Once a team goes 0-2 down in a five-match series, it becomes extremely difficult for them to win the contest. After all, expecting a team to win three matches in a row, no matter how good they are, seems a bit too far-fetched, no matter how good a side they are. This is why South Africa's triumph in the ODI series against England at home is highly commendable. They went into the one-dayers having gone down in their second Test series in a row, and were soon staring at a defeat in the one-dayers as well, having lost the initial two matches. But, they recovered well to square the series, and carried the momentum into the decider, in which they triumphed.
The Cape Town win was a result of an excellent all-round show, in which both the bowlers and the batsmen shone in equal measure. But, South African skipper AB de Villiers once again played the key role in the team's victory, reiterating what a big match player he is. De Villiers did not begin the series with much confidence, but has ended it on a high. Although South Africa were chasing a small target at Cape Town, they were in desperate trouble at 22 for 3. De Villiers kept his composure nicely to guide South Africa in the company of Hashim Amla. Even after Amla and Farhaan Behardien were dismissed in quick succession, de Villiers battled on, and ensured victory for the team.
As mentioned earlier, the bowlers and batsmen contributed equally to Proteas' triumph. Kagiso Rabada once again stood out with his potency and accuracy. Rabada got the big scalps of Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and centurion Alex Hales, to put the skids on the English batting. Rabada's wicket-taking ability is a big plus for the South Africans. Leggie Imran Tahir was among the wickets again, which should please the hosts. He has comeback well after disappointing efforts earlier in the series. David Wiese had a good all-round game, getting wickets, and scoring runs as well while Kyle Abbott was extremely economical.
England struggled in the match because their batting let them down. Hales has been in excellent form throughout the series, and if there is one criticism about him, it has been that he hadn't converted his fifties into hundreds. The opener got his act right, and compiled a fluent hundred. However, he could not find much support from the rest. Jason Roy had another poor game, and his form will start to worry the visitors a bit. Joe Root was due for a low score, and he got one. But, the biggest setback for England was losing Butler first ball. The big-hitting batsman's dismissal meant that England could not push on in the middle and late overs.
England fought back admirably with the ball. Then again, they should have done better after having South Africa three wickets down for next to nothing on the board. Reece Topley was brilliant at the top as he dismissed three of the top five South African batsmen. But, the rest could not contribute as significantly. Stuart Broad was utterly disappointing, and clearly questions would be raised over whether he should be playing in coloured clothing in the future. Chris Woakes too could not make much of an impression while Adil Rashid was ineffective against de Villiers. In the end, South Africa proved them remain a force in international cricket despite a few setbacks.
-- By A Cricket Analyst