Proteas on top of the world, again

South Africa secured their third World No. 1 title this month with an 80-run win over England in the second ODI at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.

South Africa secured their third World No. 1 title this month with an 80-run win over England in the second ODI at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.

Hashim Amla's career-best 150 carried South Africa to a dominant 287 for five after AB de Villiers called correctly at the toss and opted to bat first. England lost their own captain, Alastair Cook, to the second ball of the match and never really looked like threatening the South African total thereafter.

Morne Morkel had Samit Patel caught behind to end the match and spark celebrations that didn't have quite the lustre of those at Lord's last Monday and South Africa may yet give up the top spot before this series is up, but the victory was well deserved nonetheless.

Amla's was the standout knock, and during the course of his innings he became the quickest batsman to reach 3,000 ODI runs, beating West Indian great Viv Richards by a dozen innings. He received solid support from Graeme Smith, who registered a gritty 76-ball 52. AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis also chipped in after the dismissals of JP Duminy and Dean Elgar, on international debut, had threatened a South African collapse. Individual performances aside, South Africa were simply the better team.

Amla and Smith showed the worth of experience, and tenacity, against the new ball in an opening stand that stretched to 89 before it was broken. Smith took the bulk of the strike first up, facing 44 balls to Amla's 16 in the first Powerplay, and did enough to deny England the breakthrough despite looking decidedly scratchy at times and barely playing a shot in the 'V'.

He brought up a 70-ball half-century in the 18th over before top-edging a legside heave at Tim Bresnan. England might have had another – vital – breakthrough two overs later when Amla feathered a drive at Samit Patel, but Craig Kieswetter couldn't get his gloves to the ball and from that point on Amla took centre stage.

Faulty calling led to Duminy's run-out, and Elgar never really settled before he had his off-stump rattled by a fizzing Graeme Swann offspinner in the 34th over. By that point, however, Amla was already cruising along at better than a-run-a-ball and gave some hint of his continued imperious form as he went into the 90s with a lofted drive off a Bresnan delivery that was nowhere near a half-volley.

He was dropped again shortly afterwards, Kieswetter grassing a one-handed attempt at catching a strangle down the leg-side, but didn't slow down and closed in on his 10th ODI hundred – and first against England – with a ramped uppercut to third man. A bunted drive to mid-on in the next over brought the ton, and without a slog in sight Amla then set about marshalling South Africa's charge at the death.

Bresnan came in for more damage as he was taken for consecutive boundaries, one of which was an extraordinary late dab to thirdman after Amla had set himself for a paddle to fine leg, and after going past his previous one-day best Amla added another boundary off Finn to reach 150. He was dismissed immediately afterwards, chipping a cut straight to short thirdman, but the damage had already been done.

What was missing from England's response was the touch of genius Amla had shown. Speaking of which, the England camp will have had word of Kevin Pietersen's run-a-ball 163 in Surrey's Championship match against Somerset at Taunton. That knock held an otherwise shaky effort together, and England would have been thankful for something similar in their floodlit run chase.

As it happened, none of England's batsmen were equal to the task of holding the innings together and simultaneously scoring quickly, as Amla had, and apart from Bell and Trott's efforts not one of their middle-order partnerships reached fifty. South Africa, by comparison, had three fifty-plus stands, all of them featuring Amla.

Bell and Trott's brief rally, after the slippery Lonwabo Tsotsobe had castled Cook second ball, was ended by a fantastic piece of fielding from the debutant Elgar. Positioned at long leg, he had appeared to misjudge a scooped pull from Trott but backpedalled furiously and clung on to reduce England to 64 for two.

Robin Peterson spun one past topscorer Ian Bell's outside edge to remove the batsman for 45, and when a skittish Ravi Bopara slapped a long-hop straight to the extra cover fielder shortly afterwards England were 90 for four. Kieswetter and Morgan briefly threatened a fightback, but South Africa's stranglehold increased steadily and English hopes vanished when Duminy and Parnell combined to nip out three wickets in six balls, reducing the hosts to 159 for eight.

Steven Finn and Samit Patel gave the thinning crowd something to cheer with a 37-run stand in just three overs but they were only postponing the inevitable and Morne Morkel wrapped up the match with his second wicket. South Africa are now No. 1 in all three formats, and it's hard to see England stopping their momentum this summer.

<b>Liam Brickhill</b>