It is the fifth successive Test in which England have failed to pass 200 in their first innings. After an abysmal summer this was categorically not the start they wanted, and when South Africa came off for bad light at 64 for 1 much of the home side's hard work had been done.
Considering the conditions, it could have been much worse. Beginning the innings after the umpires had already taken a light reading, England lost four wickets in 12 balls, three of them to Donald, including both Hussain and the in-form Michael Atherton for ducks.
It was probably too dark to start but the umpires, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and David Orchard, clearly took the view that it would look ridiculous to take the players off without a ball being bowled. When light is marginal, umpires usually leave it a few overs then look again. By the time they did, England had lost four players with a combined experience of 248 caps.
A score of 2 for 4 is a bit like Mike Tyson landing a haymaker on an ageing heavyweight's glass jaw - you just do not get up again. This was England's worst-ever start to a Test match, usurping the 5 for 4 against Australia at the MCG in 1903, and the fact that they partially recovered, through a trio of inexperienced players, was worth a mention in dispatches.
Many a famous career has been forged in the heat of adversity and none will be hotter than two of the world's best fast bowlers operating together on a juicy pitch. Andy Flintoff, Michael Vaughan and Chris Adams can all take heart from their contributions. Vaughan in particular looked unfazed by his debut innings of 33, while Flintoff, who top scored with 38, struck the ball hard and straight.
Difficult though it is to believe in the light of such persuasive statistics, South Africa did not bowl particularly well. After their opening strike in conditions approaching seam-bowling nirvana, they bowled too many balls that the batsmen could leave. Later England's bowlers fell foul of the same thing. Their coach, Duncan Fletcher, felt they were striving too hard.
After the huge fuss about his heroic 185 here four years ago, Atherton was bound to fail. Having looked good at the crease in the warm-up games it took a beauty from Donald, a booming inswinger that ripped out his off pole, to remove him.
It was only the second ball Atherton had faced and judging by Donald's celebration - he immediately turned and pointed to his captain Hansie Cronje who proceeded to do a little jig - it was obviously planned, a fact Donald later confirmed when he revealed that Cronje had predicted it almost to the ball.
If it is any consolation to Atherton, Donald later revealed it was the second best delivery he had ever bowled. Pride of place is reserved for the jaffa he castled Sachin Tendulkar with three years ago in Durban.
Six balls later Hussain went, undone by a short ball from Pollock that took his glove and went to Lance Klusener at fourth slip. Vaughan joined Mark Butcher, but the partnership did not inconvenience the scorers for long, Butcher edging another vicious swinger to give the wicketkeeper Mark Boucher the first of five catches. With his confidence rocketing, Donald speared the next ball into Alec Stewart's instep, and promptly won an lbw decision from umpire Orchard.
Delivered from wide on the crease, the ball would have missed leg-stump and Stewart, out for a first-ball duck, can consider himself unfortunate. The sparse crowd were at fever pitch for the hat-trick ball to Chris Adams, another debutant, but it was delivered to a curiously tentative field.
At 29, Adams knows his game relies on aggression. Off the mark with a cracking cut for four off Donald, he struck another two boundaries before the fast bowler forced him to glove one down the leg-side to Boucher.
Flintoff made an impressive start, and promptly overtook the more circumspect Vaughan with a series of powerful boundaries. In his two previous Tests Flintoff has barely got beyond binary in his scoring, but here he struck the ball with authority, hitting seven boundaries.
When it looked as if South Africa might have cause for concern, rain delayed the afternoon session for just under a hour, allowing Cronje to re-group. Soon the wickets were falling again.
Vaughan nicked one behind off the inside edge, Gavin Hamilton got an outside edge and, in the next over, Flintoff edged behind. It was left to Darren Gough and the tail, including a huge top-edged hook for six by Allan Mullally, to get England into three figures.
It will not be enough but if England can take quick wickets this morning it may just help keep the deficit within sight.
Henry Blofeld, page 29
First day; South Africa won toss
ENGLAND - First Innings
M A Butcher c Boucher b Donald 1
13 min, 11 balls
M A Atherton b Donald 0
4 min, 2 balls
*N Hussain c Klusener b Pollock 0
4 min, 3 balls
M P Vaughan c Boucher b Pollock 33
119 min, 84 balls, 5 four
A J Stewart lbw b Donald 0
2 min, 1 ball
C J Adams c Boucher b Donald 16
50 min, 31 balls, 3 fours
A Flintoff c Boucher b Pollock 38
71 min, 48 balls, 7 fours
G M Hamilton c Pollock b Donald 0
6 min, 6 balls
A R Caddick c Boucher b Donald 4
19 min, 10 balls, 1 four
D Gough not out 15
45 min, 39 balls, 2 fours
A D Mullally lbw b Pollock 10
28 min, 15 balls, 1 six
Extras (lb3,w2) 5
Total (41.4 overs) 122
Fall: 1-1 (Atherton), 2-2 (Hussain), 3-2 (Butcher), 4-2 (Stewart), 5- 34 (Adams), 6-90 (Vaughan), 7-91 (Hamilton), 8-91 (Flintoff), 9-103 (Caddick).
Bowling: Donald 15-3-53-6 (w2) (8-3-28-4, 7-0-25-2); Pollock 14.4-6-16- 4 (8-4-9-1, 6.4-2-7-3); Cronje 5-2-15-0; Klusener 6-1-30-0; Adams 1-0- 5-0 (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 87 min, 17.5 overs. Lunch: 88 for 5 (Vaughan 33, Flintoff 35) 28 overs. Rain delayed restart until 2.07pm. 100: 153 min, 34.2 overs. Innings closed: 3.09pm.
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings
G Kirsten lbw b Mullally 13
66 min, 47 balls, 2 fours
H H Gibbs not out 28
126 min, 96 balls, 3 fours
J H Kallis not out 6
59 min, 42 balls, 1 four
Extras (b7, lb4, w1, nb5) 17
Total (for 1, 30 overs) 64
Fall: 1-37 (Kirsten).
To bat: D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, L Klusener, M V Boucher, A A Donald, P R Adams.
Bowling: Gough 10-2-23-0 (nb3) (5-1-14-0, 5-1-9-0); Caddick 11-5-20-0 (nb2) (9-4-19-0, 2-1-1-0); Mullally 8-2-10-1 (w1); Flintoff 1-1-0-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Tea: 12-0 (Kirsten 9, Gibbs 2) 6 overs. 50: 91 min, 21.2 overs. Bad light stopped play: 5.41pm.
Umpires: D L Orchard (SA) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).
ENGLAND'S LOWEST TEST SCORES
v Australia, Sydney, 28 January 1887
v West Indies, Port of Spain, 25 March 1994
v Australia, The Oval, 14 August 1948
v Australia, Lord's, 16 July 1888
v Australia, Melbourne, 1 January 1902
v Australia, Melbourne, 15 March 1904
v Australia, Lord's, 16 July 1888
v New Zealand, Wellington, 10 February 1978
v Australia, Sydney, 1 February 1895
v West Indies, Old Trafford, 8 July 1976
v Australia, Sydney, 1 February 1895Reuse content