England v South Africa: Andrew Strauss proud of his side’s effort
Andrew Strauss praises England's effort despite losing to South Africa in the third Test, and surrendering their No1 ranking
Andrew Strauss insisted he was proud of England’s valiant performance after the hosts suffered a 51-run defeat in the third Test against South Africa.
Hopes of an improbable win entered the thoughts of the home supporters at Lord’s after gutsy displays from Matt Prior (73) and Jonny Bairstow (54) but a quick-fire pair of dismissals from Vernon Philander ensured victory for the tourists.
The result means that England’s year-long spell as the world’s No1-ranked Test side is over, after the Proteas picked up a 2-0 series success.
“We’re all bitterly disappointed, there was always going to be a lot to do,” said Strauss.
“It was an outstanding Test match but South Africa played the better cricket and they’ve deserved it, although losing our number one ranking is a bitter pill to swallow.
“I’m very proud of the guys for the commitment, desire and effort they showed. Jonny Bairstow was outstanding and showed what a great talent he is, it’s a great tribute to the work he’s done since the West Indies series.
“The catching is one area that needs to be worked on. Now we have got to look at went wrong in this series and how we can improve. It’s very hard to let the ranking go as we’ve worked so hard to get it.”
Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott walked out knowing that they faced a mammoth effort to chase down a target of 346 – the only way their ranking as the number one team in Test cricket could be preserved.
This task became even more difficult inside the first half-hour as another wicket went down.
Bell’s expansive attempt at a back-foot shot through the covers didn’t go to plan as Graeme Smith clung on to the catch after his best impression of
a juggling act.
A string of maiden overs then followed as new arrival James Taylor soon followed Bell back into the pavilion after a calamitous run out.
Trott initially seemed to call his inexperienced partner through for a fourth run when the ball was worked into the leg side, but a decision to change his mind left AB De Villiers with the simple task of removing the bails.
With four wickets down, the despondency of the home fans seemed to radiate into the players as the size of their challenge seemed to dawn.
Bairstow, who made 95 in the first innings, brightened the spirits of those in attendance somewhat as he crashed four boundaries in quick succession.
The pair seemed to be setting out a defiant stall in the middle as they produced a partnership of 50, brought up in just 52 balls, making life difficult for the visiting bowlers.
A well-earned lunch break seemed to reinvigorate the mood of the not-out batsmen as Bairstow soon joined his partner in bringing up a deserved half-century.
There wasn’t much time for celebration though as the youngster fell shortly after, as Imran Tahir’s skidding delivery penetrated his defences.
It didn’t take long for hopes to fade even further for Andy Flower’s side as another dismissal followed.
The decision to reinstate Dale Steyn to the attack looked inspired as the first ball of the new spell forced an edge from Trott, which was superbly caught by a diving Jacques Kallis.
Despite staring defeat in the face, Prior and Stuart Broad provided an entertaining link-up to keep slim hopes of a salvage operation alive.
They were soon dashed though as a Kallis bouncer provided the much-needed scalp of Broad, with the onrushing Amla taking a diving catch.
The arrival of Graeme Swann heralded the dawn of gung-ho cricket for England as they made a desperate charge to cling onto their place at the summit of the Test rankings.
No South Africa bowler seemed exempt from the treatment as the pair sought to attack at every available opportunity.
Their partnership finally came to an end after an incredible 74-run stand, as Swann was run out after a moment of indecisiveness was punished.
Hearts were in mouths moments later as Prior’s innings looked to be over as he was caught by JP Duminy, off Morne Morkel.
The Sussex wicketkeeper was handed a reprieve though as umpire Simon Taufel’s check on the television replays showed that Morkel bowled a no-ball.
His stay was short-lived as an out-swinging delivery from Philander proved irresistible, with the edge pouched by Smith.
Philander wasted little time in wrapping up the victory as last man Steve Finn edged his first ball to second slip.