Third Test Match

South Africa v England

At Cape Town, January 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2005. South Africa won by 196 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: C. K. Langeveldt.

It was always going to be the big test of England's resolve - what would happen when the wheels stopped rolling? England's brakes had been applied with abrupt force in the closing moments at Durban. Sure enough, a week later at Newlands, the team hit the buffers with a resounding thud. One Test into 2005, and already they had suffered more defeats than in the whole of the previous year.

Those buffers mainly consisted of the immovable Kallis, who added another century of stultifying application to his masterful 162 at Durban. The absolute certainty of his shot-selection - or, more pertinently, non-selection - drew the sting from an England attack already weary after their exertions in the Second Test. And by batting purely for time (an alien concept to most modern Test cricketers) he ensured that, when England's turn to bat came on the second afternoon, they were already half-baked by five sessions in the January sun.

In the circumstances, there could have been few more opportune moments for Vaughan to end his extraordinary run of bad luck at the toss, and earn his bowlers an extra two days to recover. But, true to form, he called incorrectly for the 16th time in 22 Tests, and South Africa sensed a decisive shift in momentum. Three days earlier, they had been staring at a 2-0 deficit, the series almost certainly lost and the first whispers of the dreaded word "whitewash". But a new year really did bring resolution and Kallis merely resolved to be even more determined, so South Africa took tenacious advantage to inch along to 247 for four on an attritional first day.

That represented a promising start, but nothing more, and when Harmison launched the second morning with arguably the most venomous over of his career, it was clear that England had also taken heart from their effective, if not festive, opening day in the field. No one but Kallis could have survived the onslaught, which included a rap on the gloves and two near-decapitations, but survive he did, en route to a bloodlessly brilliant 149 - his eighth century in 14 Tests and his seventh in nine at home. In contrast to Durban, Kallis actually reined himself in for the closing stages of his innings, and hit only one boundary after reaching his hundred. It was left instead to Boje, who made 76 from 97 balls, to inject the required urgency, as the pair added 104 vital runs for the eighth wicket.

From an adequate 313 for seven, South Africa finished on an imposing 441, and by the close England, apparently incapable of tempering their attacking instincts to match the needs of the hour, were reeling from the loss of four key wickets. Once again their most successful performer was Strauss, who brought up his 1,000th Test run in just ten matches and 19 innings - a phenomenal rate that among Englishmen had been bettered only by Herbert Sutcliffe (12 innings), Len Hutton (16) and Wally Hammond (18). But in the day's penultimate over he dragged one on for 45, which - as a measure of England's inadequacies - was sufficient to make him their top-scorer for the fifth innings in succession.

The innings unravelled in dismal fashion on the third morning, as Langeveldt - pumped with adrenalin and anaesthetics - became the first South African since Lance Klusener in 1996-97 to take five wickets on debut. On the previous afternoon, Langeveldt's left hand had been fractured by a Flintoff lifter, but it affected his performance not a jot. Relying on line, length and a modicum of movement, he scythed through England's batting, just as he had done for South Africa A earlier in the tour. The only resistance in a feeble total of 163 came from Giles, whose unbeaten 31 enabled him to become the ninth Englishman to achieve the Test double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, a feat that Flintoff would emulate later in the match.

With a lead of 278 and eight sessions to grind home the advantage, South Africa felt no obligation to enforce the follow-on, and instead condemned England to another frazzling in the outfield. In Kallis and Dippenaar, they had two batsmen tailor-made for such drip-drip tactics, and in a desperate third evening they added 75 dour runs in 32 overs. It was a soulless display that could have been counter-productive, but South Africa had gauged their opposition well: England are a team that like to get on with things, and their frustration was tangible. A comic collapse on the fourth morning proved the wisdom of this safety-first approach, as five wickets tumbled for the addition of 38 runs, but they were still able to declare with a lead of 500. The upshot was that England needed to survive for more than five sessions but, once Trescothick had fallen for a second-ball duck, another great escape was never remotely on the cards.

The dismissals of Key (who charged at Boje and was stumped) and Vaughan (who hooked Ntini to backward square leg) epitomised a team that simply no longer knew when the game was up, and it was left to Harmison to apply some gloss to another tatty performance. His hard-hitting, Test-best 42 brought the game back to life on the final afternoon, as he became only the seventh No. 11 to top-score in a Test innings. That meant, however, that for the first time in five years (since Lord's 2000, against West Indies), no England batsman had registered even a half-century in the match. After a run of unparalleled success, it was a dramatic reality check. About 5,000 English spectators in the ground, the most of the tour, had to endure what was perhaps England's most dismal overseas performance (outside Australia, anyway) since the last visit to Cape Town five years earlier. The Barmy Army were vocal to the end, especially when Harmison was in full cry too; the silent majority just suffered in the sun. And most were to go home before the good times rolled again.

© John Wisden & Co