Third one-day international, Newlands, Cape Town: South Africa 354-6 (50 overs) beat England 242 (41.3 overs) by 112 runs Match scorecard
De Villiers' superb 121 from 85 balls was the linchpin of South Africa's imposing total of 354
By Phil Dawkes
England's run of six successive 50-over wins over South Africa ended with an emphatic 112-run defeat in the third one-day international in Cape Town.
AB de Villiers hit 121 off 85 balls and Hashim Amla 84 as South Africa posted a Newlands ground record-equalling 354-6.
The loss of three early wickets under the lights hampered England's chase.
Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen provided hope but England were all out for 242 in the 42nd over as the hosts levelled the five-match series at 1-1.
The result brings England back down to earth after the impressive victory in the second one-dayer in Johannesburg five days ago.
England were keen to show they could maintain the winning consistency required of top sides and in doing so claim an unbeatable 2-0 lead.
However, South Africa, on a ground where they have not lost for six years, were clearly determined to make amends for last Sunday's humiliating seven-wicket defeat.
With Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell recalled in place of Albie Morkel and Charl Langeveldt, this was a stronger South African side.
England's team was also in theory more potent with Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann replacing Sajid Mahmood and Adil Rashid to beef up the bowling attack.
However, having lost the toss at a venue at which 20 of the past 25 day-night victories have gone to the team batting first and faced with a lifeless pitch, it was always going to be a struggle for England's bowlers.
Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla provided a superb platform for the innings, scoring freely from some wayward bowling.
Broad was given an immediate taste of the action, taking the new ball in place of Tim Bresnan, who will feel himself unlucky to be demoted having bowled so well in Johannesburg.
The wisdom of this decision was immediately questionable as Amla dispatched the understandably rusty Broad's first delivery to the cover boundary and then struck the first two balls of his next over through the leg side for four.
James Anderson was similarly ineffective from the other end so England turned to Swann and Collingwood but Smith and Amla adapted well to the change of pace to comfortably push the home side past 100.
Having reached 50 and looking ominously dominant, Smith was the architect of his own downfall, giving England their first breakthrough by skipping back to leg with the aim of launching a Luke Wright delivery but succeeding in only chopping the ball onto his wicket.
Unfortunately for the tourists, De Villiers picked up where Smith left off as England's bowlers continued to toil.
Captain Andrew Strauss's continual rotation of his attack did little to disrupt the home side, as Amla and De Villiers succeeded in scoring from practically every ball.
The pair added 94 in 78 deliveries, during which both players passed 50, which was only halted by a rare loose stroke from Amla, who nicked a short ball from Broad and was caught behind by Matt Prior 14 runs short of what had seemed a certain century.
This brought in JP Duminy but his stay was a short one as he failed to get hold of an attempted pull and was caught at deep midwicket by Eoin Morgan off the bowling of Wright for six.
Lifted by this double triumph, England now had a foothold in the innings and they frustrated the home side in their attempts to increase the run-rate.
However, with the hard-hitting De Villiers at the crease, a power play to take and wickets in hand South Africa were always capable of increasing their scoring which they duly did to fly past 300.
De Villiers was central to South Africa's increased momentum, bringing up his fourth one-day hundred off 75 balls - the second fastest by a South African - and rapidly propelling himself to 121 from 85 balls before a rare mistimed shot saw him caught at cover by Jonathan Trott off Broad.
Alviro Petersen's efficient 51 not out, and a quick-fire 22 from Mark Boucher, before he was caught at deep midwicket by Wright off Broad, helped South Africa to their highest score against England.
In-form Collingwood's 86 was all in vain for beaten England
With the final ball Broad bowled Ryan McLaren with a yorker for his fourth wicket in an expensive 10 overs that went for 71.
If England were to claim victory via the second highest run-chase in one-day cricket history, a good start was pivotal in the notoriously difficult Newlands twilight period.
To this end, Wright was sent in at the top of the order along with Strauss as a pinch-hitting opener.
The two got off to a flier, plundering regular boundaries from inconsistent bowling and a series of calculated risky shots, including Wright hammering Dale Steyn back down the ground for six.
Wright's attacking style would always guarantee chances and from a short Parnell delivery he presented a catching opportunity to McLaren at deep backward point that the fielder gladly took.
Before the incoming Trott had a chance to build a partnership with Strauss the England captain was departing, flashing at a wide length ball from Morkel and nicking a catch to wicketkeeper Boucher for 24.
In the next over, Trott, playing at his home ground, was heading for the changing room following a similarly loose drive to a Parnell delivery that found the outside edge and was superbly caught by the diving Smith at slip.
With the floodlights now on, Pietersen and England's hero from Johannesburg Collingwood displayed resolve to take the tourists past 100 but at the cost of a steadily increasing required run-rate.
Whilst potential match-winners Pietersen and Collingwood remained at the crease, England retained reason to believe they could achieve a remarkable victory.
However, when the former was out for 45 after dragging a loose delivery from Duminy onto his stumps via his glove whilst attempting to sweep such hopes vastly diminished.
When Morgan mistimed a chipped shot from Duminy down the ground and was caught at long-on by substitute fielder Andre Botha for a duck, England were left facing a potentially humiliating losing margin.
That England retained some respectability is largely down to Collingwood who followed his unbeaten 105 in Johannesburg with a resolute 86.
The Durham man had earlier looked on as Prior skied a Morkel delivery for Smith to catch at mid-off for 16, before himself providing Amla with a simple catch at mid-on to give Parnell his third wicket.
Barely an over later, Bresnan followed suit, chipping straight to Smith off Morkel for seven.
The final two wickets were taken with minimum fuss by Parnell as firstly Broad was clean bowled and then Anderson was trapped lbw for one.
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