Strauss is content with overall display despite closing defeat

The final Test proved one too many for England at The Wanderers leaving captain Andrew Strauss nursing disappointment but insisting his team still have reason to be proud this winter.

The innings and 74 run margin by which South Africa raced to victory before lunch on day four was a fair summary of their domination.

Strauss must therefore come to terms with a 1-1 series outcome, and the fact that England – after their famously defiant draws at Centurion and Newlands, and landslide second-Test win in Durban – did themselves scant justice in Johannesburg.

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The match began with Strauss's wicket first ball and featured a century for his opposite number, Graeme Smith, and 14 wickets for South Africa fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Yet perhaps the most memorable, and uncomfortable, factor was England's discontent with the decision review system (DRS) and specifically third umpire Daryl Harper's decision to reprieve Smith, on just 15 of his eventual 105.

Strauss is adamant, however, no frayed tempers played any part in England's insipid performance.

"It's been three and a half really frustrating days for us," he said. "When you lose four wickets in the first hour of a Test, it is always going to be hard to drag it back.

"South Africa never let us back in the game. They kept the pressure on us, then were able to get through the tricky new-ball spells and build a sizeable lead. Steyn and Morkel were excellent, and we were below par."

Strauss had been at pains before the match to acknowledge England were here to win the series, not draw it.

Afterwards, he said: "That's a disappointing end to the tour. But you don't want to lose sight of the fact it's been a very successful tour, and I think we've made some improvements over the course of the 10 weeks. We've shown a lot of resilience and character, which is probably the most important asset to have as a side."

DRS may have dominated many discussions off the field, but on it Strauss believes the distractions were minimal.

"The review system generally in this series has worked pretty well," he said. "I think we've got more decisions right as a result of it, but we haven't got every decision right. We're far more frustrated by the way we played than anything that went on with the review system in this game.

"When we needed things to go our way, they didn't – which is often the case. When you're behind and clutching at straws, it often doesn't happen the way you want it to.

"We need to take this loss on the chin and accept it for what it was – which is not a very good performance on our part, and a very good one from South Africa."

Strauss does not subscribe to the view that England's draining experiences to close out last-ditch draws in the first and third Tests left them with little left to give.

"We were up for one last effort, but I just think we never got started," he said. "From ball one, we were behind the eight ball.

"On wickets like that, you need to get through that new ball and we weren't able to do that in either innings."

Strauss is convinced that – although England were unable to pull of a remarkable rearguard action for a third time – they have still made great strides in South Africa.

Smith's emotions, inevitably, were very different after his team had finally managed to convert a winning position.

"We could easily be sat here 3-1 up," he said. "We lacked knockout blows in Centurion and Cape Town; England showed great resilience throughout the series and played well at Durban. But we really dominated this game and came out deserved winners.

"I'm really proud of the way the guys performed. It could have been easy for us to run out of puff after giving so much in Cape Town, but we bounced back and each guy was hungry to perform well."

Smith disagreed with Strauss about the effect on the tourists of their DRS disenchantment.

"It's something that has made us happy," he said. "We feel that England spent so much time and energy on that stuff that it really allowed us to focus on our cricket.

"To see them really lose focus on what was important gave us more confidence through the game."

He believes nonetheless England may be starting an upward curve, albeit one with a few blips possibly ahead, too.

South Africa v England

Johannesburg: South Africa beat England by an innings and 74 runs.

Overnight: South Africa 423-7 dec, England 180 and 48-3.

England First Innings

A J Strauss c Amla b Steyn 0

A N Cook lbw b M Morkel 21

I J L Trott lbw b M Morkel 5

K P Pietersen c Parnell b M Morkel 7

P D Collingwood c Duminy b McLaren 47

I R Bell b Steyn 35

M J Prior c Boucher b Steyn 14

S C J Broad c M Morkel b Kallis 13

G P Swann c Boucher b Steyn 27

R J Sidebottom c Boucher b Steyn 0

J M Anderson not out 6

Extras lb2 w3 5

Total (47.5 overs) 180

Fall: 1-0 2-7 3-32 4-39 5-115 6-133

7-136 8-148 9-155.

Bowling: Steyn 13.5 1 51 5; M Morkel 11 1 39 3; McLaren 10 3 30 1; Parnell 3 0 18 0; Kallis 10 3 40 1.

South Africa First Innings

G C Smith c Strauss b Sidebottom 105

A G Prince c Swann b Broad 19

H M Amla c Prior b Broad 75

J H Kallis c Anderson b Sidebottom 7

A B de Villiers c Collingwood b Broad 58

J P Duminy c Collingwood b Swann 7

M V Boucher c Trott b Swann 95

R McLaren not out 33

D W Steyn not out 1

Extras b7 lb10 w5 nb1 23

Total 7 wkts dec (119 overs) 423

Fall: 1-36 2-201 3-217 4-217 5-235

6-355 7-419

Did Not Bat: M Morkel, W D Parnell.

Bowling: Anderson 30 4 111 0; Sidebottom 31 6 98 2; Broad 29 4 83 3; Swann 23 0 93 2; Collingwood 6 1 21 0.

England Second Innings

A J Strauss lbw b Parnell 22

A N Cook c Smith b M Morkel 1

I J L Trott c de Villiers b Steyn 8

K P Pietersen c Boucher b Parnell 12

P D Collingwood c M Morkel b Duminy 71

I R Bell c Kallis b M Morkel 5

M J Prior c Smith b M Morkel 0

S C J Broad c Boucher b M Morkel 1

G P Swann c de Villiers b Steyn 20

R J Sidebottom b Duminy 15

J M Anderson not out 1

Extras lb6 w1 nb6 13

Total (42.5 overs) 169

Fall: 1-6 2-21 3-48 4-84 5-103 6-103

7-104 8-134 9-154.

Bowling: Steyn 14 1 64 2; M Morkel 16 5 59 4; Parnell 8 1 17 2; McLaren 3 1 13 0; Duminy 1.5 0 10 2.

Umpires: Umpires: S J Davis and A L Hill.