"An epic!" declared Michael Vaughan, as he strode in to face the media after the second Test at Durban had ended in a nailbiting draw. In the end, it was bad light that saved South Africa from probable defeat and so prevented England from extending their winning streak to a record nine matches, but Vaughan had few complaints about the outcome.
"To be honest it was pretty dark out there," he admitted, "and when we were batting on the third day we were offered similar light at a similar time, and accepted it. One slight query is that the umpires didn't give us an opportunity to bring on our spinners, because with an over or so of warning, I'd have brought myself and Ash [Giles] on. But it's not a real complaint. I'd have done just the same."
By the time play was suspended, the floodlights were piercing the gloom in the middle and, in hindsight, the spinners might have been an option instead of the new ball. "But hindsight is a funny thing," added Vaughan. "To be honest, I was expecting a bang-bang from Steve Harmison, but the clouds came from nowhere. But it's swings and roundabouts with these things, though. We can't control the weather, only our performance."
After the start that England made to the match, Vaughan might have been grateful to walk away with a draw. But the manner in which they turned the game around was so emphatic that, by the end, the boot was firmly on the other foot. "It was South Africa who got out of jail," declared Vaughan. "Obviously I'm slightly disappointed not to be 2-0 up, but it's been a great Test match, and our comeback over the last three-and-a-half days has been extraordinary. We've dug deep and taken our performance to new heights. After a dodgy two days, it's been a great effort.
"I'd rather be in my shoes than Graeme Smith's," added Vaughan. "I think the South Africans will be sat back in their dressing-room thinking they have taken a lot out of the game, but if they dig deep into their performance, they'll accept they were right on the back foot by the end. Jacques Kallis's innings was one of the best that has ever been scored against us, and they should have nailed the game with a 200-run lead. But the team that finished on top was England."
The other slight downer for England was the end of their run of eight consecutive victories. "It's disappointing," Vaughan admitted, "but to go 13 matches unbeaten is an amazing achievement. This series has been played between two tough, closely matched teams and in the right spirit, and we're delighted to be 1-0 up.
"This side has one hell of a lot of character, and a tough fighting spirit," Vaughan concluded. "We've now got to make sure than 2004 hasn't just been a lucky year. We need to continue our success into 2005, and go to Cape Town to play in similar fashion to the last three-and-a-half days."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo. He will be following the England team throughout the Test series in South Africa.