Overdue win delights Cook
Alastair Cook, who struck a century on the first day England and South Africa crossed swords this summer, would not have expected to have to wait until the sixth game between the sides to taste victory.
It has been a memorable week for Cook, who succeeded Andrew Strauss as Test captain on Wednesday, and it improved today when he oversaw a NatWest Series-levelling one-day international win by four wickets with two overs to spare at the Kia Oval.
The triumph was built on a disciplined display in the field, where the Proteas were restricted to 211 all out, and a century partnership of contrasting innings by Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan, whose 73 occupied 67 deliveries to Trott’s 125-ball 71.
Following the 2-0 Investec Test setback, the first ODI at the SWALEC Stadium a week ago was abandoned and England were resoundingly beaten by 80 runs in the second at the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday.
“It’s realy nice to win,” Cook said. “It’s been a tough summer against South Africa and to finally win means a lot to the guys tonight.
“I thought the character we showed from a heavy defeat last game out was fantastic.
“We talked about areas and we improved on those areas in this game. We bowled better, we batted better and we fielded better and that’s encouraging when we right our wrongs.”
Morgan turned the contest decisively in England’s favour, having come to the crease after two quick wickets at 64 for three from 18 overs.
The left-hander struck seven fours and two sixes to put the hosts on course to overhaul South Africa’s below-par total when he was out in the 38th over. Trott played his usual game and was dismissed shortly before victory came.
“That’s the basis of the one-day structure that we’ve got,” Morgan said. “The various attributes contribute to different ways of winning a game.
“Trotty anchored the innings very well and I came in and got myself in and allowed myself to play the way I do. It worked out really well.”
England’s attack was not at its strongest today, with Graeme Swann rested for this and the last two matches in addition to Stuart Broad who is sitting out the entire series.
Swann was replaced by fellow spinner James Tredwell, who took the crucial wickets of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy - the latter South Africa’s last established batsman.
“He’s just a really, really good performer,” Cook said of Tredwell. “He knows his game really well, he’s a good man to have around and it’s great to have that nice strength in depth.
“We were always going to rest Swanny for these last three games with the amount of cricket we’ve got coming up, looking at the bigger picture.
“It’s really nice as a captain when you’ve got someone as solid and as good as James Tredwell to come in. He hasn’t played that much for England but every time he’s come in he’s never let us down.”
Jade Dernbach was England’s other change from Tuesday, replacing Tim Bresnan, and he impressed on his home ground with 3-44. Graeme Smith was his first victim before the others came during the hosts’ four wickets in eight mid-innings overs that initially swung the game their way.
“He’s a wicket-taker and he got wickets at crucial times today,” Cook added.
“That was one of the big differences. We kept on picking wickets up just about the right time. We never allowed them to get away from us. That’s why they could only get 212.”
South Africa skipper de Villiers, having admitted his side “were about 40 short”, recognised the talent of Dernbach, who bowled Dean Elgar with a trademark slower delivery.
“We know about the slower ball. He’s got a very good slower ball,” he said.
“He bowled well today, good areas on a good wicket. He got out of it what there was and you’ve got to give him credit for that.”
De Villiers bemoaned his side’s batting, which effectively cost them their place at the top of the ODI rankings.
“We didn’t play good cricket today at all,” he added.
“We won the toss, which I thought was a good toss to win. We had good conditions to bat under and our experienced guys got in and didn’t make it count, including myself.
“I was seeing it really well and played a poor shot at a very bad time and it’s those kind of things that cost you the game.”