Centurion: Graeme Smith's brilliantly crafted century under pressure went in vain as England produced an all-round performance to beat South Africa by 22 runs and book a semi-final berth in the Champions Trophy on Sunday.
Batting first, England notched up a formidable 323/8 thanks mainly to Owais Shah's audacious 98 and then came up with a disciplined bowling and fielding performance to restrict South Africa to 301/9 in a thrilling Group B tie.
With two wins from as many matches, England, who came into the tournament with a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Australia, booked a semi-final berth.
Having won only one out of three matches, South Africa, on the other hand, are out of contention of a semi-final berth.
Even if England beat New Zealand, who have one win from two matches, in the final Group B match on September 29, South Africa will not make it to the last four as their net run rate would still be lower than that of Sri Lanka, who also ended with just one win from three games, and the Kiwis.
Chasing 324 for a win in front of a packed house under good batting conditions at the SuperSport Park, Smith kept the home team in the hunt till the very end with a brilliantly compiled century, his ninth in One-dayers.
He found little support from his team-mates with AB de Villiers (36) being the second highest scorer.
South Africa needed 94 from the last 10 overs with six wickets in hand but could only add 71 with Mark Boucher (8), Albie Morkel (17), Johan Botha (0) and Roelof van der Merwe (0) failing to contribute much.
Smith, who was dropped by Paul Collingwood while on 82, was finally out in the 47th over holing out to Owais Shah at mid-on off Stuart Broad. His 141 was his highest score in One-dayers after the unbeaten 134 he made in Kolkata in November 2005 against India.
James Anderson was the pick of England bowlers with 3/42 while Broad also took 3/67. Collingwood and Graeme Swann chipped in with one wicket each.
Smith's opening partner Herschelle Gibbs (22), who missed the first two matches due to injury, could not contribute falling to Anderson in the seventh over, so as Jacques Kallis who fell in the 12th over for just 12, holing out to Joe Denly at deep square leg off Broad at 64/2.
Run rate dropped down after initial flourish and South Africa could have been in more trouble had Collingwood held on to a simple catch of de Villiers at backward point off Luke Wright when the batsman was on three in the 15th over.
Unlike England, who accelerated in the middle overs, South Africa struggled and the asking rate rose to above seven from the 16th over onwards and 8.5 by the 35th over.
There was a brief ray of hope when Smith and Jean-Paul Duminy (24) shared a 64-run stand for the fourth wicket but that ended when the later was removed in the 37th over by Graeme Swann.
Earlier, a blazing 98 from Owais Shah and a late blitzkrieg from Eoin Morgan (67) helped England post 323/8 after opting to bat first.
Shah was the batsman around whom England batting revolved and he was ably supported by crisis man Collingwood (82) as the duo shared a 163-run partnership for the third wicket from 157 balls after they were reduced to 59/2 by 13th over.
Towards the close, Morgan, whose 34-ball innings included five sixes and four fours, pushed England to 323/8, the highest score in the tournament so far.
Coming together in the 13th over, Shah and Collingwood sent the South African bowlers for a leather hunt in the middle overs with a flurry of sixes as they took the score from 93/2 in the 20th over to 222 before the former was out in the 39th over.
Shah's blazing 98 included six hits over the ropes, two each off Morkel and van Der Merwe, and one each off Dale Styne and Duminy. He also hit five fours in his 89-ball innings.
Collingwood played the perfect foil for Shah by rotating strike with ones and occasional boundaries. His 94-ball innings was studded with six boundaries and a six.
For South Africa, left-arm pacer Wayne Parnell was the most successful bowler with 3/60. Johan Botha took two wickets for 56 while Kallis and dale Steyn got a wicket apiece.
England were off to a good start with Andrew Strauss (25) and Joe Denly (21) scoring boundaries at both ends and reaching 27 for no loss at the end of fifth over.
But two quick wickets saw England slumped to 59/2 by the 13th over.
First change bowler Kallis provided the breakthrough as Denly holed out to Duminy at the deep in the last ball of the 10th over for a 25-ball 21.
Thirteen balls later, Strauss was on his way with wicketkeeper Mark Boucher effecting a stunning catch diving to his left after the England captain had nicked a wide delivery off Steyn.