A brief history ...
South Africa's return to England was an immediate success with a thumping 356-run win at Lord's. When Brian McMillan - who threatened with bat and ball all series - trapped Angus Fraser lbw, the South African flag was joyously waved from the balcony, and the disparity in confidence between the two teams was further widened with Mike Atherton's "dirt in the pocket" affair which muddied South Africa's momentous return. England bounced back, sparked by Devon Malcolm's sensational 9 for 57 in the third Test at The Oval, inspired by receiving a nasty clang to the helmet. "You guys are history," he famously muttered under his grille to Fanie de Villiers' bouncer and, for one Test, they were just that.
England 1 South Africa 1 Drawn 1
A long, wet and losing tour for England - their fourth in a row - and South Africa's fast bowlers, in between the rain, revelled in the seaming conditions. After a draw at Centurion, South Africa bounced into life at Johannesburg to gain a 132-run lead in the first innings. McMillan's second-innings 100 set England an unlikely 479 to win, but they stuttered to 167 for 4 by the close of the fourth day with Atherton unbeaten on 82. And then the remarkable happened, as Atherton played the innings of his life on the fifth day to single-handedly haul England to the most memorable of draws. Gary Kirsten dropped him on 99. Atherton was chivvied along by Jack Russell who infuriated South Africa for 274 minutes, but for all England's euphoria, this represented their high of a tour in which they were continually chasing South Africa's coat tails. Allan Donald, the Man of the Series, routed England in their first innings at Cape Town, before a young and very quick Shaun Pollock did the same in their second dig.
South Africa 1 England 0 Drawn 4
English cricket couldn't get onto the back pages of the press in 1998 even if it tried, with the football World Cup dominating society. Considering their general haplessness at Lord's, this was probably a relief to the England chiefs, but Robert Croft inspired them to a morale-boosting draw at Old Trafford. All seemed lost when Atherton and his successor, Alec Stewart, both fell on the fifth morning, but Croft - who'd hardly taken a wicket or nudged a run all series - discovered previously unknown levels of resistance: three hours and ten minutes, in fact, and England had turned the corner. Fraser took 10 wickets at Trent Bridge and Atherton somehow staved off an increasingly apoplectic Donald, in a duel that immediately went down in cricket folklore. The momentum was with England, and Darren Gough tore into South Africa with six wickets in the final Test at Headingley. It was England's first big series win since Australia in 1986-87, and their joy was unconfined.
England 2 South Africa 1 Drawn 2
There were absolutely no positives England could clutch at when South Africa reduced them to 2 for 4 in the first Test at Johannesburg, but it was arguably the making of Michael Vaughan. His two-hour 33 lifted England out of the mire, briefly, though South Africa responded to their risible 122 with 403 for 9 declared. Donald ended England's misery with 5 for 74 in their second innings. The tourists responded with a far improved performance at Port Elizabeth, led by two wonderfully determined fifties from their captain, Nasser Hussain, whose five-hour 70 staved off South Africa's unrelenting seamers to seal a draw. His excellent form earned him a fighting century at Durban, though he was outclassed by a magnificent 275 from Gary Kirsten in a dull draw, before South Africa wrapped up the series in the fourth Test in Cape Town. England made it a contest for much of the game, before two horrific batting collapses reminded everyone of the uphill task their new-look side faced. Hansie Cronje and Hussain enlivened the final Test that was heading towards the dullest of draws, forfeiting innings to leave England chasing 249. They squeezed home with five balls and two wickets remaining, but five months later it transpired Cronje had received 53,000 rand (around £5,000), and England's morale-boosting win was recorded in history as the first officially recognised "fixed" Test.
South Africa 2 England 1 Drawn 2
For the third time since readmission, South Africa were left ruing a series they should have won. At the end of the first Test England were in turmoil as Hussain resigned and Vaughan was thrust into the captaincy after a successful start with the one-day side. Hussain's final Test in charge found England firmly on the back foot as Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs added 338 for the first wicket with Smith making a destructive 277. Rain, and an elegant century from Vaughan, helped save the game, but it was a destabilised England side that arrived at Lord's and South Africa took full advantage. Smith rattled off his second double-century and Makhaya Ntini bagged 10 wickets in an innings-and-92-run victory. After such a hammering it was to Vaughan's credit that England regrouped on a lively pitch at Trent Bridge with James Kirtley taking 6 for 39 on debut to level the series. The home side were quickly on top again at Headingley where Martin Bicknell was recalled after a gap of ten years, with South Africa reduced to 21 for 4 on a green seamer, but England's batsmen went to pieces and Gary Kirsten made an outstanding 130. The subsequent 191-run defeat left Vaughan questioning the strength of the English game and his comments appeared valid when South Africa were 290 for 1 on the first day of the final Test at The Oval. Then one of the more remarkable transformations began to take shape with Marcus Trescothick hitting a memorable 219, but the real story came from Graham Thorpe, who made 124 on his recall. Still, though, England only appeared set for parity, enough to almost guarantee South Africa the series. Enter Andrew Flintoff and a breathtaking 95 and suddenly Vaughan was able to declare 120 before Bicknell and a fiery Steve Harmison whittled out South Africa for 229. The rest was easy for England, as Alec Stewart was given a victorious send-off in his final Test.
