Toss: South Africa. Test debuts: C. J. Adams, G. M. Hamilton, M. P. Vaughan.
South Africa overpowered a new-look England side who went to the Wanderers full of optimism and left realising the scale of the task ahead. It was South Africa's tenth consecutive home Test win, equalling India's winning sequence from December 1988 to November 1994, and only their second victory by an innings against England. The first had been in 1905-06 at Cape Town, by an innings and 16 runs. This later one was completed before lunch on the fourth morning but, with rain and bad light causing interruptions, there were less than three days of playing time. The match was dominated by South Africa's peerless new-ball pairing of Donald and Pollock, who exploited perfect conditions for fast bowling to claim 19 wickets between them. Poor England. They turned up on the first morning to find a damp, spongy pitch underfoot and heavy, low clouds overhead. Then Cronje won the toss. It took just 17 deliveries to put all England's plans and preparation through a shredder as they lost four wickets for two runs, their worst start to a Test match.
Donald did the principal damage, bowling Atherton second ball with a late in-swinger. Four years earlier, Atherton had batted here for ten hours 43 minutes, scoring an unbeaten 185 to save the Second Test. Donald's devastating first two overs also accounted for Butcher and Stewart, out first ball, so that Chris Adams, coming in at No. 6, found himself batting to prevent a hat-trick within 15 minutes of his debut. With Hussain out third ball to an almost unplayable lifter from Pollock in between, any contest was as good as over. That England achieved 122 owed much to Vaughan, who impressed on his first outing, and some controlled hitting by Flintoff, back in Test cricket after 15 months' absence. But with the ball swinging through the air and seaming off the pitch, batting was a lottery. Or it appeared that way until England had the ball in their hands. Gough, Caddick and Mullally lacked the potency of South Africa's fast men and, when Hussain turned to his support bowlers, the home team plundered runs at will on the second day as the sun shone and the pitch dried out. Without a specialist spinner to call on, he was unable to assert the necessary control over events. Gibbs and Cullinan were allowed to leave alone far too often against some wasteful bowling as they ensured that South Africa would build a commanding lead - the 15th time in consecutive Tests that England had conceded a first-innings deficit. Gibbs, recalled after missing the two preceding Tests against Zimbabwe through injury, fell 15 short of his first Test century at home, but Cullinan was in no mood to miss out on his fourth Test hundred of 1999. His 108 in four and a quarter hours, including 17 fours, put him alongside Dudley Nourse and Kirsten on a record nine hundreds for South Africa.
Three quick wickets on the third morning gave Gough a flattering five-wicket return. But, after removing Pollock and Donald with successive balls, he was denied the chance of a hat-trick - he had achieved one in his previous Test, back in January at Sydney - by the weather. Before Paul Adams could take guard, the umpires offered the light and the players went off. During the hour-long delay, Cronje declared.
Needing 281 to avoid an innings defeat, England were instantly in trouble. Pollock unleashed a wickedly fast, rising delivery that Atherton could only glove behind to be out first ball, his second pair and 19th duck in Tests. Only Derek Underwood, an habitué of the other end of the innings, had made as many for England. Stubborn resistance from Butcher, who spent 220 minutes grafting for 32, and Stewart meant England's innings was not always one-way traffic. Stewart, struck in the ribs by Pollock, put attack before occupation and hit a bold 86, with a six and 14 fours, before becoming Donald's tenth victim of the match. His 11th, Hamilton, was also his 75th against England, equalling in 14 Tests Hugh Tayfield's record from 15 games. More bad light meant the match went into the fourth day, when the lower-order antics of Flintoff and Caddick, who made a Test-best 48, persuaded Cronje to turn to Adams. Spin did the trick, extracting a return catch out of Flintoff, but it also prevented Pollock and Donald from becoming only the seventh pair to claim all 20 wickets in a Test.
Man of the Match: A. A. Donald. Attendance: 35,943.