Programmed to win

South Africa dismantled England by seven wickets in a great show of detached and ruthless efficiency.

There perhaps is a certain beauty that can be associated with the way a grease monkey steadily dismantles with fast hands the nuts and bolts to get to the innards of a mechanical contraption. The mesmerising way in which the threads of a screw seem to unwind; the minimalism and the sheer impersonality of mechanical precision. South Africa took England apart by seven wickets in a similar show of detached and ruthless efficiency.

For a considerable amount of time in the match the South African outfit played near perfect cricket. The bowlers were ostensibly programmed to bowl wicket-taking deliveries at will. The fielding varied between the sharp and the spectacular, and each time Smith shuffled his bowlers, he got a wicket.

Dale Steyn bowled five balls that scorched off the pitch and the last ball of the first over was low on pace and high on deceit. Ravi Bopara played on.

Wayne Parnell (three for 14) put his prodigious talent on display, swinging the ball both ways to have Luke Wright at the receiving end of a few feisty appeals. Wright put himself out of misery when he edged one behind and walked.

Pietersen walked in and the crowd roared. He spanked four boundaries in quick time, three to his favoured leg-side and one down the ground. The crowd went primal, in a way only Pietersen can inspire them to. Smith called on Albie Morkel and the second ball he bowled was a low full toss, and that, to Pietersen. The biff over mid-on was mistimed, but it looked like van der Merwe was stationed too wide to have a go at it. The South African covered ground, dived backwards, twisted and stretched out his hands. Air-borne and parallel to the ground, he still completed the catch with both hands. It was Trent Bridge but the vacuum caused by Pietersen’s departure and the ensuing silence made it feel like outer space.

England slipped into the all too familiar T20 chasm that gapes between attack and defence, the need to accelerate the scoring rate and to preserve wickets. Finding his team hopelessly mired between these predilections, Shah (38, 33b, 3x4, 2x6) opened out to hit two fours and two sixes in six balls. Kallis was brought in for Botha and Collingwood paddled him fine for a boundary; so fine that it had to go through Boucher. Then England slumped for the second time in the match from 78 for three to 92 for eight in a little more than three overs.

Kallis (two for 20) and Parnell made the most of England’s indecision and propensity to self-destruct, with the latter finishing the innings off with two yorkers that capped a bowling performance of skill and promise. The South African chase was sedate and measured. Kallis opened the innings and remained unbeaten on 57 off 49 balls even as batsmen at the other end struggled against a disciplined English attack.

THE SCORES England v South Africa Result: South Africa won by 7 wickets.

England: R. S. Bopara b Steyn 2, L. J. Wright c Boucher b Parnell 1, K. P. Pietersen c van der Merwe b Morkel 19, O. A. Shah c Boucher b Kallis 38, P. D. Collingwood b Kallis 19, J. S. Foster c Morkel b van der Merwe 1, A. D. Mascarenhas b van der Merwe 1, G. P. Swann c Morkel b Botha 5, S. C. J. Broad b Parnell 9, A. U. Rashid (not out) 9, J. M. Anderson b Parnell 0, Extras (lb-1, w-6) 7. Total (19.5 overs) 111.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-4, 3-25, 4-78, 5-79, 6-82, 7-88, 8-92, 9-111.

South Africa bowling: D. W. Steyn 4-0-19-1, W. D. Parnell 3.5-0-14-3, J. H. Kallis 3-0-20-2, J. A. Morkel 1-1-0-1, J. Botha 4-0-25-1, R. E. van der Merwe 4-0-32-2.

South Africa: G. C. Smith c Foster b Broad 11, J. H. Kallis (not out) 57, H. H. Gibbs b Swann 30, A. B. de Villiers c Collingwood b Rashid 11, J. P. Duminy (not out) 2, Extras: (lb-1, w-2) 3. Total (for 3 wkts; 18.2 overs) 114.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-91, 3-108.

England bowling: A. D. Mascarenhas 4-0-22-0, J. M. Anderson 3.2-0-27-0, S. C. J. Broad 3-0-14-1, G. P. Swann 4-0-26-1, A. U. Rashid 4-0-24-1.