THIRD TEST, Edgbaston day four: South Africa 314 & 283-5 beat England 231 & 363 by five wickets
By David Ornstein
Smith's innings was the decisive factor in a fascinating Test match
Graeme Smith hit a magnificent unbeaten century as South Africa won the third Test comprehensively and claimed a first series win in England since 1965.
After beginning day four at Edgbaston on 297-6, England were bowled out for 363, setting the tourists 281 to win.
Andrew Flintoff, Monty Panesar and James Anderson then all struck as South Africa collapsed from 65-0 to 93-4.
But Smith (154no) and Mark Boucher (45no) batted with great composure to hand their side a five-wicket triumph.
England will rue their failure to dismiss Smith who was the beneficiary of two poor umpiring decision and a squandered run-out attempt, all before he had reached his century.
South Africa may not have recovered from the loss of their talismanic captain at that point, and his innings inflicted on England a second defeat in four home Test series since Peter Moores replaced Duncan Fletcher as coach.
The match would have finished sooner were it not for Paul Collingwood's 135 and his 66-run partnership with Ryan Sidebottom in the morning session.
Collingwood resumed England's second innings with Tim Ambrose but their 76-run stand on day three, which hauled Michael Vaughan's men back into contention, ended almost immediately.
Under heavy, overcast skies and on a wearing pitch that looked as though it might provide some uneven bounce for the taller bowlers, Smith gave the new ball to Morne Morkel (4-97) and he bowled Ambrose with the second ball of the day.
The situation might, and arguably should, have deteriorated further when Collingwood shuffled across his stumps and was rapped on the pads in Morkel's third over.
The ball nipped back and replays suggested it was set to hit middle and leg but umpire Steve Davis remained unmoved.
Far from adopting a more cautious approach after his reprieve, Collingwood opened his shoulders and began to punish a bowling attack that struggled to hit a consistent line and length.
A flurry of boundaries followed off Morkel and Makhaya Ntini, and even Sidebottom began to flourish, dispatching a wayward Andre Nel for consecutive fours before crashing Jacques Kallis to the same effect the following over.
But after he finally gloved an attempted pull off Morkel to Hashim Amla at short leg, England added just one more run from 11 balls as James Anderson was bowled by Kallis and then Collingwood edged Morkel behind to end the innings.
Sidebottom and Anderson opened up with zest as England took to the field just before lunch, but Smith and Neil McKenzie held firm to reach 11-0 at the interval and then made steady progress after the restart, with Smith passing 1,000 Test runs for 2008 and rarely troubled.
Flintoff's six wickets in the match proved in vain as England succumbed
McKenzie appeared considerably less comfortable, though, and when he failed to pick out a Flintoff full toss that cannoned into his planted foot, his time was up.
It was an imperative breakthrough for England and it was important for them to capitalise on their momentum.
Panesar was producing an unnerving spell and his reward came when Amla misread an arm ball that skidded on towards middle stump and trapped him, arguably a little high.
England were stirring and when Flintoff removed Kallis with an inswinging full toss that careered into his left thigh, Vaughan's side sensed an unlikely triumph to level the series.
Kallis was visibly incensed, probably because he had for the second time in the match lost the flight of a Flintoff delivery because of a perceived sighting problem for batsmen facing the Lancastrian from the Pavilion End.
The vigour with which Panesar was beginning to appeal risked landing the 26-year-old in trouble, but he was entitled to feel hard done after shaving the glove of Ashwell Prince en route to wicketkeeper Ambrose, only for Aleem Dar to shake his head.
England will feel justice was served when, two balls into the next over, Anderson coaxed a thin edge from Prince that Ambrose gleefully clasped.
Fortunately for South Africa, Smith looked in fine nick and brought up his half-century by glancing Anderson through gulley for four before tea.
Smith batted even more impressively at the beginning of the final session as he and AB De Villiers (27) added 78 to put their side firmly in control.
With the ball beginning to explode out of the rough, it seemed Smith was fortunate to survive after playing no stroke at a Panesar delivery that spat back into his pads from outside off stump.
De Villiers cut Panesar for four in the 41st over as South Africa moved half way towards their target but moments later Smith would have been ousted had Ian Bell not fumbled Ambrose's throw with the 27-year-old short of his ground.
England were riled once more when Smith gloved Panesar to Ambrose and, the very next ball, his airborne pull towards Andrew Strauss at midwicket fell inches short.
The game briefly swung back England's way when De Villiers, who had been playing Panesar better than Smith, for once followed the spin and kissed one to Collingwood for a fine slip catch.
But then Smith and Boucher set about an unbroken 112-run partnership, which proved decisive.
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