July 28, 2003

South Africa take the high ground as Test ends in a draw

The Wisden Bulletin by Paul Coupar

England 408 and 110 for 1 (Trescothick 52*) drew with South Africa 594 for 5 dec and 134 for 4 dec (Smith 85)

Graeme Smith takes evasive action during South Africa's chase for quick runs

Once an uncharacteristically aggressive onslaught from Ashley Giles in the opening overs of the day had ensured that England avoided the follow-on, it was going to take something dramatic - or inept - for the first npower Test at Edgbaston to produce a result. South Africa briefly tried to breathe life back into the game with a crash-bang-wallop second innings, but in the end the time lost to rain was too great and the match drifted into a draw.

A small crowd had hardly taken their seats when Giles made the most of some lacklustre bowling from Makhaya Ntini and Dewald Pretorius to score the 21 runs England needed to avoid the unappetising prospect of batting again to save the match. Giles cracked five fours in ten balls and that was that. Graeme Smith's decision not to open with the naggingly accurate Shaun Pollock was questionable, and by the time Pollock was brought on the horse had bolted.

Giles's blows aside, England's last three wickets offered little resistance and Smith decided to press for quick runs and allow his bowlers a second crack at England's top order rather than opt for batting practice. Briefly, England's bowlers hinted that their wayward first-innings performance had been put behind them.

James Anderson nipped one back to bowl Herschelle Gibbs via his elbow for 8 (30 for 1) and Gary Kirsten scored only 1 before fending a Steve Harmison throat-ball to Anthony McGrath short leg (32 for 2). But as Smith cut loose, only Giles showed enough guile to stem the flow.

First baller: Makhaya Ntini clips Steve Harmison's bail

One Anderson over was smashed for 19 as Smith hit at will, but his best shot - a searing, flat six driven over straight midwicket - came off Andrew Flintoff. When Smith was finally bowled, aiming a huge heave at Giles, he had made 70 from 85 balls, to go with 277 in the first innings. Jacques Rudolph was then smartly stumped by Alec Stewart for 8, bringing a declaration which left England 65 overs to bat and a nominal target of 321 to win.

Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan ensured that there would be no unseemly panis with a breezy but controlled opening partnership of 74 and that was that. Although Vaughan fell for 22 on the stroke of tea, his frustration at Robin Peterson's leg-side line getting the better of him, Trescothick and Nasser Hussain were largely untroubled as the match drifted towards a draw.

South Africa should have struck one final psycological blow shortly before rain - fittingly - brought a premature end to the game. Trescothick edged Pretorius straight to Pollock at first slip but the most routine of chances bounced in and straight out of his grasp.

And so the match ended without a result, and the teams have less than three days to regroup before they start all over again at Lord's. Graeme Smith will lead his side south with a spring in their step and - possibly - Jacques Kallis back to further bolster their line-up. England, so confident five days ago, have to try and forget this unimpressive performance and start over again.