Vol. 5 Num 215 Fri. December 31, 2004  

Bad light snaps Eng streak

South Africa held on to draw a match of dramatic changes of fortunes when bad light stopped play on the final afternoon of the second Test against England at Kingsmead Thursday.

South Africa, set an unlikely target of 378 to win, were 290 for eight when gathering storm clouds persuaded umpires Darrell Hair and Simon Taufel to offer South African batsmen AB de Villiers and Makhaya Ntini the chance to go off the field.

With Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard operating with the second new ball, it was an offer warmly accepted. Fifteen overs remained to be bowled.

England captain Michael Vaughan told Sky Sports television afterwards: "The way our team came back to have South Africa on the back foot was a fantastic performance. We were pleased with the way we played to get back into the match.

"The South Africans made it tough for us. They had us on the rack but then the bad light came into play and we could not do much about that."

South African skipper Graeme Smith said: "We played really good cricket for three days and we had to fight for the last two. It was a really good Test match."

And on the mood in South Africa's camp, he added: "It was superb the way we fought back and it gave us a lot of confidence for both the batters and bowlers. At this stage we could have easily lost this Test match and gone 2-0 down. But we didn't and we're only 1-0 down.

"We are getting too many 60 or 70 partnerships. We want to get them over 100. By making big scores that's how you win Test matches."

England, after facing probable defeat two days into the match when they trailed by 193 runs on the first innings, made a sensational comeback in the second innings and came tantalisingly close to extending a record sequence of eight Test wins.

Fortunes swung throughout the final day. England struck an early blow when nightwatchman Nicky Boje was out in the seventh over of the day.

After a half-century partnership between Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Rudolph, England fast bowler Steve Harmison struck what seemed to be a decisive double blow when he dismissed Gibbs and Jacques Kallis, South Africa's most experienced top order batsmen, before lunch.

Rudolph and Martin van Jaarsveld gave South Africa renewed hope of salvaging a draw when they put on 69 with sparkling strokeplay in the hour after lunch. But three wickets fell within 20 balls and England were again hot favourites.

Then rookie wicketkeeper AB de Villiers and veteran all-rounder Shaun Pollock put on 83 in a crucial eighth wicket partnership which lasted until the second new ball was taken.

Pollock twice had treatment on the field after being hit on the right and left hands by successive lifting deliveries in Harmison's second over with the new ball.

Having survived that, he was run out in the next over when De Villiers played the ball to mid-on, started for a run, then sent his partner back. Simon Jones ran Pollock out with a direct hit at the bowler's end.

With the light fading fast, Makhaya Ntini struck four boundaries in an over from Harmison, with one good shot and three that flew off edges, before the umpires got together and offered the light.

De Villiers, 20, playing in his second Test, finished unbeaten on an impressive 52.

South Africa started the day on 21 for one. There was an early success for England when Boje was caught at short leg off Andrew Flintoff.

Harmison, who surprisingly bowled only three overs at the start of the day, was hit for three boundaries by Rudolph in the first over of his second spell but struck in his next over when Gibbs cut him to deep gully after making 36.

Harmison then claimed the key South African wicket when Kallis, who made 162 in the first innings, played a forcing back foot shot and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.

Rudolph, who had been scoring freely against left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, got a ball which bounced off his pad, arm and body to Andrew Strauss at short leg. Umpire Hair gave him out although replays indicated there was no contact with either bat or gloves.

New batsman Hashim Amla was out for nought in the next over when he was trapped leg before wicket by Simon Jones. The ball cut back sharply off a crack and struck him on the back pad deep in his crease.

England were bowled out for 139 after being sent in on the first day. But they hammered 570 for seven declared in their second innings to give themselves a chance of continuing their sequence of success.