Proteas pull level with emphatic win
England rounded off a fine year of one-day international cricket in disappointing fashion as South Africa levelled the NatWest Series at 2-2 with a comfortable seven-wicket victory at Trent Bridge.
After winning the toss on a glorious afternoon in Nottingham, the hosts - victors in 12 out of 13 completed ODIs in 2012 prior to this game - were dismissed for 182 in 45.2 overs, with many of their batsmen guilty of poor strokes.
Jade Dernbach and James Anderson struck early blows in South Africa’s reply, the latter delivering two wicket-maidens in succession to reduce the tourists to 14 for three.
The pressure was soon relieved, however, as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers shared an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 172 under the floodlights.
Amla, an immaculate performer who collects his runs with the minimum of fuss, was rarely troubled during an unbeaten innings of 97, which took his tally of runs in the series to 335 from four innings.
De Villiers contributed 75 not out, having finally cashed in on a start for the first time this summer with the aid of several eye-catching drives.
South Africa’ triumph ensured England were unable to record an eighth successive ODI series victory on home soil, although they do have the consolation of remaining top of the ICC rankings.
England’s innings started poorly, with Ian Bell falling lbw for 10 - the first of three victims for Robin Peterson - before Dale Steyn had Ravi Bopara caught behind for a second-ball duck.
A third-wicket stand of 55 between skipper Alastair Cook, who top-scored with 51, and the recalled Jonny Bairstow steadied the ship, but a series of soft dismissals put South Africa firmly on top.
Bairstow holed out to deep square-leg just when he had started to look comfortable; Eoin Morgan picked out mid-on off JP Duminy to depart without scoring and Cook was caught and bowled off a full-toss from Francois du Plessis.
Craig Kieswetter’s dismissal for 33, which saw the previously untroubled wicketkeeper-batsman sky Morne Morkel to mid-off, left England facing an uphill task to bat 50 overs.
James Tredwell and Anderson then fell to successive Peterson deliveries following ill-advised strokes and Dernbach was caught behind off Wayne Parnell, leaving Chris Woakes stranded on 33 not out.
If South Africa anticipated a routine run-chase, they were initially forced into a rethink as Anderson and Dernbach operated with accuracy and intensity at the beginning of the innings.
The latter induced an edge to second slip from Graeme Smith, and Anderson exposed unconvincing footwork on the part of du Plessis and Dean Elgar by having both caught behind.
England’s fightback roused the Nottinghamshire crowd and provided Amla and de Villiers with a stiff test. Yet the experienced duo responded superbly and it was not long before the tourists were back on top.
Both batsmen moved to 50 in the 23rd over and the century partnership was brought up soon after during a bowling powerplay yielding 42 runs.
By that stage South Africa were virtually sure of victory, which was duly completed with more than 15 overs to spare.
South Africa Innings
8:23pm – END OF MATCH – SA 186/3 (34.3 overs); Amla 97; De Villiers 75 - SOUTH AFRICA WIN BY SEVEN WICKETS! That will be that. De Villiers reverse-sweeps Tredwell for four before Amla applies the finishing touch by flicking Dernbach to the square-leg rope. The NatWest Series is drawn!
8:18pm - Amla collects three fours in an over from Dernbach, one via a thick outside edge, and still has time to register another century.
8:13pm - Amla dances down the track to Tredwell and plants one over cover for the first six of the match. He now has 80 to de Villiers' 70.
8:10pm - We are just awaiting the inevitable now. South Africa need 30 from 19 overs and have been too strong today.
8pm - Woakes shows athleticism with a diving attempt to run out de Villiers off his own bowling. The batsman just about made his ground at the striker’s end.
7:51pm - The bowling powerplay comes to an end with 42 taken from five overs. I don’t think we will need much longer this evening, but Woakes has not given up and beats Amla’s outside edge with a beauty.
7:42pm – CENTURY PARTNERSHIP – Another landmark arrives as the fourth-wicket pair take their partnership into three figures. It looks as though England are about to pay for their disappointing batting display. A total of 182 was never likely to be enough on this surface.
7:37pm – FIFTY! De Villiers (54b 8x4 0x6) - South Africa’s captain follows his partner to 50. After giving his wicket away a few times on this tour, de Villiers has played superbly today. Just 75 more needed for the Proteas.
