Proteas take number 1 spot from England

The South African team celebrates with their trophies after winning the third Test against England and securing the Test series 2-0 at Lord's cricket ground in London on August 20, 2012. South Africa replaced England as the world's number one Test side with a 51-run win in the third Test at Lord's. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - South Africa replaced England at the top of the world test rankings on Monday after defeating the home side by 51 runs at Lord's to win their three-test series 2-0.

England, set a record 346 for victory, were dismissed for 294 after some plucky counter-attacking by Matt Prior (73), Jonny Bairstow (54), Graeme Swann (41) and Stuart Broad (37).

Jonathan Trott also chipped in with 63 and for a time it looked like England could pull off a miracle but ultimately the target was just too high.

The end of the match and the series was sealed when last man Steven Finn was caught by second slip Jacques Kallis off Vernon Philander, who finished with two wickets in two balls for figures of five for 30. Philander had also played two vital innings in the match of 61 and 35.

"South Africa definitely played the better over the course of the three tests," England captain Andrew Strauss said.

"This match was how I envisaged all three games going - hard fought and small margins being the difference.

"Prior and Swann played incredibly well and it was during their partnership when I thought a win was getting into the realms of possibility, But I can't fault the hunger or desire of our guys. South Africa were just a bit too good and they deserve all the credit they get."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith, who led the team to a 2-1 series win in 2008, said he felt this latest series triumph was even sweeter.

"Coming back here and doing it again feels very special," Smith said. "It's hard to replace 2008 but this feels better because England were number one in the world and are always a tough team to beat in their own conditions."

"Every guy in the team contributed to this at some point during the series and our batting unit really performed. We kept their key bowlers out of the series. Our top six played a big role in this win."

It was always going to be a difficult challenge for England given that West Indies are the only team ever to have successfully chased a target beyond 300 at Lord's, when they made 344 for one in 1984. England's highest run chase is 332 for seven against Australia in 1928.

There was some late drama on the last day when Prior and Swann added 74 from just 66 deliveries. The crowd, basking in bright sunshine, began to sense something incredible might be about to happen but England's lack of wickets in hand cost them dear.

The defeat meant England surrendered their position at the top of the world rankings after holding the title for a year after displacing India.