Top-of-the-world Proteas aim to keep England off their backs

Amla's brilliant 150 was the centrepiece of the Proteas 80-run win in the second one-day international at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Tuesday as they went 1-0 up in the five-match series following last week's washout in Cardiff.

Victory, sealed with more than nine overs to spare as England were bowled out for 207 in reply to 287 for five, left South Africa top of the standings in all three international formats.

It also meant the Proteas had knocked England off the summit of both the Test and 50-over standings in a matter of weeks.

Now the one-day series heads to The Oval where last month Amla became the first batsman from South Africa to score a Test triple century with his 311 not out setting up an innings victory that sent the tourists on the way to a 2-0 win in a three-match series.

"I think we are all looking forward to it," man-of-the-match Amla said of his side's return to the south London ground. "We have some good memories of the place. Different game, different ball so we'll see what happens."

In Southampton, Amla was twice dropped by England's South Africa-born wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter, on 42 and 92, and although neither chance was easy they were both ones glovemen at this level would expect to hold.

'One of my better ones'
A slow pitch renowned for taking spin proved no problem to Amla during a 124-ball innings featuring 16 fours that saw him become the fastest player to 3 000 one-day international runs, taking 57 innings to reach the landmark compared to the 69 innings of West Indies great Vivian Richards.

"It definitely felt like one of my better ones [innings]," said Amla. "I think what makes it special to me is it was a difficult wicket. We won the game too, you always want to score runs in a winning cause."

The 29-year-old Amla, who opens in one-dayers and bats at first-wicket down in Tests, said the recent change to having a separate ball at each end of a one-day innings had made his career-best ODI effort especially pleasing.

"With the two new white balls up front, it's a lot more challenging."

Meanwhile, South Africa one-day captain AB de Villiers, while pleased by his side's rise to No. 1 in the rankings, said the key aim in 50-over cricket was to win a major trophy.

"It's a great achievement but it's not something that is one of our main goals," the wicket-keeper and batsman explained.

"We have a World Cup in 2015 [in Australia and New Zealand], and the Champions Trophy coming up [in England next year]," added De Villiers, also set to lead South Africa in next month's World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

'Most impressive'
Reflecting on the match, De Villiers – as well as saluting Amla – praised a youthful bowling line-up shorn of rested spearhead Dale Steyn.

"The guys kept looking for wickets and that was the most impressive thing today, apart from Hashim's great knock – we bowled them out again," said De Villiers, who had a great view as Lonwabo Tsotobe bowled England captain Alastair Cook for a second-ball duck.

Kieswetter's double reprieve of Amla, the first standing up to luckless spinner Samit Patel, the second off fast bowler Steven Finn, were the latest in costly England errors this season.

"Nothing has changed in the last two years in our fielding practice but, in the last month-and-a-half we've started to drop very good players," said Cook. "And very good players punish us."

Nevertheless Cook, on a day when Kevin Pietersen, exiled from England action after sending "provocative" texts to South African players allegedly critical of his own teammates, made 163 for Surrey in the County Championship against Somerset, insisted: "Today doesn't change anything.

"It's frustrating, it's annoying as a captain and all the players will be hurting. But you don't throw everything out of the window and try to reinvent the wheel because of one bad performance … Hopefully we can bounce back at the Oval." – AFP

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Julian Guyer
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