Cricket: Gough sets up a thrilling finale

Fifth Test: This morning England need two wickets to win, South Africa require 34 runs. The series is in the balance

By Derek Pringle at Headingley

England 230 and 240 South Africa 252 and 185-8

FOUR DAYS of oppressive and enthralling tension and Headingley has yet to yield its secrets and a series victory, desperately needed by both sides, still hangs in the balance. No sport can provide such cliffhanging drama as cricket and today both sides return to see who will prevail.

While the equation is simple enough - South Africa need 34 runs while England need to take two wickets - the outcome of the drama is not; the match could take anything between two balls and two hours, to be decided.

With the visitors' score on 185 for 8 and an 11,000-strong crowd urging on England and in particular Darren Gough, there was a case for claiming the extra half-hour. But with the bowler having taken five wickets, South Africa were forced to proceed with due care and attention, England could have claim they could that victory was a possibility inside that time. When the option was offered, Alec Stewart, his main bowlers weary to the point of exhaustion, chose to call it a day, a move which prompted South Africa to send out their 12th man to tell their batsmen to stay on.

The psychology was obvious, but after a brief consultation, the umpires decided that Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald's request to stay on was simply a ploy to take advantage of England's tiredness rather than a bona fide attempt to win the game, and they called time.

If there was any disappointment on the part of the spectators it was not evident as they cheered the players off. Those lucky enough to have followed the match on all four days will have thrilled at the potboiler that has unfolded here.

The match has been in constant flux with first one team and then the other coming to the top, a brace of wickets, or a flurry of boundaries shifting the balance of power.

With England's remaining six batsmen adding only 34 runs to their overnight score, after another stupendous effort from Donald and Pollock, South Africa needed 219 runs to win.

In such situations the visitors often bat to a pre-conceived plan. In the first innings, they tended to alternate limpets, like Gary Kirsten and Hansie Cronje, with shotplayers, like Darryl Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes. Yesterday, after Gough and Fraser reduced them to 27 for 5, that plan had to be scrapped.

It was Gough, roared on by his home crowd who took the first wicket just before lunch. Nipping one back into Gerry Liebenberg, he won the latest in a line of dubious lbw decisions from Javed Akhtar and like Atherton, TV replays showed that the ball had taken the inside-edge. After the break, Gough quickly removed Kirsten, after the left-hander had sliced his cover drive to Atherton at gully.

It was the start of a purple patch for England's bowlers who took 3 for 0 in 17 balls. Fraser, who looked tired from his exertions in the first innings, saw Jacques Kallis hit round a straight ball. If that was plumb, the faint edge that took Cronje's bat was less conclusive and the South African captain was clearly unhappy with the decision.

With Cullinan following soon after to yet another lbw, South Africa were 27 for 5 and struggling and England were clear favourites. As a committed Christian, Jonty Rhodes is probably not a betting man. If he was, he is unlikely to have put much on himself and the remaining batsmen winning the game.

But if the mountain looked hostile, Rhodes went for his strokes. Finding a able and stubborn ally in Brain McMillan, Rhodes pushed England on to the back foot, taking two fours in three balls from the tiring Fraser.

Forced by circumstance to give Ian Salisbury a bowl, Stewart could do little to stem the runs now streaming from Rhodes' bat. Salisbury went for 34 runs off 8 overs, which included one six and 5 fours.

Yet Stewart kept his men going well and when Dominic Cork forced McMillan, on 54, to splice his hook shot to the England captain, it lifted the whole team.

However, the key wicket was still Rhodes' and when Gough had him caught at short mid-wicket by Andrew Flintoff, the Western Terrace erupted in delight. The dismissal gave Gough his 100th Test wicket. More importantly it gave a flagging England side renewed belief, a feeling that was in stark contrast to the one earlier in the day when their batting had been steam rollered by South Africa's pacemen.

After Hussain's skilful and tenacious batting on Saturday had nudged England ahead on points, South Africa knew that much more occupation would put them out of the match. Resuming on 83, Hussain watched a hapless procession as the home side lost six wickets for 34 runs. Eighth man out, Hussain fell for 94, six runs short of what surly deserved to be his eighth Test century. It was a cruel end to an epic knock and walking off he appeared to be consumed with grief. A pasionate man there were probably tears in the dressing-room.

The enormity of their situation may have got to England's batsmen overnight for their demise was as much down to poor shots as fine bowling. Salisbury, out to the second ball of the morning fending a snorter from Pollock, opened the trapdoor through which Graeme Hick, Andrew Flintoff and even Hussain fell in a flurry of ill-chosen shots.

Donald and Pollock, who finished the series with 33 and 18 wickets respectively, know what it is to dig deep, but after 10 months of solid cricket, their minds and bodies would have had little capacity left for heroics. Weary, and no doubt dejected that the previous day's efforts had yielded just four wickets, they somehow raised themselves for a last hurrah.

