notice of his fine touch by driving Collingwood on the up straight back past the bowler shortly before bringing up a 50-ball half-century, and it came as a major surprise when he played on making room to slash Luke Wright through the off side.
Amla, by contrast, maintained a level-headed approach, mixing excellent placement with alert running en route to a second successive fifty, and was content to act as a foil to the instantly attacking de Villiers.
Demonstrating his fondness for the square-cut, he raced to a 39-ball half-century, outscoring Amla before the latter bottom-edged a pull off Broad to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
When Duminy swung Wright to Morgan at deep square-leg moments later, England sensed an opportunity, but de Villiers reasserted South Africa’s authority in emphatic fashion.
He charged the quicker bowlers with relish as he peppered the extra-cover fence, although he survived a run-out chance to Collingwood at backward point on 73 as he sped to three figures for the first time in ODIs since making 103 not out against Pakistan in Lahore two years ago.
There was also the occasional paddle-sweep as he entertained the home crowd royally, only to perish in the 46th over attempting to hit over the top once more.
By that time, South Africa had surpassed their previous highest score against England, the 311 for seven they made at East London four years ago, although they could not better their record 354 for three on this ground, made against Kenya in 2001.
Petersen went almost unnoticed to a second fifty in as many games, off 39 deliveries, and Mark Boucher swung to good effect before he and Ryan McLaren perished in the final over.
Whereas the preservation of wickets was central to South Africa’s huge total, England’s reply was undermined by the loss of three inside the first 10 overs.
Wright, promoted to open, managed three fours and a six over long-on, but perished on the hook to Wayne Parnell, who had Trott superbly held by a diving Smith at slip shortly after Strauss edged a leaden-footed drive off Morne Morkel behind.
Pietersen’s innings, though far from his most fluent, at least allowed him further time at the crease following his recovery from Achilles surgery.
He swept Roelof van der Merwe for six the over before he was bowled round his legs attempting to repeat the feat against Duminy. Morgan chipped to long-off in his next over.
While Collingwood and Prior’s 64-run stand for the sixth wicket kept England interested if nothing else, their hopes were all but ended when both perished in the space of nine balls.
Prior skied Morkel to Smith at mid-off, Collingwood failed to clear Amla at mid-off, Bresnan fell in almost identical fashion, Broad was bowled swinging wildly and Parnell trapped James Anderson lbw to finish with 5-48 as South Africa capped a thoroughly impressive performance with 8.3 overs to spare.