7:35pm – FIFTY! Amla (63b 5x4 0x6) - De Villiers responds to Dernbach’s return by unfurling two sweetly-timed drives either side of mid-off. The supreme Amla brings up his half-century with a single to mid-on off Anderson, before another de Villiers drive yields four more. South Africa are cruising now.
7:28pm - I am afraid to say things have gone rather flat now. Unless things change quickly, the NatWest Series will be shared. Dernbach returns from the Pavilion End as the bowling powerplay is taken.
7:22pm – Amla is looking in great touch now – how many times has that been said this summer? The opener lofts Tredwell over mid-off for his fifth four before de Villiers is rapped on the pads by Ravi Bopara’s first ball. There is disbelief in the press box as England choose not to use their review. That looked plumb from here, but replays show it was sliding down leg.
7:12pm - Samit Patel comes on and is confidently driven past cover by an advancing Amla to bring up the fifty partnership. England opt against enforcing the bowling powerplay immediately as Tredwell switches ends. Drinks are then taken with South Africa 76 for three.
7:02pm - Tredwell, who had three batsmen stumped last time out, enters the attack and concedes two singles in his first over. Woakes then drops short and is whipped behind square by de Villiers. A wicket is needed ... and quickly!
6:56pm - That was almost the end for Amla! Woakes locates the edge, but the ball drops short of wicketkeeper and slip and flies through the gap for four. A glorious back-foot punch through the covers duly brings Amla another boundary.
6:52pm - South Africa end the compulsory powerplay on 43 for three following a steady opening over from Woakes. It is vital England make another breakthrough as soon as possible. How they would love to remove Hashim Amla, who has progressed quietly to 18.
6:44pm - Successive pulled fours off Dernbach take de Villiers to 17 from 14 balls. Anderson is maintaining the pressure from the Radcliffe Road End and we are about to see Chris Woakes.
6:35pm - De Villiers guides Dernbach past point to register his first boundary, although he is then lucky to see the ball land safely when a slower delivery takes the shoulder of the bat. This really is a key partnership and a glorious straight drive off Anderson gives de Villiers four more.
6:28pm - Anderson beats the edge of AB de Villiers before completing a second successive wicket-maiden. Trent Bridge is rocking and we have a real game on now.
6:25pm – WICKET! Elgar c Kieswetter b Anderson 1; SA 14/3 - Elgar makes contact with a tentative push outside off stump, but succeeds only in providing Craig Kieswetter with another catch! The end of a woeful innings and there is real excitement in the stands.
6:23pm - Anderson and Dernbach are bowling with good intensity and making life tough for South Africa. Elgar can barely lay bat on ball just now.
6:15pm – WICKET! Du Plessis c Kieswetter b Anderson 3; SA 11/2 - This makes things interesting. Francois du Plessis’ dreadful run of form continues as he gets a regulation edge through to the wicketkeeper off Anderson. Dean Elgar is the new man and England have given themselves a chance.
6:10pm – WICKET! Smith c Tredwell b Dernbach 1; SA 8/1 - There is the early breakthrough England needed! Smith flashes at the fourth ball of the second over and is taken at second slip by James Tredwell. The fielder dropped two chances at Lord’s and juggled the ball on this occasion before clinging on.
6:02pm - The action is about to resume at Trent Bridge. James Anderson will get things under way with the ball for England, who must surely bowl South Africa out if they are to win this game.
5:25pm - England will require something special from at least one of their bowlers if they are to emerge victorious this evening. The run-chase is scheduled to begin at 6:04pm.
5:20pm – WICKET! Dernbach c de Villiers b Parnell 2; Eng 182 ALL OUT - England are unable to bat out the 50 overs. Dernbach is caught behind on the pull off Parnell, leaving Woakes stranded on 33.
5:18pm – Last man Jade Dernbach has a top score of five in ODIs, so it is no surprise to see Woakes, who has passed his own previous best, attempting to farm the strike here.
5:10pm – WICKET! Anderson c Morkel b Peterson 0; Eng 175/9 – Dear oh dear – this is not James Anderson’s finest hour. The tailender aims a big slog at the first delivery he faces and picks out mid-off. Peterson is on a hat-trick.