If they can do it again, today, this time with the bat, their legend is assured.

Henry Blofeld, page 21

Scoreboards,

pages 20 and 21

SCOREBOARD

England won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 230 (M A Butcher 116; M Ntini 4-72).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings 252 (W J Cronje 57; A R C Fraser 5-42).

ENGLAND - Second innings

(Friday: 2 for 0)

M A Butcher c McMillan b Pollock 37

(150 min, 107 balls, 5 fours)

M A Atherton lbw b Donald 1

(3 min, 4 balls)

N Hussain c Cronje b Pollock 94

(430 min, 341 balls, 13 fours)

*A J Stewart c Boucher b Pollock 35

(103 min, 68 balls, 7 fours)

M R Ramprakash lbw b Pollock 25

(98 min, 75 balls, 4 fours)

I D K Salisbury c Boucher b Pollock 4

(21 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

G A Hick c Kirsten b Donald 1

(11 min, 7 balls)

A Flintoff c Boucher b Donald 0

(3 min, 5 balls)

D G Cork c Boucher b Donald 10

(57 min, 36 balls, 2 fours)

D Gough c Cullinan b Donald 5

(23 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser not out 1

(8 min, 4 balls)

Extras (b14, lb1, w2, nb10) 27

Total (458 min, 110.2 overs) 240

Fall: 1-2 (Atherton), 2-81 (Butcher), 3-143 (Stewart), 4-200 (Ramprakash), 5-206 (Salisbury), 6-207 (Hick), 7-207 (Flintoff), 8-229 (Hussain), 9- 235 (Cork).

Bowling: Pollock 35-14-53-5 (nb2) (5-2-8-0, 3-2-4-0, 7-1-23-1, 5-3-2- 1, 15-6-16-3); Donald 29.2-9-71-5 (nb1, w1) (5-1-4-1, 4-0-5-0, 5-2-25- 0, 15.2-6-37-4); McMillan 11-0-22-0 (nb3) (5-0-9-0, 6-0-13-0); Ntini 15- 4-43-0 (nb5) (4-0-24-0, 11-4-19-0); Kallis 15-6-31-0 (w1) (11-5-16-0, 4-1-15-0); Cullinan 1-0-1-0 (nb1); Cronje 4-1-4-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Third day: 50: 99 min, 23.1 overs. Lunch: 67-1 (Butcher 35, Hussain 22) 30 overs. 100: 194 min, 47.5 overs. Tea: 141-2 (Hussain 55, Stewart 35) 61 overs. 150: 273 min, 67.3 overs. New ball: taken after 80 overs at 177-3. Bad light stopped play: 5.32-5.43pm at 187-3 (Hussain 80, Ramprakash 15) 82 overs. 200: 349 min, 85.0 overs. Close: 206-4 (Hussain 83, Salisbury 4) 91 overs. Fourth day: Innings closed: 12.24pm.

Hussain's 50: 206 min, 164 balls, 7 fours.

SOUTH AFRICA - Second innings

G Kirsten c Atherton b Gough 3

(35 min, 24 balls)

G F J Liebenberg lbw b Gough 6

(18 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

J H Kallis lbw b Fraser 3

(20 min, 15 balls)

D J Cullinan lbw b Gough 0

(29 min, 13 balls)

*W J Cronje c Stewart b Fraser 0

(9 min, 6 balls)

J N Rhodes c Flintoff b Gough 85

(214 min, 147 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)

B M McMillan c Stewart b Cork 54

(153 min, 120 balls, 8 fours)

S M Pollock not out 24

(78 min, 54 balls, 1 four)

M V Boucher lbw b Gough 4

(22 min, 8 balls)

A A Donald not out 2

(10 min, 8 balls)

Extras (lb2,nb2) 4

Total (for 8, 298 min, 68 overs) 185

Fall: 1-9 (Liebenberg), 2-12 (Kirsten), 3-12 (Kallis), 4-12 (Cronje), 5-27 (Cullinan), 6-144 (McMillan), 7-167 (Rhodes), 8-175 (Boucher).

Bowling: Gough 19-6-36-5 (9-4-10-3, 4-1-14-0, 6-1-12-2); Fraser 20-5- 50-2 (nb2) (9-3-28-2, 4-1-8-0, 7-1-14-0); Cork 17-1-50-1 (5-1-13-0, 6- 0-16-1, 6-0-21-0); Flintoff 4-0-13-0; Salisbury 8-0-34-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Lunch: 10-1 (Kirsten 3, Liebenberg 1) 7 overs. 50: 107 min, 24.1 overs. Tea: 88-5 (Rhodes 45, McMillan 29) 35 overs. 100: 165 min, 38.4 overs. 150: 235 min, 54.3 overs.

Rhodes' 50: 110 min, 73 balls, 5 fours, 1 six.

McMillan's 50: 150 min, 116 balls, 7 fours.

Umpires: Javed Akhtar and P Willey.

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