July 31, 2003

South Africa dominate in all departments

Close South Africa 151 for 1 (Smith 80*, Kirsten 9*) trail England 173 (Gough 34, Ntini 5-75) by 22 runs

Makhaya on fire: Ntini celebrates a wicket in his impressive 5 for 75

Honeymoons are meant to last rather longer than 48 hours. But for Michael Vaughan, the harsh realities of Test captaincy are suddenly all too apparent. After losing the toss and being asked to bat first in seamer-friendly conditions, England were rolled over for a dismal 173 in less than 49 overs, a total that was soon put into perspective by yet another effortlessly solid opening stand from Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith.

By the close, South Africa trailed England's first innings by 22 runs, with nine wickets remaining. Smith himself was still there on 80, taking his series tally to 442 runs after less than two matches, and his career total past 1000 runs in only his 11th Test. Still only 22 years old, and with the scalp of one England captain under his belt already, he now has a second victim caught flush in the crosswires.

Vaughan's first day in charge couldn't really have gone much worse. England lost five wickets in the first session alone, and had slumped to 118 for 9 before Darren Gough and James Anderson provided a fig-leaf of respectability with a last-wicket stand of 55. But the simplicity of their partnership merely demonstrated the good nature of the pitch. There was some customary early movement, ruthlessly exploited by South Africa's seamers, but it was nonetheless a bold decision from Smith to field first. With a bit of application from England's batsmen, it could have backfired horribly. Instead, Smith has stolen yet more of the initiative in this series.

South Africa were even a bowler short, as Dewald Pretorius picked up a side strain after four ineffective overs. But Makhaya Ntini, Andrew Hall and Shaun Pollock were more than a match for England's batsmen. Ntini was the pick of the bunch, bowling fast and straight from wide of the crease to pick up 5 for 75, his best figures in an overseas Test, while Hall, who only last week was seeing out his season with Worcestershire, celebrated his 28th birthday with 3 for 18, including two in five balls before lunch. Pollock, as ever, maintained an exemplary line and length, but was grossly under-rewarded for his efforts.

The danger signals were evident from the earliest overs. Marcus Trescothick was never allowed to settle, and after being dropped by Smith himself at second slip, he over-compensated for Ntini's tight line and inside-edged a forcing shot onto his own stumps (11 for 1). Mark Butcher started in fine fashion by thumping Ntini for three fours in successive deliveries, but then nibbled a superb outswinger from Pollock straight into Andrew Hall's midriff at third slip (35 for 2).

Nasser Hussain was greeted to an ovation seldom seen at Lord's, but he was over-eager throughout his brief stay, and was eventually bowled all-ends-up for 14 as he attempted an ambitious drive at Hall (73 for 3). Hall then struck again in the same over, as Anthony McGrath (4) gave his critics further ammunition by playing across the line to his fourth ball and squirting a leading edge to mid-off (77 for 4).

Vaughan, at this stage, was doing his best Michael Atherton impression, clinging onto the wreckage as everyone else leapt overboard. But when Ntini returned to the attack, Vaughan heaved a pull shot to Neil McKenzie at fine-leg, who steadied himself to take a comfortable catch (85 for 5).

Sign of things to come: Marcus Trescothick looks back at his broken stumps in England's dismal morning

The procession continued in the afternoon session. Stewart pulled Ntini straight to Paul Adams at square leg for 7 (96 for 6), and when Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles and Steve Harmison were removed in quick succession, complete humiliation was on the cards. Gough and Anderson averted that, but when it came to their day job, they were once again badly off-colour.

It was left to Steve Harmison to make the breakthrough, as Gibbs played on for 49 (133 for 1). England, however, should have struck in the fourth over of South Africa's reply, when Smith drove loosely at a half-volley from Anderson. But, as if breaking his spirit was not enough, Smith managed to pick out Hussain at point, who fumbled once before letting the ball drop agonisingly to the turf. Hussain, apparently, had injured himself in the warm-up and had been kept out of the slip cordon as a result. Sometimes, there is just no place to hide.

Click here for today's Wisden Verdict

England 1 Marcus Trescothick, 2 Michael Vaughan (capt), 3 Mark Butcher, 4 Nasser Hussain, 5 Anthony McGrath, 6 Alec Stewart (wk), 7 Andrew Flintoff, 8 Ashley Giles, 9 Darren Gough, 10 Steve Harmison, 11 James Anderson.

South Africa 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Graeme Smith (capt), 3 Gary Kirsten, 4 Boeta Dippenaar, 5 Jacques Rudolph, 6 Mark Boucher (wk), 7 Shaun Pollock, 8 Andrew Hall, 9 Dewald Pretorius, 10 Makhaya Ntini, 11 Paul Adams.