South Africa wrapped up the first Investec Test against England at The Oval as the afternoon drew to a close on day five, crushing the hosts by an innings and 12 runs.
After day one went to England, the visitors comprehensively outplayed the world's best Test side and leave the hosts 1-0 down in the best of three series.
After winning the toss, Andrew Strauss was confident his batsman would be able to set the tone for the rest of the series. Ending day one on 267 for 3, with Alastair Cook on 114 not out and a good 71 from Jonathan Trott, everything looked to be going the hosts' way. Sadly that was all Strauss and his men had to cheer about for the rest of the game as the South Africans came out fighting on day two, removing the last seven English wickets for 118. With Morne Morkel the pick of the bowlers (4 for 72), the hosts were all out for 385, well under-par on a good pitch for batting.
England got off to the best possible start with the ball, removing Alviro Petersen for 0 with the score on 1. That only brought on two and a half days' of toil in the field as Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, and Jacques Kallis made hay in the sunshine and showed the English batsman just how to make the most of a good batting pitch.
Smith, after a partnership of 259 with Amla, eventually fell for 131 in his 100th test match but that was the last success for the English bowlers. Amla continued on his merry way to end 311 not out, a Test record score for South African. Amla's stint at the crease lasted a mammoth 13 hours and 10 minutes, and underlined a performance of pure class and unwavering concentration. The contribution of the ageless Kallis must not be underestimated though, ending 182 not out as the visitors declared on 637 for 2 late on day four.
With a first innings deficit of 252, England knew they had to bat for the rest of the game in order to force a draw. The runs were not the issue - it was more about survival on a pitch that was offering all sorts of movement and varying bounce for the fast bowlers and the spin of Imran Tahir. With that in mind, the worst start occurred as Cook could not continue his first innings form as he fell for 0. Trott did not last much longer and when Kevin Pietersen was comprehensively bowled by Morkel, defeat for England was becoming the most likely result. When Strauss fell to a poorly played sweep off Tahir, the score was 67 for 4, still 185 runs from making South Africa bat again. Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara dug in to start the recovery and day four ended on 102 for 4.
With 90 overs to survive, the onus was on Bell and Bopara to not lose any wickets. However it was not long before South Africa made the breakthrough, Bopara playing on to be bowled by Dale Steyn for 22 with the score on 117. Matt Prior, the last recognised batsman and Bell then swung the momentum slightly towards the hosts, however with the turn and bounce for Tahir becoming increasingly more difficult to play, Prior fell to a misjudged sweep shot for 40 with the score now 203 for 7. Bell fell for a defiant 55 but the result was all but a formality. South Africa took the final wicket with the score on 240 with Steyn ending with innings figures of 5 for 56.
The man of the match award deservedly went to Hashim Amla for a great performance, but what must be noted is how well the South African fast bowlers caused problems on a reasonably flat wicket. Question marks have been raised about the English batsmen and also the lack of potency in their bowling department. Slipping 1-0 down in a three-match series is a tough way to start, but England are number one in the world for a reason and expect there to be a backlash at Headingley next week.