5:08pm – WICKET! Tredwell b Peterson 6; Eng 175/8 – Each time England look to be gaining some momentum, a wicket falls. On this occasion Tredwell is beaten in the flight and bowled by Peterson aiming an ugly swipe across the line.
5:06pm - Woakes is doing his best to keep the scoreboard ticking over with an array of risk-free strokes. He twice plays and misses against Steyn, however, as England end the 43rd over on 174 for seven.
4:56pm - Morkel pulls up after a delivery and looks to have picked up an injury somewhere around his ribs. He continues and is diverted past short fine-leg by an increasingly assured Woakes, who has become the key man for the batting side.
4:50pm - It is vital now that England at least bat out the 50 overs. If they can creep up to 210 or 220, they may still have a chance. South Africa are strong favourites at this stage, however.
4:44pm – WICKET! Kieswetter c Amla b Morkel 33; Eng 156/7 - Another England batsman falls to a slower ball. Kieswetter, seeking to hit Morkel down the ground, skies one to mid-off, where Amla makes no mistake.
4:39pm - Kieswetter gets the batting powerplay off to a fine start by lofting a loose delivery from Morkel over cover for four. A top-edge from Woakes also finds the boundary, although he is then beaten outside off by Parnell.
4:31pm - Peterson is back on, this time from the Radcliffe Road End, while Duminy takes over from Elgar. I can hardly keep up with the number of changes! The batting powerplay will be enforced shortly and it is vital that England make the most of it. With 16 overs to come, they are 135 for six.
4:21pm - New batsman Woakes has scored plenty of runs in first-class cricket this summer. England could certainly do with a healthy contribution from the all-rounder today. Kieswetter is looking good and pulls Elgar for four.
4:15pm – WICKET! Patel c de Villiers b Steyn 9; Eng 124/6 - Kieswetter looks to run a slower ball from Steyn down to third man and edges short of the keeper. Patel is not so lucky in the paceman’s next over. Deceived by a slower ball, he gets a glove through to de Villiers. South Africa are well on top here.
4:05pm - Patel delights the Trent Bridge faithful by cutting du Plessis for four. That was a lovely stroke. The tourists have been somewhat sloppy since ousting Cook, prompting de Villiers to call Steyn back for another stint.
4:01pm - Kieswetter and Patel, playing on his home ground, need to stick around now. Parnell helps England’s cause with back-to-back no-balls, although the two free hits prove relatively painless for South Africa. Kieswetter then drives with authority through the off side as 10 runs come from the 27th over.
3:50pm – WICKET! Cook c & b du Plessis 51; Eng 99/5 - The captain will not be batting through the innings! Francois du Plessis becomes the latest spinner to be given a twirl from the Pavilion End and accepts a simple return catch off only his second ball, which was a low full-toss.
3:46pm – FIFTY! Cook (69b 6x4 0x6) - Still plenty of batting to come for England, with Samit Patel and Chris Woakes the next two men on the card. Cook will be aiming to be there at the end and brings up a valuable half-century with a single off Parnell.
3:37pm - Cook edges Parnell through the vacant slips for four. He now has Craig Kieswetter for company, while de Villiers continues to ring the changes, reintroducing Peterson in place of Duminy.
3:27pm – WICKET! Morgan c Amla b Duminy 0; Eng 82/4 – A second duck of the day leaves England in trouble. Hashim Amla was brought up at mid-on for the fifth ball of JP Duminy’s first over and Morgan picked the fielder out when looking to go over the top.
3:24pm – WICKET! Bairstow c Ontong b Morkel 29; Eng 79/3 - Bairstow moves to 29 with a powerful pulled four off Morkel, only to pick out deep square-leg next ball with a rather casual flick. That ends a useful partnership of 55 and brings Eoin Morgan to the crease.
3:20pm – DROPPED CHANCE - A single into the leg side from Cook off the returning Morkel brings up the fifty stand. After a drinks break, Peterson continues and is unable to take a tricky return catch offered up by England's skipper. Both batsmen have now been reprieved.
3:08pm - Elgar over-steps, which is pretty ridiculous when you are bowling left-arm spin. To his credit, he responds with a fine yorker that Bairstow is unable to score off. Peterson subsequently replaces his fellow spinner as South Africa take the bowling powerplay at the earliest opportunity. England are just ticking over at present.
