South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day January 5, 2005

Outclassed and indisciplined England face defeat

England 163 and 151 for 5 (Key 40) need another 350 runs to beat South Africa 441 and 222 for 8 dec (Kallis 66)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

The unhappy hooker: Michael Vaughan holes out © Getty Images
England's hopes of escaping from Cape Town with a draw were all but scuppered by two moments of indiscipline allied to remorseless pressure from the South Africans which ensured that they will level the series sometime tomorrow. By the close, England, set a nominal 501 to win - or, more likely, five-and-a-half sessions to bat to save the game - were 151 for 5. Graham Thorpe remained unbeaten on 22, but he was fast running out of company.

Once again, South Africa controlled events on the pitch - after a wobble in the first hour - and their bowlers applied enough pressure to ensure that England's batsmen never settled. That, and the mental pressure of having to bat for almost two days, proved too much for Robert Key and Michael Vaughan at a time their resistance was beginning to grow into something more than simply irritating. Anything other than a South African victory would be unjust in the extreme in a match they have dominated from the off.

Key (40) started the rot, losing his head, giving Nicky Boje the charge and being stumped by a country mile. Key wasn't even showing attacking intent, merely offering a half-hearted poke at one which turned past his bat. Until then, he had been defending resolutely and slowly finding his touch after months on the sidelines.

Then it was the turn of Vaughan (20), out of form but battling hard. Makhaya Ntini thought he had him caught behind down the leg side but Daryl Harper turned down a vociferous appeal; two balls later and Vaughan loosely hooked a bouncer straight down the throat of Jacques Rudolph five yards inside the square-leg boundary. It was brainless and quite probably terminal. The late dismissal of Andrew Flintoff for 20 - the thinnest of edges off Shaun Pollock caught by AB de Villiers - merely confirmed the inevitable.

AB de Villiers celebrates after stumping Robert Key © Getty Images
Pollock gave South Africa the perfect start, his second ball having Marcus Trescothick caught off a leading edge by Hashim Amla at silly mid-off for 0. Andrew Strauss and Key avoided any further alarms, and proceeded in a calm and assured manner, until Strauss was on the receiving end of a marginal decision from Steve Bucknor. Boje turned one into him -that it would have hit middle stump was not in doubt - but there were suspicions that it struck outside the line and a hint of an inside edge. It mattered not a jot; Strauss, England's top scorer in every innings so far in this series, was on his way for 39.

Key dug in. Clearly rusty, his innings wasn't pretty but at tea approached he started to show signs that he was finding his touch, and crucially he was still there. The arrival of the out-of-form Vaughan put a spring in the bowlers' steps, but he too held firm. Then, with an hour to go, both hit the self-destruct button.

Graeme Smith rotated his bowlers well but, on a pitch which remains good it was more a case of waiting for the batsmen to make an error rather than all-out attack. His field placings were often surprisingly defensive given the match situation and that, and South Africa's ultra cautious batting last night, hinted that England's second innings at Durban still played on his mind. Smith's unease was underlined when Key edged just short of him at first slip and he clearly signaled that the catch should be referred to the third umpire. His gesticulating might be of more interest to the match referee.

The slightly soporific feel during the afternoon heat was in contrast to the Keystone-Koppish South African batting in the first hour. If their efforts were dull last night, this morning they were plain daft. In ten overs they added 39 runs while losing five wickets, two of them to run-outs which would not have been out of place in the dying overs of a one-dayer.

Smith declared once the lead topped 500, leaving England to chase down 501. But whereas last night's go-slow left many scratching their heads, some of this morning's antics had them rolling in the aisles.

Boeta Dippenaar's second torpid innings of the match was ended two balls into the day when he chipped Flintoff to Vaughan at midwicket. His 44 took 127 balls and contained little of merit.

Nightmare start: Marcus Trescothick departs after his second-ball duck © Getty Images
Then came the comedy, although Boje wasn't laughing. Promoted up the order to inject some urgency, he perished for 4 courtesy of a direct hit from Vaughan and a poor call by Jacques Kallis. Kallis who made a four-hour 66, then did his best to run out Amla, before taking on Ashley Giles's arm and losing in a photo-finish.

de Villiers at least showed aggressive intent, hammering two fours off Flintoff before he holed out to Giles five yards inside the square-leg boundary to give Steve Harmison his first wicket of the innings. England's ultra-negative tactics continued. Amla was given little to hit, and he eventually fell attempting to hook a bouncer from Simon Jones he wouldn't have even bothered to duck in normal circumstances.

There was time for one last moment of farce before the declaration when Ntini arrived at the crease and discovered he had forgotten his arm guard. With England relying almost entirely on bouncers by this stage, it was an odd oversight. By then, even Smith had had enough.

It was little more than a temporary blip. By tomorrow evening South Africa will be laughing for all the right reasons.

Martin Williamson is the managing editor of Cricinfo.