England foiled by nine, ten, Jacques
This is the full text of the South Africa-England second-Test report that that should have appeared on pages 70 and 71 of the February 2005 issue. We apologise for this production error:
It was 4.25pm at Kingsmead and England were two wickets away from a record 12th win in an unparalleled year of success. Shaun Pollock, South Africa's best hope for survival, had just been run out, after being struck twice on the fingers by a fired-up Steve Harmison. The new ball was talking, and it seemed the game was up.
Then the clouds rolled in. The batsmen scampered to the dressing-room and England's players staged a half-hour vigil by the side of the pitch. It was a futile gesture. The stadium floodlights were already piercing the gloom, and now they pierced any hope of a ninth straight victory as well.
But the beauty of this match was its detailed drama. The momentum shifted like sands in the desert, and no sooner had one side established what ought to have been the decisive upper hand, then the other would come swirling back into contention.
This was a match in which England had to summon up every last ounce of their willpower. They had encountered enough speckles of anxiety during the first Test at Port Elizabeth to know that complacency was not an option, and yet, after losing the toss on a green-tinged pitch they tumbled to 139 all out, their lowest first-innings score for more than four years. It wasn't until Jacques Kallis showed them the light with a masterful 162 in South Africa's reply that England embarked on the long march back to supremacy.
It was clear that England had failed to heed their shortcomings at Port Elizabeth. The batting conditions were uncomfortable but hardly unforgiving. England consistently threw away their wickets in pursuit of a dominance that could only be earned through graft. South Africa, on the other hand, knew exactly what was expected of them, and Pollock's 4 for 52 was the pick of a performance both tidy and hostile.
South Africa's lessons had been learned at selection level as well. Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje returned to the fold after injury, but the big decision was to drop wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, despite the political ramifications involved. AB de Villiers took up the gauntlets instead, and the tail had recovered its sting. At 70 for 3 overnight and 118 for 6 midway through the second morning, South Africa were on the brink of squandering their hard-won advantage, but with Kallis in complete command, the tail fed off his composure and England were given a timely lesson in the art of accumulation.
He comes across as a soulless cricketer, but technically speaking, there can be no better batsman in the world. In six hours of unrelenting application, Kallis built a superstructure around South Africa's innings. For England, the loss of Ashley Giles was a major setback. He had suffered a back spasm while batting, and without his presence at one end, England's seamers cooked in Durban's afternoon heat. When Makhaya Ntini joined Kallis at 243 for 8, it was time to cash in on their exhaustion.
A succession of withering pulls and cover-drives carried Kallis past 150 for the seventh time in Tests, as a further 89 runs were added for the last two wickets. It was, said Vaughan, the best innings ever played against his side, and it showcased the inadequacies of their first-innings effort. South Africa's total of 332 was at least 100 runs more than England had bargained for.
Turning the tables
But, by surviving an important 11-over spell late on the second day, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss confirmed to themselves that any demons in the pitch had vanished. On the third day England's dominance was barely challenged, as Strauss and Trescothick wiped off the 193-run deficit and more with an opening stand of 273.
This was England as they knew themselves best - dominant, forceful, and by targeting Boje and Dale Steyn in particular, utterly ruthless. Neither offered a chance until well past their hundreds, and though Trescothick fell late in the day for 132, Mark Butcher survived a nervy last half-hour as England closed on 281 for 1. They had a lead of 88 and a match to be won.
But of course, there were yet more jitters to come. For the second century running, Strauss failed to pick up where he had left off overnight, and once Michael Vaughan and Butcher had been extracted cheaply, England were effectively 121 for 4, and right back in the mire. But cometh the hour, cometh Thorpe. With Andrew Flintoff and Geraint Jones playing off his nudging, nurdling, counterpunching solidity, South Africa forgot about their fielding and began steeling themselves for the rearguard. When Thorpe became the third centurion of the innings, England were able to declare on a massive 570 for 7, and the shattered South Africans were left needing 378 in a day and nine overs.
The final resistance
The declaration came with an hour of the fourth day remaining, and England grabbed the big wicket of Graeme Smith before the close.
England chipped and chivvied away, session by session, but they met staunch resistance at every turn. First from Jacques Rudolph and Martin van Jaarsveld, who added 69 for the fifth wicket, and then, once three wickets had clattered for 11 before tea, from Pollock and de Villiers, who scored his maiden Test half-century in only his second match. Judging by the manner in which the momentum of the series had shifted, he may never make a more timely contribution.
Marks out of ten
9 Strauss Top-scorer for four innings running. How have England coped without him? Trescothick Silenced those who question his overseas record for a time. Thorpe Fourth century of the year, and every one a cracker
8 Hoggard England's Mr Reliable, and currently their best source of wickets
7 Flintoff Wholehearted bowling and a crucial innings. G Jones Sloppy behind the stumps, but freewheeling with the bat.
6 Harmison His rhythm returned in fits and starts but far from his best.
5 Giles Sorely missed in first innings. Understandably rusty in second. S Jones Bore the brunt of South Africa's tail-wag. Lacked penetration in second innings.
4 Butcher A vital holding role against the new ball, but off-colour again. Vaughan Attracting good deliveries, but his form is a worry.