LONDON, England (AFP) — South Africa yesterday took a one-nil lead in the three-match series against England, beating the hosts by an innings and 12 runs and securing their first win at the Oval after a masterful display of top-order batting.
Hashim Amla's unbeaten 311, ably supported by 182 not out from veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis and 131 from Graeme Smith, took the Proteas to 637-2 before they declared, setting England a target of 252 to make them bat again.
But with the hosts resuming on 102-4, England were always facing an uphill battle to save the game and despite some resistance from Ian Bell (55) and Matt Prior (40), saving the task ultimately proved impossible.
"I don't sit there ranking defeats, but we were outplayed," England captain Andrew Strauss admitted. "There are a number of areas where we are frustrated. There are regrets there, but we will learn the lessons and come back strong next week."
England, however, had managed to survive the first session virtually unscathed, moving to 177-5 at lunch, with the only wicket to fall that of Ravi Bopara, who was bowled off an inside edge by Dale Steyn for 22 in the seventh over.
Steyn bowled an accurate spell at the start of the day, but his wicket came off a short, wide ball, which Bopara tried to punch to the off side, only to get a thick inside edge which caused the ball to crash into his stumps.
Bell was dropped by stand-in wicketkeeper AB de Villiers off leg-spinner Imran Tahir when he was on 20, with de Villiers failing to hold a thin edge in Tahir's first over of the day, shortly before the morning drinks break.
The victory is South Africa's first in 11 matches at the Oval and they had previously lost all three Tests at the south London venue since returning to international cricket in 1991.