England 2 South Africa 2 Drawn 1
England's first series victory in South Africa for 40 years is often forgotten because of the Ashes triumph that followed, but this represented one of their most impressive overseas results. They carried the momentum from the previous summer (where they'd won all seven Tests) into the opening encounter in Port Elizabeth as Andrew Strauss made 126 and 94 not out in a seven-wicket win. England's run of eight consecutive victories (and 11 in 12 Tests) was ended by bad light in Durban with South Africa eight down in their second innings. The visitors had fought back from being bowled for 139 in the first innings as Strauss and Trescothick added 273 second time around. Back-to-back Tests, though, were a tough ask especially when England had to bowl first in Cape Town. Jacques Kallis made another hundred and England were never in the match as they went down by 196 runs. However, the series turned with a dramatic match in Johannesburg as Matthew Hoggard enjoyed his finest hour. Another Strauss ton, followed by a flamboyant 180 from Trescothick, set South Africa 325 in 68 overs. Hoggard ripped into them, adding to his first-innings 5 for 144 with a career-best 7 for 61, England's best match figures for 12 years, as they won with seven overs to spare. It was almost a one-man show as neither Harmison or Flintoff were fully fit and James Anderson had a nightmare game. As usual when England tour rain played a part at Centurion Park and took time out of the match. South Africa tested England's nerve more than once, but an historic series success was secured.
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With one of the greatest innings produced in a run chase, Graeme Smith led his team to an historic series victory in England with a monumental uneaten 154 at Edgbaston. It was a captain's innings of the highest order and brought the downfall of his opposite number, Michael Vaughan, who tearfully resigned the following day and handed the reigns to Kevin Pietersen (albeit briefly). The series had started on a much more promising note for England as Pietersen hit 152 in his first Test innings against his countrymen and Ian Bell made a career-best 199 as the home side piled up 593 for 8 at Lord's. They managed to enforce the follow-on, but ran out of steam on another featherbed at NW8 as centuries from Smith, Neil McKenzie and Hashim Amla eased South Africa to a draw. At Headingley, Andrew Flintoff made his long-awaited comeback but it was the selection of Darren Pattinson, the Nottinghamshire swing bowler who had grown up in Australia, that was the talking point and from then on England were a dishevelled bunch. The batting collapsed twice to South Africa's pace attack while the visitors rode on fine hundreds by Ashwell Prince and AB de Villiers. Edgbaston proved a thrilling contest with Flintoff producing a fearsome spell on the second evening to haul England back into the match before Paul Collingwood, with his career hanging by a thread, produced one of the gutsiest centuries imaginable alongside Pietersen's flamboyant 94. In the end, South Africa needed a challenging 281 and at 93 for 4 England were on track to level the series, but Smith's epic won the day. A few days later, under their new leader, England restored pride with a consolation victory at The Oval with new captain Pietersen marking the occasion with another hundred. Over the next two weeks he would also lead the team to a crushing 4-0 one-day series success, but his fun wouldn't last much longer.
Tests England 1 South Africa 2 Drawn 1
ODIs England 4 South Africa 0 Abandoned 1
The tour began with a largely unexpected ODI series win for England - their first in South Africa. The abandonment of the first and last games reduced the series to a best-of-three. Paul Collingwood's century at Centurion won the second match; AB de Villier's ton set up the leveller in the third before James Anderson ran through the hosts in Port Elizabeth: South Africa bowled out for 119 and England took what ended up as a series-clinching victory.
The Test series was characterised by England's two last-gasp escapes. Chasing 364 to win the first Test at Centurion, England were sailing to a draw at tea. But after the interval the run out of Kevin Pietersen began a collapse against the new ball. Five wickets went down for 13 runs with Freidel de Wet, on Test debut, taking 4 for 55 and the run out of Pietersen. England needed No. 11 Graham Onions to survive 12 balls to save the match.
Onions' rearguard action was called upon again in the New Year's Test at Cape Town - the third of the series. South Africa built up a big lead in the third innings lead by Graeme Smith's 183, leaving England four sessions to save the game. The Test looked lost when the tourists slipped to 160 for 5 after a century opening stand but Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell took England into the last hour with a stand of 112. But both fell and England again crumbled to leave the final pair - Graeme Swann and Onions - to survive 17 balls.
Between the two backs-against-the-wall draws, England won the Boxing Day Test by an innings in Durban to lead the series. Hundreds for Alastair Cook and Bell gave England a first-innings lead of 231 before Swann's five and Stuart Broad's four wickets shot out the hosts for 133.
But given their near-misses either side of the Durban defeat South Africa finally, and perhaps deservedly, levelled the series in the final Test in Johannesburg with a thumping innings victory. England couldn't live with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who shared 14 wickets in the match. The Test included one of the early controversies with DRS - Graham Smith, who went on to score a century, was given not out caught behind when a clear edge could be heard on the replay; third umpire Daryll Harper didn't have the microphone turned up so couldn't hear the snick.
Tests South Africa 1 England 1 Drawn 2
ODIs South Africa 1 England 2 Abandoned 2