AB de Villiers celebrated his 200th ODI appearance – although only his 195th for the Proteas – with an unbeaten 24th career century and more importantly a five-wicket match and series triumph against England in the final match of the Momentum ODI Series at PPC Newlands on Sunday.
The Proteas thus emulated the performance of their predecessors of 2003 who beat Pakistan 3-2 after being 2-0 down after two games. This is only the fourth time this has happened in the history of ODI cricket although in one case – between Pakistan and India – it was a six-match series which Pakistan won 4-2 after being 2-0 down.
The Proteas victory was a conclusive one as they had five wickets and six overs in hand when David Wiese – another of the stars of the day – belted Chris Woakes through the covers to seal the result.
England suffered the heartbreak of once again having a centurion in their ranks – this time Alex Hales (a career best 112 off 128 balls, 14 fours) – but being again on the losing side as the support from those who batted around him was simply not good enough.
Their total of 236 never looked like being enough and Hales will be rueing the fact that he got himself caught on the boundary in the 44th over to be ninth man out. It was a matter of centimetres between Rilee Rossouw making the catch and the ball disappearing into the crowd for six.
England had their chances to get back into the match when the impressive Reece Topley, who was the leading wicket-taker in the series, took three up front to rock the Proteas at 22/3 but they did not include the two big fishes, De Villiers and Hashim Amla, who set up the victory with their partnership of 125 in 22.2 overs. It was the 11th century partnership between the pair, equalling the South African record of Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs.
England had another brief look-in when Amla and Farhaan Behardien fell in quick succession but De Villiers (101 not out, 97 balls, 11 fours and a six) and Wiese put the game to bed with an unbroken stand of 71 in only 9 overs.
If any statistic told the story of the match it was that South Africa had these two big stands while England’s best was of 70 between Hales and Stokes.
It was Kagiso Rabada who broke the game open for South Africa as he has done so often this season by re-entering the attack in the 28th over with England well placed at 153/3 to take the wickets of Stokes and Jos Buttler with successive legal deliveries (there was a wide in between).
They never recovered from this blow from Rabada, Imran Tahir and Wiese all taking 3 wickets.
Wiese finished with career best batting and bowling figures (41 not out off 32 balls, 5 five fours and 2 sixes and 3/50 in 9 overs) and has certainly settled the argument over the Proteas fielding a No. 7 all-rounder.
De Villiers was named Man of the Match and Hales, who was the leading run-scorer in the series, Man of the Series. He went past 50 in every match with a century and four half-centuries. – ANA