Fourth Test Match

SOUTH AFRICA v ENGLAND

Colin Bryden

At Port Elizabeth, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. Drawn. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: P. R. Adams.

At 18 years and 340 days, the left-arm wrist-spinner Paul Adams became South Africa's youngest Test player, after an extraordinary rise. He had taken 32 wickets in five first-class matches, including nine for South Africa A against England, with his highly unorthodox and contorted action, the left-armer's googly being his stock delivery. He was also only the second non-white to represent South Africa, following Omar Henry, and his presence delighted the most racially mixed crowd of the series, which included the St George's brass band, who played loud and lively music throughout the match.

The game itself, though not without incident, was slow, and by the end it appeared both captains considered the risk of losing outweighed the potential rewards. Afterwards, the South African press attacked England for their negativity; it was their sixth successive draw. South Africa took first possession of a pitch of slow but even bounce, better grassed than usual for Port Elizabeth. Their openers started confidently until Hudson pushed at an away-swinger from Cork and was caught behind. Cronje managed just one scoring stroke in 27 balls before lofting a drive to short cover, where Atherton took a superb catch, and when Kirsten, who hit nine fours in his fifty, edged tamely to first slip, South Africa were 89 for three. As in Durban, a good start had evaporated.

Cullinan, in excellent form, and the more cautious Rhodes stabilised the innings. Gradually accelerating, Rhodes hooked Cork for six before pulling hard and low to Smith, the only fielder covering a vast area at mid-wicket. Cullinan was heading for a century until he cut at Cork's first ball next morning, which was wide of his off stump. But McMillan and Richardson, batting fluently in front of his home crowd, continued to build a good total. Richardson's was a fluke dismissal: the ball popped off his pads and tangled in his gloves long enough for Russell to scamper in front of the stumps and take it. The England bowlers, despite losing Ilott to a thigh strain, stuck to their task, but the fielding was patchy. Six catches went down (none especially expensive), with three in one over from Illingworth.

When England replied, Pollock started with a wide, was hit for four by Stewart and then had him caught behind next ball. Gallian, who had arrived from Pakistan week before, never looked settled and Thorpe, typically, started aggressively, then presented Adams with his first Test victim by pulling a short ball to mid-wicket. Although less of a mystery to the batsmen than he was in Kimberley, Adams bowled accurately and turned the ball enough to merit respect and gain three wickets. One of them was Atherton, who looked immovable for five hours until he was given caught behind by umpire Mitchley. Replays suggested the ball had come off the pad; Atherton looked astonished and left the crease reluctantly. Some questioned Mitchley again when he gave Hick lbw to Donald. But a sound partnership between Russell and Illingworth took England's innings into the fourth day.

Although it had taken longer than they would have liked, South Africa had a useful lead of 165. Their second innings started disastrously, however, with six tumbling for 69, despite bowling tactics seemingly geared to containment rather than penetration. Martin's first spell, seven maiden overs and two wickets, was a fine effort and Cork was magnificent, bowling 20 overs unchanged either side of lunch and eventually claiming three for nought in 17 balls. But after tea he bowled so many deliveries outside leg stump that Mitchley called a wide, arguing that the batsmen could not reach the ball. Kirsten held the innings together with his second half-century of the match, batting for 288 minutes and facing 176 balls. His partnership with Pollock, who played his normal attacking game, almost doubled the total and enabled South Africa to set a challenging target of 328 in a minimum of 99 overs.

Closing on 20 without loss, Atherton and Stewart set the scene for a promising final day. In the first hour of the morning, they advanced by 42 in 13 overs, at which point the required run-rate was 3.45. But neither side would go all out for an exciting finish. Cronje set defensive fields and England added only 18 in the next hour. After Atherton broke a long spell of slow cricket by hooking Matthews for four, he was lbw when the next delivery cut back and kept low. Stewart and Gallian continued to bat cautiously for more than two hours. It was Stewart's only substantial innings of the series, but he cut Donald to gully at the start of the final hour, just 19 short of his hundred.

Man of the Match: G. Kristen. Attendance: 58,900.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 230-4 (D. J. Cullinan 83*, B. M. McMillan 3*); Second day, England 40-1 (M. A. Atherton 15*, J. E. R. Gallian 14*); Third day, England 250-7 (R. C. Russell 26*, R. K. Illingworth 25*); Fourth day, England 20-0 (M. A. Atherton 9*, A. J. Stewart 8*).

© John Wisden & Co