Third Cornhill Test

England v South Africa 1998

Michael Owen-Smith

Test debut: A. F. Giles.

Having been totally outplayed at Lord's, England did produce a display of old-fashioned guts to avoid going down the same hole at Old Trafford. They had to follow on in successive Tests for the first time since India in 1992-93 and were only secure from defeat when less than three overs remained on the final evening. But it was a Dunkirk-style evacuation of the kind much beloved of English cricket followers which kept England in with a chance of winning the series. Their last pair had been at the crease for a nerve-wracking 19 minutes and their aggregate score was level with South Africa. For England, the recriminations were smothered by the relief. But they had come very close to defeat on a pitch almost devoid of bounce and totally devoid of pace. At Lord's, they had at least succumbed on a surface which encouraged the South African fast bowlers.

England named two spinners, including new cap Ashley Giles of Warwickshire, for the first time in the series. With Gough fit again and Knight preferred to James, they had three changes; Headley and Ealham were also dropped, and Ben Hollioake was omitted from the 12. South Africa made two forced changes: Bacher's shoulder had not recovered since Lord's, so Liebenberg returned, and they rested Pollock, who had a thigh strain, giving Ntini his first overseas Test.

The pitch produced some turn on the first day, but helped the slow bowlers less and less as the match progressed. Winning the toss allowed South Africa to grind out a big total on the first two days, constructing an invincible position and ensuring that England's spinners would not have a fourth innings to bowl in. In retrospect, they must have wished that they had got England in on the second evening rather than an hour into the third morning. Had they scored more quickly, there would have been time to bundle England out twice. But in the end, they failed to win because they ran out of bowlers in England's second innings. Donald bowled himself to a standstill, battling his suspect left ankle, Klusener managed only three overs and Kallis gave up in the final hour when his hamstring caved in.

LONGEST INNINGS BY SOUTH AFRICANS

HrsMinsRuns
1127214P. G. Amm Eastern Province v Transvaal at Port Elizabeth 1988-89
1056337* D. J. Cullinan Transvaal v Northern Transvaal at Johannesburg 1993-94
1050210 G. Kirsten South Africa v England at Manchester 1998
1033141G. F. J. Liebenberg Orange Free State v E. Province at Bloemfontein 1994-95
1016307*T. N. Lazard Boland v Western Province at Worcester (SA) 1993-94
[Source: Wisden Book of Cricket Records (Fourth edition)

South Africa's total of 552 for five, their highest against England, was built around a 238-run partnership between Kirsten and Kallis - a South African second-wicket Test record and their best for any wicket since isolation. Kirsten's 210 was his maiden Test double-century but his second in successive first-class innings. He batted ten hours and 50 minutes, the longest Test innings by a South African; even Bruce Mitchell and Jackie McGlew never matched this for stickability. Kirsten hit 24 fours and a six in 525 balls. Kallis scored a Test-best 132, in just under six hours, and even the normally free-flowing Cullinan took five hours over 75. England checked the scoring-rate efficiently, but it seemed too early to go on the defensive on the first afternoon, when South Africa were hardly rollicking along at 59 for one from 31 overs.

England's reply was a repeat of their Lord's nightmare. They were not helped by Thorpe's recurrent back injury, which made him a passenger. But the South Africans got far more out of the pitch than England had, even though their efforts extracted a terrible price in injuries by the finish. Only Atherton and Stewart did not seem out of their depth against the magnificent Donald, who set up the kill. The left-arm spinner Adams cashed in with four wickets, his best figures against England.

Even with Klusener unable to share the new ball, England collapsed to 11 for two following on. Another four-day defeat beckoned. But then Atherton and Stewart combined in a courageous stand. They almost matched Kirsten and Kallis, putting on 226, and they were under infinitely more pressure. Stewart and Atherton even took control of the attack on Sunday afternoon, when they added 121 between lunch and tea. When they were still together at the close, with the deficit down to 158, England began to hope the game could be saved. But Atherton perished an hour into the final day, and Stewart half an hour after lunch, both hooking. Stewart's defiant 164, lasting seven hours, was an astonishing performance from someone carrying so much responsibility.

Donald knew he represented the difference between victory and the draw, and was at his best as he swept through the remaining middle order. Then England found an unlikely hero in Croft, who made up for three wicketless Tests by keeping his end intact for more than three hours. Gough supported him for 78 minutes, but England were still two short of making South Africa bat again when last man Fraser arrived, with 7.1 of the statutory final 15 overs remaining. When Croft levelled the scores, two more overs - for a change of innings - were knocked off the requirement. Donald bowled a superb final over to Fraser, whose heart must have missed a beat at a loud appeal for lbw last ball. There was some debate about the relevant regulation, which had just been altered. But it was clear that if a wicket had fallen during the next over, South Africa would not have had time to bat; Croft played out a maiden against Adams, but England were already safe.

Poor crowds, especially on the first day, when 11,200 spectators took up barely half the ground's capacity, prompted much discussion of cricket's apparently fading appeal, especially in the midst of the frenzy of World Cup soccer in France. The ECB issued a press release arguing, on the basis of 15-year attendance patterns, that the figure was just below average. Following near-pantomime scenes at Edgbaston, Lancashire had introduced stricter rules on bringing alcohol into the ground and on fancy dress which might obstruct the view. Some thought this had put the crowds off. Others thought a little English success was all that was required.

Man of the Match: J. H. Kallis. Attendance: 50,953; receipts £1,105,594.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 237-1 (G. Kirsten 98*, J. H. Kallis 117*); Second day, South Africa 487-4 (W. J. Cronje 27*, J. N. Rhodes 12*); Third day, England 162-8 (A. F. Giles 1*, D. Gough 0*); Fourth day, England 211-2 (M. A. Atherton 81*, A. J. Stewart 114*).

© John Wisden & Co
 
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