South Africa win third test and top ranking

FRED ATKINS
Last updated 06:35 21/08/2012
South Africa cricket
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NUMBER ONE: The Proteas celebrate winning the test series against England and gaining the number one test ranking with it.

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South Africa has dethroned England as the world's top-ranked test side after winning the third test by 51 runs on an electrifying final day at Lord's.

Man-of-the-match Vernon Philander took 5-30 as the Proteas dismissed England for 294 on day five to secure a 2-0 series win and with it the mace the ICC awards the world's top-ranked team - but only after an exhilarating fight from England's lower order.

Needing 346 to win, the hosts made a disastrous start, but defiant innings from Jonathan Trott (63) and Jonny Bairstow (54) kept England's hopes alive.

Matt Prior and Graeme Swann then put on 74 from 66 balls before Swann was run out for 41.

Prior was caught off a no ball before he fell to Philander for 73 and Philander removed Steven Finn with his next ball to complete a thrilling win.

"For us to beat England at home is one of the greatest achievements of my career and I'm proud of each one of my guys," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said.

His England counterpart Andrew Strauss credited the tourists' play.

"They've definitely played the better cricket over the three tests," Strauss said. "It was a fantastic effort from our players but South Africa were just too good and they deserve a lot of credit. They've outplayed us over the series."

England looked like losing meekly when Ian Bell and James Taylor both went in the first hour.

Bell fell to a juggled catch by Smith at second slip when he tried to drive Philander and when Taylor was run out for 4 it seemed to sound a death knell for England. Trott flicked Steyn toward the mid-on boundary, and the batsmen had both turned for a fourth run when Trott stopped in his tracks.

With Taylor already committed, Steyn gathered Hashim Amla's return throw and calmly threw the ball for wicketkeeper AB de Villiers to run Taylor out by several feet.

England continued to live dangerously. Trott was nearly caught by a diving Jacques Rudolph and Bairstow survived a referral for lbw from Morne Morkel.

Yet Bairstow made the most of the reprieve to bat with style and aggression, reaching his 50 in the 42nd over when he flicked Philander to the fine leg boundary.

When Bairstow was bowled by Imran Tahir in the next over, the bowler was so ecstatic he sprinted toward the South Africa balcony and celebrated by pumping his fist wildly.

Trott then departed in the 47th to a spectacular diving catch by Jacques Kallis after edging Steyn's first ball after lunch, but England refused to capitulate.

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Broad smashed Steyn for six over midwicket, but his risky innings ended when he was caught by Amla at fine leg, although he was reluctant to leave the crease and only did so after a video review confirmed Steyn hadn't bowled a no-ball.

At the start of the evening session the Proteas were still strong favorites, but the partnership between Prior and Swann ignited the crowd.

Swann hit Tahir over deep midwicket for six to reduce the target to exactly 100 and in an over that went for 15 runs Prior reverse swept successive Tahir deliveries to bring up his 50.

When Swann swept Kallis for six in the next over it brought up the 50 partnership, before Prior drove Morkel inches past Steyn's hand at mid off.

The target was down to 64 when Swann was run out for 41 chasing a single, Tahir smartly whipping Rudolph's throw on to the stumps.

With the new ball imminent in the 79th over, Prior, then on 67, was caught by Duminy and nearly back in the pavilion when the video replay confirmed Morkel had bowled a no ball, to a raucous cheer from the usually staid Lord's crowd.

Instead of taking the new ball Smith persisted with Tahir and the third ball of the 80th over saw Prior again reprieved by the third umpire, surviving a stumping chance by the smallest possible margin.

Prior's luck finally ran out in the 83rd over when he edged Philander to Smith at first slip and South Africa concluded an unexpectedly fraught victory when Philander had Finn caught in the slips by Kallis for a golden duck.

"It almost hurts more to have got that close," Prior said. "At that stage I thought maybe it was just my day, but it wasn't to be."

Smith admitted he was worried.

"They came in and played some incredible shots," he said. "Out of the rough, reverse sweeps, slogs over long on. I've never seen Graeme Swann play so many great cricket shots and I have to give credit to Matt Prior, but we just needed to say to ourselves to keep doing the right things and get ourselves to that new ball."

The words "We Miss U Bouch" were scrawled on Smith's shirt and he confirmed this was a tribute to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, who was forced to retire from test cricket after suffering an eye injury during a warm-up game.

"It was a tribute from the team," Smith said. "It was meant to be his 150th test. He's been an integral part of the Proteas family for so long and it was something as a team we felt we wanted to do."

- AP

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