Andrew Flintoff continued his devastating form with both bat and ball as England’s hopes of recording a first-ever major one-day series whitewash stayed in tact.
Flintoff followed up his brilliant 78no at The Oval on Friday with a swashbuckling 31 from just 12 balls to guide England to a seven-wicket win in a rain-affected fourth one-day international at Lord’s.
Victory gives England a 4-0 lead in the series and should they win again at Cardiff on Tuesday, Kevin Pietersen’s men would leap above South Africa to second in the world rankings.
Chasing a revised target of 137 from 20 overs, Pietersen chipped in with 40 from 34 balls, while top-scorer Owais Shah (43no) and Flintoff saw the hosts home in near darkness with 14 balls to spare. Despite losing the toss and being put into bat, South Africa got off to a flying start with Herschelle Gibbs and Hashim Amla firing 66 for the first wicket from just 55 balls.
But once Flintoff was introduced into the attack, England broke through with Amla comically run-out and stand-in skipper Jacques Kallis falling for one just two overs later. Spinner Samit Patel saw off AB de Villiers for 13 before Flintoff claimed his second victim, that of JP Duminy, who went for a quickfire 20.
Gibbs played well for his 74 before edging a Stuart Broad delivery onto his pads and then the stumps before Flintoff dismissed Vernon Philander to complete figures of 3-21.
Heavy rain forced the umpires to end the innings five balls premature with the Proteas on 183-6 after 32.1 overs but thankfully sunshine greeted England for their reply. The hosts, however, got off to the worst possible start with openers Prior and Ian Bell both back in the pavilion with just 19 on the board.
Needing 101 off 12 overs, Pietersen and Shah brought up a 50 partnership in just 39 balls before Pietersen miscued to mid-wicket, leaving Flintoff to take centre stage and see England home.
“I’ve gone back to basics with my batting, watching the ball, keeping my balance and playing in a controlled way,” Flintoff explained.
“The lads, Kevin and Owais, did the hard work, setting the platform and letting me have a little thrash at the end. When I come back into the side I was determined to enjoy it, and I am. It’s going my way at the moment but I know things can change very quickly in this game so I’m not going to get carried away.”