2:57pm - Time for some more spin as Dean Elgar takes over from Morkel at the Pavilion End. The left-armer keeps Bairstow quiet with an accurate first set of six. Parnell then appeals for lbw against England’s number four, but no-one else is interested.
2:50pm - England end the mandatory powerplay on 42 for two. Wayne Parnell then comes on for Steyn and sees Cook get a bottom edge that drops well short of de Villiers. A more convincing cut stroke takes Cook to 25.
2:42pm – DROPPED CHANCE - A let-off for Bairstow as a thick inside-edge off Steyn is put down by AB de Villiers. In fairness, it was a really tough one-handed chance to the wicketkeeper’s left. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Trott will miss the remainder of the domestic season after an MRI scan revealed he has suffered an undisplaced fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand.
2:37pm - A maiden from Steyn is followed by an expensive over by Morkel, who is cut to the point fence by Bairstow before Cook pulls over the infield at midwicket for his fourth boundary.
2:29pm - Steyn twice beats the outside edge of Bairstow, but the Yorkshireman, adopting an attacking approach, gets off the mark with a four through midwicket off Morne Morkel, who has replaced Peterson.
2:20pm – WICKET! Bopara c de Villiers b Steyn 0; Eng 24/2 – Ravi Bopara is unable to make an impression after being promoted to three in Jonathan Trott’s absence. The Essex batsman falls second ball when nibbling outside off against Steyn. Jonny Bairstow comes in at four.
2:16pm – WICKET! Bell lbw Peterson 10; Eng 23/1 - A wonderful piece of timing sees Ian Bell find the rope at square-leg off Steyn. The seamer has not found his radar yet and another wayward delivery is punished by Cook, who clips confidently through midwicket. Bell then cuts Peterson past backward point before being trapped in front by one that went straight on with the arm. England waste their review in attempting to overturn their decision.
2:08pm - Just the three seamers for South Africa today, and left-arm spinner Robin Peterson has been called upon already to take the other new ball. He beats Cook’s outside edge before being swept behind square for four.
2:03pm - Dale Steyn opens the bowling from the Radcliffe Road End and finds immediate swing into the left-handed Alastair Cook. A confident straight-driven four enables England’s captain to get off the mark and there is little movement for the rest of the over.
1:59pm - The players have entered the field and we are ready to go. What sort of target can England set this afternoon I wonder?
1:52pm - Alastair Cook and Ian Bell will be walking out to bat shortly. I am pleased to report that the sun is still shining brightly in Nottingham. No danger of any rain here!
1:35pm – ENGLAND WIN THE TOSS AND BAT - AB de Villiers calls incorrectly and England skipper Cook opts to bat, a decision his opposite number declares himself satisfied with. Jonny Bairstow comes in for Trott, with Ravi Bopara moving up to number three, while Steven Finn has a back problem and is replaced by Chris Woakes. South Africa bring in Justin Ontong and Morne Morkel for Ryan McLaren and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
1:25pm - A reminder that fielding coach Richard Halsall is in temporary charge of England today, with team director Andy Flower taking a short break to spend some time with his family. Victory for the hosts would make it 14 wins out of 15 in completed ODIs this year, and Craig Kieswetter is understandably proud of the team’s efforts.
1:20pm – Not long until the toss and confirmation of both line-ups. We know there will be at least one change to the England side after Jonathan Trott injured his hand on Sunday, while South Africa may look to shake things up a bit after below-par displays in each of the last two games.
1:10pm - With the sun beating down on the press box, I’ve already taken shelter by moving to the back row. I feared my laptop may catch fire if I stayed at the front any longer.
1:05pm - England are 2-1 up in this five-match rubber after emerging victorious at the Kia Oval and Lord’s last week. Alastair Cook’s men are certain to keep hold of top spot in the ODI rankings regardless of today’s result, but will be determined to secure another series win.
1pm - After sitting through umpteen rain delays this summer, it was an absolute pleasure to be greeted by glorious sunshine on my arrival at Trent Bridge today. One of the most beautiful grounds in the country looks an absolute picture ahead of the final NatWest Series one-day international. As ever, ecb.co.uk will be bringing you live text coverage of all the action.