England 445 and 118 beat South Africa 362 and 131 (Boucher 52, Kirtley 6-34) by 70 runs
England levelled the five-match series with a 70-run victory over South Africa on a tense fifth morning of the third npower Test at Trent Bridge. The hero of the hour was James Kirtley, who took 6 for 34 on his debut, including four of the five wickets to fall today.
It wasn't entirely straightforward for England, although in taking three early wickets they made their task much easier than it might have been. But Mark Boucher, who was unfazed by the variable bounce, stood firm and took the attack to the bowlers. For a short time, when he was putting on 45 for the ninth wicket with Paul Adams, England began to look rattled. But the damage had been done and the ask was just too much.
The pitch played its part, with low bounce accounting for the first two wickets of the day, dismissals which all but ended South Africa's chances of winning the game. They needed a good start, but Kirtley struck in his third over when Neil McKenzie paid for not thrusting forward. The cruelly low bounce beat his back-foot jab and removed his off stump for 11 (71 for 6).
Shaun Pollock was the main remaining danger, but he never looked at ease and was cleaned up for 0 by another one that kept low, this time from Andrew Flintoff (80 for 7). When Andrew Hall slashed at the first ball he faced, from Kirtley, and Marcus Trescothick at first slip made a hard chance to his right look easy, the game was all but over (81 for 8).
But the capacity crowd, which had been greeting every dot ball with applause and every regulation piece of fielding with an enthusiasm usually reserved for the most athletic stop, were slowly silenced by the Boucher-Adams stand. Adams should have become Kirtley's fifth wicket of the innings when he had made 1, edging to Mark Butcher at second slip. Butcher, moving wide to his right, spilt the ball and his despairing lunge to gather the rebound was inches short.. At the time it appeared to be little more than a temporary blip. But as the partnership developed, that miss began to look more worrying.
But it was Kirtley's day. Adams, whose determination to push forward to everything had been dampened by some fast, short deliveries from Steve Harmison, pushed forward with the bat rather than his feet and spooned a simple return catch to Kirtley. Adams had made 15 (126 for 9). With Makhaya Ntini the last man, Boucher had to take more risks and his tentative fish gave Kirtley his sixth wicket courtesy of a tumbling Alec Stewart. Boucher made 52 in an innings of courage and tenacity.
South Africa, who came into this game with all the momentum and belief after dominating the first two Tests, have three days to regroup before the fourth Test starts at Headingley. Crucially, they will be without Shaun Pollock, so instrumental here with both bat and ball, who is returning home for a few days to be with his wife for the birth of their daughter. In 1998 England came from being one down after being outplayed in the first three Tests. A repeat of that turnaround isn't inconceivable.
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