At Durban, December 26, 27, 28, 29, 30. Drawn. Toss: England.
Played in high humidity and at times searing heat, this was a tedious Test match, the sort for which the word attritional might have been coined. Occasionally, as when Stewart or Pollock was batting, or when Caddick was bowling in dramatic fashion and to devastating effect in South Africa's first innings, the torpor was lifted. But for the most part, marathons rather than sprints were the norm. Hussain must have come close to going into reverse at one time during his eighth Test century, and Kirsten spent the last 878 minutes of the match rooted defiantly to the crease. His 275 was a record tenth hundred for South Africa and equalled their highest in a Test, by Cullinan in New Zealand ten months earlier. Only Hanif Mohammad, who at Bridgetown in January 1958 made 337 in 970 minutes, had batted longer in a Test.
In dismissing South Africa for 156, having made 366 for nine themselves, England not only gained a first-innings lead for the first time in 17 Tests since the two teams met at Edgbaston 18 months earlier, but were able to enforce the follow-on, something they had not managed in 59 matches since they played New Zealand at Old Trafford in 1994. For South Africa, it was the first time in eight matches that their wonderfully deep batting had not reached 400 in the first innings, and they had not been asked to follow on for 73 Tests. The initial shock for South Africans, however, was the omission on his home ground of the talismanic Rhodes, who had made half-centuries in each innings at Port Elizabeth. The effect this had in undermining the team could not be underestimated, and it was rumoured that Cronje, on a poor run of form, had offered to stand down himself. Paul Adams returned, while Maddy replaced the injured Vaughan in England's line-up.
Hussain's strategy after winning the toss was to keep South Africa in the field and build a total at any price. On the opening day, hampered by a slow pitch and the haste with which Cronje went on the defensive when deprived of Donald's bowling - he had a stomach ailment - England mustered only 135 for two from 85 overs. Hussain made just 51 in all but 35 minutes of the day's ration, but the foundation he wanted had been laid. Next morning, Stewart, playing wonderfully well, belied the conditions and struck 95 of a stand of 156 in 50 overs. Despite a typical England collapse lower down the order - five wickets fell for 26 runs - Hussain was able to declare overnight, unbeaten with 146 after 635 minutes. He had reached three figures in 467 minutes, the third-slowest hundred by an England batsman after Peter Richardson (488 minutes) and Clive Radley (487), and, including his second innings of the previous Test, Hussain had now batted 63 minutes short of an unprecedented 1,000 minutes without being dismissed.
The pitch had gained some pace and Caddick, striding downwind from the Umgeni End, responded with his finest bowling for England. Steep bounce, lateral movement and at last a modicum of luck brought him seven wickets for 46 - six for 18 at one point - not only his best figures but the best by a visiting bowler in a Test on this ground. His first three wickets, which included his 100th, came in 11 balls; the next three, in five balls of his 11th over, left South Africa tottering on 84 for eight. Pollock's forthright 64 helped them to 156.
The final two days belonged to South Africa and Kirsten. Caddick removed Gibbs early on the fourth day to raise England hopes of pushing home their advantage, but the pitch, far from deteriorating, had become increasingly moribund. England were destined to labour long and hard. Kirsten and Kallis added 152 for the second wicket before Kallis was caught behind, nibbling at the second new ball, and only a massive effort from Flintoff in the last 30 minutes of a ridiculously long day brought further reward. The playing-time had been increased to seven and a half hours in an effort to make up time lost earlier to bad weather.
What was to prove a key moment had come hours earlier, however. Kirsten, then 33 and batting with all the co-ordination of Bambi on ice, played back to Tufnell and must have been lbw had not the bowler, unforgivably for a spinner, overstepped the crease. For the remainder of the fourth day, and all of the fifth, until Butcher spun the last ball of the match behind his legs to clip the leg stump, Kirsten gave no further hint of a chance. He reached his second double-hundred for South Africa in 741 minutes; only Brendon Kuruppu, who took 777 minutes for Sri Lanka against New Zealand at Colombo in 1986-87, had been slower. In all, Kirsten faced 642 balls and hit 26 fours.
England could not be faulted for effort, either with the ball or in the field, but the game was taken out of their hands by the fifth-wicket partnership of 192, a South African record against all countries, between Kirsten and Boucher. Missed off a return catch to Maddy when 66 - the score was 369 for four - Boucher moved on to his third Test hundred, his second as night-watchman, before presenting Chris Adams with his first Test wicket. England's agony was then compounded by a 92-minute stand of 101 between Kirsten and Klusener. In effecting their great escape, South Africa compiled their highest total against England. More significantly, the immense effort of more than two days in the field would cost England dear in the Fourth Test that followed in three days' time.
Men of the Match: A. R. Caddick and G. Kirsten. Attendance: 45,559.