Fourth Test Match

South Africa v England, 1999-2000

Matthew Engel

Toss: England.

For England's second South African tour in succession, the balance of power turned against them at Newlands. They were beaten before tea on the fourth day, leaving the large contingent of English supporters extra time to go to the beaches and moan. Yet it was not a match England had lost from the start. They controlled much of the first day, and on the third produced an exceptionally game performance in most unpromising circumstances. What decided the issue, and handed the series to South Africa, were two horrific batting collapses. It may have been a new millennium. It was an old, familiar failing by England.

As expected, Vaughan was preferred to Maddy, but Silverwood held on to his place at the last minute because Mullally had flu. This turned out to be a bit of luck. South Africa had an embarrassment of riches. The omission of Rhodes at Durban was accepted as a mistake, but it was hard deciding who should make way for him. There were even arguments that it should be Cronje, about to captain South Africa for the 50th time, though in the event Hayward was the one to go. When Atherton and Butcher took England past 100, this looked like a bad call, not helped by Rhodes ("of all people," said everyone) dropping a simple chance offered by Atherton on 15. However, Donald and Adams pegged England back after lunch, and eventually frustration became impatience. Even Atherton, caught hooking for 71, was culpable, and after he departed England managed only 26 runs in as many overs. Finally disaster struck: 213 for three late on the first day became 258 all out before lunch on the second.

South Africa now seized command with awesome strokeplay against bowling that was demoralised even before Flintoff broke a toe during his fourth over and vanished from the tour. They began the third day, a hot one, just 58 behind with nine wickets standing and the pitch playing beautifully. One half-expected England to surrender. Instead, they played some of their best cricket of the series. Their spearhead, Caddick, was clearly paying the price of his exertions in Durban. But Silverwood led the way with a courageous bowling performance, generating surprising pace from an unyielding surface to capture five wickets in a Test for the first time. He was backed by outstanding ground fielding. Kirsten, 80 overnight, edged a catch off the first ball he faced, and when they had South Africa 307 for seven there was a chance that England could get back in the contest. The depth of South Africa's batting saw them through. Cullinan followed Kallis to a hundred, but perhaps the decisive innings was Boucher's 36, a typical contribution that stretched the lead to 163. There was no route back for England, and they made no effort to find it. Their second-innings was pathetic, and the total only just passed their first-innings opening stand. As happened in England 17 months earlier, the crucial game was marked by poor third-party umpiring. The Sri Lankan B. C. Cooray, perhaps reasoning that it is an itchy trigger-finger that gets umpires into trouble, spent most of the game immovable and inscrutable behind his dark glasses, refusing even the most promising appeals. On day four, however, he gave an lbw decision against Hussain when he had not merely hit the ball but hit it for four without it ever touching the pad. This was some compensation for South Africa after an earlier wrong decision by Cyril Mitchley had seen off Boucher. Not that the result was affected.

The game ended amid mild confusion with nine England wickets down. Spectators were unsure whether it was tea, whether the injured Flintoff might suddenly appear, or whether it was indeed all over. Though there were almost 20,000 in the ground every day, the atmosphere was restrained throughout, in contrast to the highly charged mood on the field, where all kinds of bitter, semi-private sub-plots were acted out. Silverwood aside, no Englishman could really leave Cape Town with any personal satisfaction to ease the collective misery. Not so the victors. Cullinan's century was his third in a row in Newlands Tests, and his tenth for South Africa, equalling Kirsten's record set several days earlier at Durban. Donald finished the match with 86 wickets against England, putting him three ahead of Sydney Barnes, the previous record-holder for games between these countries. And - the telling statistic - it was South Africa's biggest win over England, their third by an innings, increasing the margin of victory obtained in the First Test.

Man of the Match: D. J. Cullinan. Attendance: 65,289.

© John Wisden & Co