Rains return to frustrate England
3.4 overs England 7 for 2 (Vaughan 2*) v South Africa 211 (Gibbs 118, Wharf 3-48, Ali 3-44) - match abandoned
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England's hopes of rescuing their one-day series in South Africa were dashed by the vagaries of Durban's weather, which closed in towards the end of South Africa's innings and stayed for good at the beginning of England's. It ruined what was promising to be a tight match as well: after doing well to restrict South Africa to 211 - an innings that owed everything to Herschelle Gibbs's 15th one-day century - England had themselves been struggling on 7 for 2 at the premature close.
All series, England have been struggling to find a suitable new-ball sidekick for Darren Gough, but at the sixth time of asking, they have finally hit upon their man. Alex Wharf, called into the team at the expense of England's Test pairing of Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison, grabbed 3 for 48 in his ten overs, including the pivotal pairing of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis in the space of two balls.
After winning the toss and batting yet again, South Africa made a tortuous start, as Gough and Wharf found an excellent restrictive line and length. The first man to fall was Smith, who was lured into an expansive drive at a perfect off-stump delivery from Wharf, and guided the ball straight into Marcus Trescothick's hands at first slip. He was gone for 1 from nine balls.
And England's start got even better one delivery later, as Kallis got himself into a muddle as he attempted to pull a length delivery and spooned a chance straight over his head for Andrew Strauss to reach forward and snap up the offering. There was some doubt as to whether the ball had flicked the glove on the way through to his forearm, but Simon Taufel had no hesitation.
With Adam Bacher, surprisingly recalled in place of AB de Villiers, struggling to make an impression, England tightened their grip and conceded just nine runs in the first seven overs. Gibbs served warning of South Africa's abilities with two crashing fours in consecutive deliveries to dent Wharf's figures, and later clubbed Kabir Ali for a vast six over midwicket.
But Ali struck back to trap Bacher lbw for 15, and though Paul Collingwood's first two overs disappeared for 19 runs, the net result was the introduction of spin and the stifling of South Africa's mid-innings momentum. With Michael Vaughan and Ashley Giles bowling well in tandem, South Africa had to deal exclusively in singles for 11 overs before Ashwell Prince's patience snapped. He attempted to hit his way out of the corner, and was smartly plucked at midwicket by Collingwood off Giles for 27 (114 for 4).
Not even Mark Boucher's introduction could bring any urgency back into the innings, and as he and Gibbs moved along to a 55-run partnership, South Africa seemed to be relying on another late blitz from Justin Kemp. But it wasn't to be. After Boucher had flashed an uppercut to Kabir Ali on the third-man boundary, Gough returned to the attack to push Kemp onto the back foot. The ploy worked, and Kemp flapped a fourth-ball bouncer straight down fine leg's throat.
With thick clouds looming, Gibbs lashed a wide one from Ali through the covers to bring up his hundred, and he had faced just three more balls by the time the rains interrupted with South Africa teetering at 180 for 7. After a two-hour hiatus, South Africa added 31 runs in four more overs after the resumption, but they lost three wickets along the way to be bowled out for 211. The key wicket was that of Gibbs, who was caught on the long-on boundary by Paul Collingwood off Kabir Ali.
England had high hopes of hauling the series back to 3-2, although Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini had other ideas. Marcus Trescothick was caught fencing Shaun Pollock to second slip, before Geraint Jones top-edged a heave off Makhaya Ntini to mid-on. Before Andrew Strauss had even had time to take guard, the players scurried from the field - this time for good.