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The 100th Test match between the countries was thrilling from start to finish. It aroused plenty of interest throughout the country and assured the South Africans of financial success.
The wonderful fielding of Bland, in particular, captured the imagination and so did the finish, with both sides going close to victory. The repeated swings in the fortunes of the game with neither team able to force an advantage kept the crowd, which totalled about 100,000 in a state of continuous tension.
Boycott replaced Parfitt for England and Brown, who gained his first cap, came in for Illingworth (twelfth man). South Africa won the toss and on a good cricket pitch made a shaky start.
Fine catches by Barber, at short fine leg, Brown, a return catch ankle high and Titmus, full length in the gulley, accounted for the first three wickets which fell for 75, but Graeme Pollock and Bland brought a recovery with a stand of 80 in ninety-five minutes. Then came another breakdown and at 178 for seven South Africa looked in trouble. The last three wickets added 102.
Rain restricted the second day's play to just under two and a half hours. Cricket did not start until after lunch. At the close England were 26 without loss in reply to South Africa's 280. A crowd of 26,000 saw a fine innings by Barrington on the Saturday. Boycott and Barber began with a stand of 82, but both were out as well as Edrich for the addition of six. Barrington hit one 6 and eleven 4's while scoring 91 in three hours.
Smith helped him add 96 before Bland made the first of his two thrilling run outs, hitting Barringtons's stumps direct after running from mid wicket towards mid-on and having barely more than one stump to aim at. Parks was another victim of the accuracy of Bland. Titmus played a useful innings and England led by 58.
Barlow began South Africa's second innings aggressively and Lance, first out, made only nine of the 55 scored. At 120 for four South Africa were in real danger, but Bland, well supported by Bacher and van der Merwe, brought recovery.
England needed 191 to win in five minutes under four hours, but the time was cut considerably by the slow over rate. Edrich, hit on the side of the head by a ball from Peter Pollock, had to retire and the innings never really got going. England steadily fell behind the clock and in the end had to struggle to save the game.