Close England 307 and 165 for 5 (Butcher 57*, Flintoff 45*) need 236 runs to beat South Africa 342 and 365 (Hall 99*)
On a day which promised more nip and tuck, South Africa dominated matters from the off and set up a likely victory in the fourth npower Test at Headingley. Andrew Hall blitzed a quickfire 99 not out as South Africa were finally bowled out for 365 with a nice round lead of 400. In reply, England recovered from 95 for 5 to 165 for 5, but they still need a further 236 for victory.
Mark Butcher and Andrew Flintoff were left fighting England's cause at the close, and they have given their side a glimmer of hope by halting a steady fall of top-order wickets. Marcus Trescothick fell in the fifth over when he edged Makhaya Ntini to Herschelle Gibbs, who took a blinding catch at third slip. The ball went low to Gibbs's right and after he had originally held on to it, the ball popped up out of his hands but he clung on to it again with his left hand before it grounded (11 for 1). Michael Vaughan hit three boundaries, even bringing out his favourite swivel pull shot, but he joined Trescothick in the pavilion soon after tea when he edged a Jacques Kallis awayswinger to Gibbs, who took his second at third slip (44 for 2).
Nasser Hussain battled hard for 23 balls until he was adjudged lbw off Kallis. Hussain got well forward to a full-length ball and replays showed it hit him outside off stump. However, Simon Taufel sent him on his way, much to the delight off Kallis and to the despair of an aggrieved Hussain (62 for 3). Ed Smith was full of nervous smiles walking to the crease with two ducks on his back, but he avoided a third when he drove Kallis through the covers for four. However, he later paid the price for a loose drive off Hall. Caught flat-footed, Smith tried to force Hall through the covers, but spooned the ball to Graeme Smith at backward point (81 for 4).
Alec Stewart was never at the races. After prodding and poking he played a horrible swipe to Ntini and snicked the ball through to Mark Boucher for 7 (95 for 5). Butcher meanwhile was in fine nick, playing with a solid straight bat, and stroking five handsome boundaries, mainly square of the wicket, as England continued to splutter around him. Flintoff kept him company and played the crowd-pleaser again with seven thumping fours. He ended on 45, and Butcher 57, but it will take something of gigantic proportions for England to get anything out of this match after their poor bowling and Hall's heroics.
Hall made light work of the England attack with a dazzling display of batting. He crashed his 99 not out from 87 balls, featuring 15 fours and two sixes right out the top drawer. With a licence to play his shots, Hall took the game away from England with a host of booming boundaries. He raced to 46 from 45 balls before lunch, taking advantage of the continual barrage of short and wide bowling, and he then went into overdrive in the afternoon.
He brought up his fifty off a slow long-hop from the tired Martin Bicknell and later lamped Flintoff for two fours and a six over deep-midwicket in the same over. He then skipped down the wicket and deposited Kabir Ali back over his head for four. And he didn't stop there, later smashing James Kirtley over long-on for a huge six to go to 98.
His only regret will be taking a single and leaving Dewald Pretorius to negotiate two balls from Kirtley. Pretorius failed to get forward to a straight ball and his middle stump was flattened. Hall could afford a smile, but he was cruelly robbed of what would have been a deserved first Test century. However, his cameo of carnage further rubbed England's noses in to what was a truly awful morning for them.
Before Hall got to work, Neil McKenzie, dropped by Butcher on 33, and Boucher cashed in on some wayward and undisciplined bowling. South Africa clubbed 129 runs in the morning session against a surprisingly inept England attack who had a nightmare. Kirtley's first ball of the day was clipped off the pads for four by McKenzie, the lead went over 200 and South Africa didn't look back.
Just to make things worse for Vaughan, James Anderson saved one of his worst spells of the summer straight after Butcher's drop. It was a disastrous start for England. No wickets, lots of runs, and the body language told it. Flintoff temporarily relieved the English gloom surrounding Headingley with the wickets of McKenzie for 38, and Boucher for 39, but the damage had been done with 68 runs flowing in the first hour. Then Hall took over.