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January 22, 2005
South Africa 247 for 9 (de Villiers 92, Flintoff 4-44, S Jones 3-47) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A late burst from Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones, in which five wickets tumbled for 45 runs, transformed England's day at SuperSport Park. South Africa, who were cruising at 187 for 3 shortly before tea, slumped to 247 for 9 before bad light - and some spectacular bolts of lightning uncomfortably close to the ground - brought an early close.
On a well-grassed pitch that had been expected to help the bowlers - Michael Vaughan's eyes lit up when he won the toss, and he had no hesitation in fielding first - England's attack was wayward at first, and South Africa's batsmen settled in. The star was AB de Villiers, who crafted an enterprising 92 on his home ground. But South Africa's problems started when de Villiers, understandably nervous in the nineties, ground to a halt.
Within sight of becoming only the third South African to score a Test century before his 21st birthday - and also becoming the youngest centurion at Centurion - de Villiers swept at a straight one from Ashley Giles and was lbw for 92 (187 for 4). He faced 165 balls and hit 15 fours, the pick of them early on when he swayed back and larruped Steve Harmison to the point boundary, to go with several lip-smacking cover-drives and the odd assured pull. It might not have come today, but that maiden century is not far away.
Not for the first time in this series, South Africa's tactic of packing their side with supposed allrounders failed to pay off. Mark Boucher seemed a place or two too high at No. 6, but had to look on from the other end as Flintoff barged into the limelight. First he drew Graeme Smith into a drive, only for the resultant edge to fly straight to slip, where Marcus Trescothick juggled but held on. Smith, who had dropped down to No. 5 to steady the middle order, was gone for 25 (200 for 5).
And two balls later, with no addition to the score, Shaun Pollock also reached out to drive, and an inside-edge crashed into middle stump, demolishing it and breaking the camera inside.
Boucher hung around, managing the odd prod to the on side, but after making 25 from 58 balls he thick-edged Simon Jones to Trescothick for another straightforward slip catch (222 for 7). Jones then removed Nicky Boje - a checked drive straight to Graham Thorpe a short mid-off - and Makhaya Ntini, who chipped to a diving Matthew Hoggard at mid-on (245 for 9).
Andrew Hall and Andre Nel, the two returnees to the home side for this match, survived until the early close - helped when Hall gave a catch off what turned out to be the last ball off one of 19 no-balls England delivered during the day - but what had been a strong position for South Africa had fizzled out alarmingly in less than a full session.
It had all been very different before tea. England, perhaps finding it difficult to raise their game one last time so soon after the joys of Jo'burg, and yesterday's draining rain delays, turned in an ordinary bowling performance for the best part of four hours when play finally got under way on the second scheduled day of the match.
On what had been touted as something of a terror track - Ian Botham said he'd never seen a Test pitch with so much grass on it - Harmison had a sobering time, his first nine overs costing 50. He hasn't taken a wicket since a solitary strike in the second innings of the third Test, and he was denied a morale-boosting scalp early on here when Herschelle Gibbs, the ball after getting off the mark with a boundary, edged to the right of first slip, where Trescothick failed to hold on to a looping low chance. It wasn't an expensive miss, though, as Gibbs feathered an inside edge in Flintoff's first over and was caught behind for 14 (27 for 1).
Later the frustrated Harmison was denied again ... and again. In the first over of his second spell de Villiers, who had 34 at the time, drove loosely, and the ball flew low to gully where Strauss dropped it. Harmison improved after that, but still had no luck: first the becalmed de Villiers pushed an airy drive past the airborne Strauss at point, and then he survived a couple of close lbw shouts that Hawk-Eye thought would have grazed leg stump: Steve Bucknor, who is standing in his 99th Test, didn't agree.
The out-of-form Jacques Rudolph scratched around at first, but by the end of the morning he was confident enough to pounce on a full-toss in Giles's exploratory pre-prandial over and punch it through the covers for his sixth four as South Africa glided to 108 for 1 by lunch.
England did claim three wickets in the afternoon, including a pair of Jacques - Rudolph for a cautious 33 and Kallis for 8. Rudolph top-edged a pull off Hoggard, only to be well caught by Robert Key, running back from square leg and staring into the sun (114 for 2).
Kallis was in aggressive mode, crunching his first ball crisply through the covers for four, but he missed an airy waft at Flintoff and, later in the same over, was beaten by a peach that lifted and left him. And in Flintoff's next over, after a slight delay while the physio treated de Villiers for a back spasm, Kallis had no answer to a yorker which moved away a touch and crashed into his off stump. The man who had made big centuries in the second and third Tests was on his way for 8 (144 for 3).
Fifteen minutes before tea, South Africa seemed set to dominate. But then the dejected de Villiers departed, and the wheels fell off. With only three days remaining, the weather a worry, and a South African total which is likely to be around 100 short of the average first-innings total here, it is Vaughan - a 2-1 lead safely tucked into his back pocket - who will be the happier of the two captains tonight.
Steven Lynch is the editor of Cricinfo.
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