After a very happening test series, South Africa and England were now going to lock horns in the 5 match ODI series. England had a few experiments to carry out. They had a new captain, who had lost his first match as captain to the touring Kiwis a few week ago, as the then captain Collingwood was banned for a three ODIs. England also decided to call back 'keeper Mathew Prior in their endless search for the best replacement for Alec Stewart since his retirement a few years ago. Harmison and Flintoff's return was most anticipated all through the summer. Samit Patel also featured in as a spinner. South Africa, playing its first major ODI tournament since winning in Bangladesh in March-April, had concerns in its bowling department. Steyn was just returning from injury. Morkel brothers were not in the team that played the first ODI at Headingly.
The first ODI saw KP and Freddie apply themselves well and then rule the roost as the innings progressed to take England to a massive 275 in their quota of 50 overs. KP's innings was full of class, and Freddie's innings was full of hunger to score and make a memorable comeback. He did both in exceptionally good manner. South African openers started runnig away with the show, with Gibbs returning to the side in prime form along with the imposing figure of captain Smith going hard on English seamers. After only a brief spell from Broad and Jimmy, harmison came in to bowl and almost got rid of Smith. Most South Africans got starts but didn't stay long enough at the crease to win the game. KP wisely brought in Patel to remove the pace on the ball. Freddie and his pal, Harmison bowled well in the middle overs. After Duminy and Botha left, SOuth Africa had not much hope, and KP celebrated his first victory as captain.
The second match, played at the Notts, where England made the record by featuring the same test side for the 6th consecutive time, earlier this season. By the time I could return after dinner to the TV set, the match was almost over. Stuart Broad ripped through half the South African line up, which scored a mere 83, with Andre Nel top scoring with 13, with only two others to give him company with double digit scores. Freddie and Harmy took care of the other half! Exploding Prior and steady Bell took England home within the drinks break. The day/night score didn't need much of the flood lights.
In the third encounter, England amassed a huge total, thanks to contributions from the willows of Bell and Flintoff. And, Samit Patel did a good job with the bat towards the end and ended up with a match winning 5 wicket haul. Is England’s search for an ODI spinner over? Only time will tell. As usual, Harmy and Freddie took care of the middle overs. Anderson was at his best, swinging the white duke at 90+ mph. And England had won the series already with two games to spare!
In the rain-reduced fourth match at Lords’, South Africa were scoring at a healthy pace when rain fell down and England were set a target of about 135, to be achieved in 20 overs max! Now, people got their share of the T20 action, the scheduled T20 got washed off due to rain, before the ODI series. In this match, English openers faltered early on, but “Ace” Shah and KP started swinging the match in their favour. And when the required run rate was just creeping up, and KP was removed by Botha, in came Flintoff and wasted no time in the middle. He scored a breathtaking 31 in 17 minutes, having faced only a dozen balls, creamed with 5 boundaries and a six! England led the series by an unassailable 4-0 margin.
The fifth ODI was washed away, with not more than 10 minutes played. So, England had a clean sweep in the ODI series. England struck good form with both the bat and the ball. Kevin Pietersen’s captainship was laudable. He was pretty good at taking the “right decisions at the right time”. Anderson, Broad, Harmison and Flintoff bowled well to keep the run rate in check. Samit Patel rolled his arm over well in the middle overs to provide variety to the English bowling attack. Flintoff and KP’s presence in the middle order helped the English line up shine well. Bell, at the top of the order played his role smoothly.
A very long exciting English home season comes to an end. England has a lot to celebrate now, after the victorious ODI series.