South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban, 4th day December 29, 2004

England on top after Thorpe's 16th century

South Africa 332 and 21 for 1 need another 357 runs to defeat England 139 and 570 for 7 dec (Trescothick 132, Strauss 136, Thorpe 118*, Flintoff 60, G Jones 73)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Graham Thorpe walks off after an unbeaten century © Getty Images
A superb unbeaten hundred from Graham Thorpe put England in the driving seat as South Africa ended the fourth day needing a mountainous 357 to win at Durban. There were hard-hitting half-centuries too for Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones, before Michael Vaughan made a positive declaration at 570 for 7. South Africa, chasing a distant victory target of 378, had a tricky 35-minute session to negotiate before the close. But they didn't survive intact: just before the end, Matthew Hoggard took the prize wicket of Graeme Smith.

But this day was Thorpe's: he played just the kind of aggressive, focussed innings that was needed as England marched to a commanding lead after an early-morning wobble in which they lost three wickets for 33. He steadied the ship with Flintoff - they added 114 - then hit full throttle as Jones joined him for an entertaining stand of 132.

Thorpe played in positive fashion throughout, punching a bevy of boundaries, and was generally in the mood to take the attack to the bowlers. He and Flintoff brought up their fifty partnership just before lunch. And they strode on undeterred for the first part of the middle session, as Smith mixed up his bowlers. Makhaya Ntini did his best to ruffle Flintoff's feathers, extracting some life from a flat surface and a softening ball. Flintoff played and missed more than once, but responded in true Freddie fashion, taking England to 400 with a leg-side four, then adding a meaty pulled six. He did the same in Ntini's next over, cracking a cover drive to bring up his half-century, then easily clearing Hashim Amla on the leg-side boundary.

He seemed to have timed his gear-change perfectly, each boundary despatched with consummate timing, but then, after a patient innings, he was deceived by a quicker ball from Smith, which he edged to AB de Villiers. It was just reward for Smith, whose part-time offspin had initially troubled Thorpe as well, as he had done at Port Elizabeth. But one aggressive strokemaker was replaced by ... another aggressive strokemaker, as Jones - spurred on by Thorpe - went on the offensive from the start, smacking boundary after boundary. He brought up his half-century from 71 balls, just before Thorpe reached his 16th Test hundred. Jones added two hooked sixes off Dale Steyn, which sailed over the despairing Amla, before he finally fell to the perspiring Nicky Boje.

Thorpe and Jones took advantage of some tired bowling late on, from Shaun Pollock - who was slapped for three successive fours - and the hapless Steyn in particular. Steyn repeatedly found Jones's edge, but could only watch, frustrated, as more than once the ball flew behind the keeper to the boundary, where Jacques Kallis was eventually employed in the unusual position of long-stop. But Boje's battered figures of none for 154 from 43 overs of left-arm spin were made marginally more respectable as Jones holed out to long-on for 73. Steyn got a consolation wicket, too, as Ashley Giles edged to de Villiers without scoring.

Andrew Flintoff lofts another boundary in his important 60 © Getty Images

But England didn't have it all their own way. The match has seesawed throughout, and South Africa had the better of the morning, when their triple strike set England wobbling. Ntini dismissed both Vaughan and Andrew Strauss, then Mark Butcher fell to Jacques Kallis just after drinks.

With the reliable Pollock tucking up one end, the batsmen were forced to play shots at the other. They didn't always come off, however, and Ntini took advantage with two well-deserved wickets. Strauss had only added four to his overnight 132 when he flashed hard at a good-length delivery which flew straight to Martin van Jaarsveld at third slip. Not long after, a climbing delivery brushed Vaughan's gloves on the way through to de Villiers as he tried to guide the ball to leg (306 for 3). Vaughan, who had struggled a little against the still-new ball, made 10.

Kallis was brought into the attack, immediately troubling Thorpe with a close shout for lbw, which was judged to be just a shade high. He also worried Butcher, who swung and missed at his first two deliveries. And when he eventually did connect, a thick outside edge flew to van Jaarsveld for a second good catch (314 for 4). Butcher made only 13, but this did include his 1000th Test run against South Africa - which came up in bizarre fashion. His block was scooped up by Pollock and lobbed towards the stumps in nothing more than a warning measure, but the ball sailed way over de Villiers's head and rolled away to the boundary for a bonus four. That was the easiest of the 77 boundaries rattled up by England in their innings, as South Africa's bowlers were ground down.

When England finally took to the field, for what turned out to be a nine-over blitz, Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard were immediately on target. Herschelle Gibbs had a let-off at 6, when he was dropped off a perfect outswinger from Harmison by Jones, diving in front of Marcus Trescothick at first slip. He also survived a confident caught-behind shout - the ball possibly flicked his arm-guard, or possibly his right hand which he'd taken off the bat - and Gibbs managed to see out the mini-session - but Smith was not so lucky. He was trapped plumb in front by Hoggard on 5 to complete a dispiriting day.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo.