Close South Africa 342 (Kirsten 130) and 164 for 5 (McKenzie 17*, Boucher 2*) lead England 307 (Butcher 77) by 199 runs
Gary Kirsten edged South Africa's nose in front in an intriguing two-horse race as they closed on 164 for 5 - a valuable lead of 199 - after England crumbled to 307 soon after lunch on the third day of the fourth npower Test at Headingley.
Just as he was in the first innings, Kirsten was South Africa's main man as he and Jacques Kallis put on 97 - the highest third-wicket partnership for South Africa at Headingley - after Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith were both out lbw early in the innings. Kirsten was his usual model of concentration, playing the ball late and despatching the bad balls in his five boundaries. He did get away with a faint glove down the leg side off Andrew Flintoff to Alec Stewart when on 38, but he put it out of his mind to reach his 30th Test fifty off 110 balls.
Kallis was much more assured than in the last Test at Trent Bridge and he slowly pressed down the accelerator with the odd boundary, including a pull for six off Flintoff and a dashing cover-drive off Martin Bicknell. He grew in authority and, ball by ball, the pair crushed England's early hopes when they had South Africa on the ropes at 31 for 2.
However, James Kirtley finally broke the record partnership when he had Kallis caught behind for a fighting 41. Kirtley moved a good-length ball slightly off the seam and Kallis nibbled a faint edge through to Stewart (128 for 3). And Kabir Ali followed that with a fierce inducker which trapped Kirsten plumb in front of middle for an authoritative 60 (139 for 4). Suddenly there was a spring in England's step, as there had been when Kirtley nailed Gibbs lbw in the third over and when Bicknell did for Smith soon after. Trying to whip one through the leg side (no surprise there), Smith missed a full straight one (31 for 2).
Jacques Rudolph then perished with three overs to go when caught at short leg by Ed Smith off James Anderson (160 for 5), but Neil McKenzie and Mark Boucher hung on till the end of another fluctuating day's play. And, despite England's late fightback, South Africa will feel it is theirs, especially after Makhaya Ntini and Andrew Hall, with a bit of help from Rudolph, wrapped up England's first innings for 307. Flintoff was again to the fore with a bludgeoning 55, but England lost their last five wickets for 47 runs, meaning South Africa held a precious first-innings lead of 35.
Rudolph picked up a wicket - and one heck of an important one - with only his second ball in Test cricket. He conned Nasser Hussain into the drive with a beauty of a leg-break. The ball drifted towards legside and dipped just before Hussain chipped it straight back to Rudolph (261 for 6). Hussain stood brooding at the ground for a few seconds reflecting his loose stroke. He knew its importance.
Flintoff banished his Headingley hoodoo with a controlled pull shot to bring up his first Test run at the ground in five attempts, and he went on to hammer a brisk 55 with four fours and three sixes. He again demonstrated why he is such a pivotal member of the side. He did his best to wrestle control back from South Africa with his crashing boundaries, including a huge six over square leg off Ntini to bring up his fifty. But after Hussain fell and the new ball was taken, Flintoff ran out of partners. Bicknell was bowled all ends up by Ntini (289 for 7) and Kabir Ali and Kirtley then both poked Hall to Boucher and England had slipped from even favourites to outsiders.
Kallis earlier got South Africa off to the perfect start when Smith edged him to Boucher the very first ball of the day (197 for 4). Stewart then played the grafting role his team needed until he swatted an ungainly pull off Dewald Pretorius to Hall at square leg (239 for 5). Batting wasn't easy, but Hussain stood firm. Leaving anything wide of off stump he waited for the bad ball and relied on timing rather than power. It was another perfectly-paced innings from Hussain until he fell to Rudolph in the second over after lunch and started the collapse.
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