Final result. England 385 & 240. South Africa 637-2 declared. South Africa win by an innings and 12 runs. As expected, England succumbed to defeat in the first Test match today. Only Ian Bell and Matt Prior put up any real resistance to the South African onslaught. This is a stupendous defeat. In fact, it’s the most comprehensive victory ever in a Test match. Here’s what that means: each South African wicket cost 318.50 runs; each English wicket cost 31.25. That’s a difference of 287.25 runs—the largest differential ever. That’s not so much a loss as a crushing, soul-sucking evisceration. It’s so big that I’m unable to think of any baseball equivalent: perhaps a score of 30 to zip might just about get there. At some point you just want to call the umpires over and tell them to take the pummeled side off the field: it’s just too painful. But, no—the game had to go on to the bitter end.
One of the reasons for the South African triumph was Hashim Amla, who became the first South African player in the history of the game to score more than 300 runs in a Test innings—a triumph in and of itself. Another was the astonishing pace and brilliance of Dale Steyn, who destroyed the English middle order today. He is a bowler apart. Yet another reason was that this South African side has so much depth in its batting and bowling that England had no answer. England now go 1-0 down in the three-match series. They’ve come back to win series before from a deficit, and they may do so again, but the team they’re facing is a record-breaking unit. In my book (and perhaps shortly in the official books as well) they’re the best side in the world.