Cricket: How the Test was won

Game on: England's victory put a spring back into the sport and turned the summer around

WHEN a dangerously ill patient rises from his sick bed and walks, the natural reaction is to start taking notice. The recovery is far from full, the chances of a relapse have not yet been eliminated, but last week the initial miracle was all that mattered.

It was a humdinger of a Test match. Not only did England win from behind but they recaptured the attention of a nation. If some of the individual contributions were imperishable the team performance was also exceptional. England claim never to have lacked self-belief but at Trent Bridge they really pulled together. Their tenacity as the sessions went by was admirable, they put cricket back in the headlines and now have a fighting chance of winning their first full home series for 13 years. This is how it unfolded:

The Gamble

THERE is a greenish tinge to the pitch and Alec Stewart, England's captain, considers it sufficient to defy precedent once more by inserting the opposition. If it is meant to be a cunning ploy it quickly falls into line with all the other similar cunning ploys perpetrated down the years.

England have asked South Africa to bat on eight previous occasions and have not won since Lord Hawke led the lads to victory at Cape Town 102 years ago. Three early wickets prove cruelly deceptive and if the pitch soon loses its spite it does not do so as quickly as England's bowlers.

By the end of the first day Hansie Cronje, South Africa's captain, has crafted a commendable hundred, his first for 29 Tests. "It's the first century I've got since I got married so I'm blaming it on that," he reports. "The selectors deserve some credit for keeping faith with me and the coach has backed me up all the way."

Before those listening can start wondering how England's selectors would perform in the keeping- faith department, Cronje adds tellingly: "Every time I have got a hundred we have always won and I am hoping that will continue." Not the least of England's difficulties is the dismantling of Ian Salisbury. The Surrey leg-spinner was recalled on the strength of his remodelled bowling. Cronje remodelled it some more, launching a ferocious assault which yielded 41 runs in seven overs.

Two late wickets at the end of the first day just keep England in touch. Both fall to Angus Fraser who goes on to take five in the innings for the 11th time in Tests. But a total of 374 after being put in still represents a mountain not a molehill. "Useless tosser" tags are being lined up again.

The Response

ENGLAND have made a habit of being dismissed for under 200 in their first innings. Not now. Michael Atherton and Mark Butcher ensure as much by withstanding the opening onslaught by Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. Butcher has been restored to the side for the first time since the First Test and if there is not much daintiness about him he is unfussily solid. He is within 25 runs of a maiden Test century when he is given out lbw with Donald bowling round the wicket almost from the return crease. "It's always disappointing to be given out but the umpire's decision is final and you walk off. I can't say any more," he says later, almost as if relating a cricketing mantra, if a most welcome one. The decision was perhaps dodgy but the umpire, even in a high-tech, multi-slo-mo- replay age is always right. Otherwise the game is not worth the candle.

The Grind

FOR almost five hours Mark Ramprakash marshals England's middle and late order. There is almost nothing of the country's most complete strokeplayer in his innings but his calm, proficient application is vital. Nightwatchman Salisbury is marvellously adhesive, potential partnerships with the recalled Graeme Hick and the 20-year-old debutant Andrew Flintoff are cut off but Ramprakash and the tail get just enough to keep England in contention. The mild outbreak of slow-handclapping which greets his steadfastness seems daft. "It was quite a difficult situation when Graeme Hick and Freddie Flintoff got out," he says. "It was important to stay there, and South Africa don't make it easy. Don't forget that they are very, very good bowlers. But I felt comfortable enough. The 29 runs for the last wicket really helped. When we got to the changing rooms the psychological advantage was probably with us."

The Duel

ON Saturday evening England take more early South African wickets but then the match and series appear to shift away from them. Sunday changes everything, this game, the rubber, the summer - maybe, just maybe, the face of English cricket.

South Africa are bowled out for 208. Fraser the warhorse takes his tally to 10 wickets, Cork swings again just like he did last summer, or was it the one before? According to Stewart there never was any doubt about Fraser's position "once we got here and saw the wicket". Fraser was not so sure as he explained in his reaction on being included. "A huge sigh of relief," a relief confirmed in his self-assessment that "I show people I can still do it".

England need 247 to win. The whole affair is crystallised in the game within the game between Donald and Atherton. It is utterly compulsive, a fierce, wonderful fast bowler with all the tricks allied to the highest pace, in combat with a dauntless foe, a brave, unselfish, self-contained opening batsman of the oldest school.

When Atherton is on 27 he looks to have gloved Donald to Mark Boucher who appears to take yet another good, low catch. The umpire declines to raise his finger, Atherton declines to walk. Donald is mean and magnificent, he bowls with stunning rapidity, he stares, he swears but he cannot shift the calm, undemonstrative man at the other end. "I don't blame Atherton for not walking," he says when it is all done. "A lot of cricketers in his position wouldn't have walked and why should they? Of course, I was incredibly disappointed. The umpire, Steve Dunne, said the ball brushed the arm guard but I thought different."

Donald thinks his side would have won had Atherton gone then, but there are no recriminations. His ire has no place off the pitch. "I had a bit to say to Athers, told him he had let himself in for a battle and would get it. But that is where the battle stayed - out in the middle. The grievances don't carry on afterwards. I have great respect for him as a player and I'm pretty sure he feels the same for me." It is beyond doubt. Atherton confirms: "We were the first to have a beer together after the game. I can't understand Afrikaans so I couldn't understand what he was saying out there."

The Hero

ATHERTON sees England home. It is the highest total they have made to win against South Africa and in the end it was not even close. The margin is eight wickets and Captain Stewart bashes 45 off 34 balls to finish it. His predecessor as skipper is 98 not out. Fraser is judged man of the match.

No complaints about that but no player deserved a century more than Atherton. He is a cussed so-and-so but he is a thoroughly endearing cricketer not least because he recognises it as a team game first and foremost. He reveals his preparations for the final day. "Twice this summer I have been not out overnight and got out early so last night I decided to have a few beers and went to bed reasonably early and got a good night's sleep."

He adds: "There was a Test match to be won and that is the best motivation of the lot. It was a critical game because there was not a lot else going on to take up the headlines but it was a great Test match." A great Test match indeed.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Manufacturing Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...

Recruitment Genius: Conveyancing Fee Earner / Technical Support

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...

The Jenrick Group: Production Supervisor

£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'