NASSER HUSSAIN has always been an impetuous cricketer, but his riposte after Lance Klusener's 174 had seen South Africa post a daunting 450 probably surprised even the England captain himself. Coming to the crease after Mark Butcher had chopped-on, he immediately took the fight to South Africa by hooking his second, fourth and fifth balls off Shaun Pollock for a four and two sixes.
It was sensational start by Hussain, who clearly came in with adrenalin bursting from every pore. When the heart rules the head, not everything comes off the middle of the bat. But if risks were taken, they were executed with the kind of swaggering intent not seen since, well... since Klusener a few hours earlier.
Racing to his 50 from 54 balls, he had slowed enough by the end of the day for his partner, Michael Atherton, to have closed within 12 runs of his unbeaten 70, as his team finished on 139 for 1 - 311 runs in arrears.
It is a decent platform, though with 112 runs still needed to avoid the follow-on, complacency must be avoided. The pitch will green up under the flatsheet covers overnight, and this morning's session will be a crucial one for both sides.
So far Atherton and Hussain, who first batted together for England Under- 15s, have played superbly well, their three-hour partnership most threatened by a hostile late spell from the debutant Nantie Hayward, who sent one thunderbolt down at 94mph. So far that is the fastest ball in the match.
Hayward's sling-like action and skiddy pace perhaps troubled the batsmen more than the more experienced bowlers, though Pollock, unlike the wayward Allan Donald, was still a threat on the now placid pitch.
A start like the one Hussain enjoyed can sometimes unnerve your batting partner as much as the opposition. Fortunately, Atherton is a seasoned campaigner and once he had overcome the fear of a third successive nought, he too played some marvellous shots, most memorably a series of cut shots off Donald, who conceded 26 runs from his sixth and seventh overs.
Like Darren Gough had done earlier, Donald struggled with his direction and although Hansie Cronje was able to slow down the scoring rate by spreading the field, he may yet regret not having a spinner to call upon. So far England have much cause to be grateful to Phil Tufnell, who took 4 for 124 from 42 overs, figures that may have held greater significance had Klusener not intervened.
Klusener's 174 was the sixth-highest Test score in history for a No 7 and the left-hander joined an elite band which includes his fellow South African Dennis Lindsay, Ranjitsinhji and Don Bradman, who heads the pack with 270, made against England at Melbourne in 1937.
Klusener's method - a quick shuffle, followed by a planting of the feet and a swish of the bat - is as crude as his eye for a ball is divine. Commenting on his first Test hundred against India in Cape Town three seasons ago John Woodcock, eminence grise among cricket correspondents, observed that whatever one thought of Klusener's class, he was a mighty effective player. Unless, that is, you need one run to win, as was the case in the World Cup semi-final against Australia.
Even after England had fine-tuned the previous day's plans of bowling to him, he still prevailed with his schizophrenic mixture of dead-bat caution and primeval power.
He was reprieved only once, on 149, when Alec Stewart missed a run-out chance after he took on a risky second to bring up his 150. It was a bad miss by Stewart, who fluffed Michael Vaughan's fine return from deep extra cover. At the time the score was 415 for 9, but the mistake allowed South Africa to add another 35 runs. When you are looking at follow-on targets, that 35 runs may prove crucial.
That small blip apart, the man whose first language is Zulu, dominated totally. Coming to the wicket on Thursday when the score was a highly unpromising 146 for 5, Klusener oversaw the addition of another 304 runs.
He needed able men to help him and Jonty Rhodes, Mark Boucher and Nantie Hayward all played considerable parts, though none exceeded the role of master's apprentices. What they did ensure was that this was the seventh successive Test in which South Africa have passed the 400 mark, a milestone England will have to reach if they are to remain in this Test.
With the home side starting the day on 253 for 6, Hussain's decision to insert them on day one might have been salvaged had England taken the four remaining wickets quickly following Shaun Pollock's early exit for seven after skying a leg-side flick off Andy Flintoff.
In recent years the "ifs, buts and might have beens" have become the refrain of English cricket. Before he retired Mark Taylor spoke of identifying the "big moments" in a Test match and winning them. Australia do it as a matter of course.
England by contrast, tend to seize up, rather than seize the moment. They did not bowl badly, but they did not bowl well either and, in Test cricket, initiatives have to be taken, not handed out on a silver platter as they are in county cricket. Hussain knows this, hopefully the rest of his side have begun to cotton on as well.
England A, page 25
ST GEORGE'S PARK SCOREBOARD
Second day; England won toss
South Africa - First Innings
(Overnight: 253 for 6)
L Klusener c Adams b Gough 174
333 min, 221 balls, 25 fours, 2 sixes
S M Pollock c Vaughan b Flintoff 7
16 min, 13 balls
M V Boucher c Stewart b Tufnell 42
158 min, 119 balls, 5 fours
A A Donald c Hussain b Tufnell 9
18 min, 18 balls, 2 fours
M Hayward not out 10
41 min, 24 balls, 2 fours
Extras (b10, lb5, w1, nb18) 34
Total (558 min, 128.1 overs) 450
Fall (cont): 7-268 (Pollock), 8-387 (Boucher), 9-401 (Donald), 10-450 (Klusener).
Bowling: Gough 21.1-1-107-1 (nb11, w1) (7-1-35-0, 3-0-15-0, 3-0-22-0, 3-0-11-0, 2-0-11-0, 3.1-0-13-1); Caddick 31-5-100-1 (nb2) (5-0-14-1, 5- 3-10-0, 5-1-9-0, 6-0-33-0, 6-1-20-0, 3-0-12-0, 1-0-2-0); Silverwood 24- 4-57-1 (nb3) (5-2-9-1, 2-0-3-0, 5-1-11-0, 3-1-5-0, 3-0-11-0, 3-0-9-0, 3-0-9-0); Tufnell 42-9-124-4 (nb2) (12-2-29-1, 1-0-1-0, 12-3-39-1, 17- 4-55-2); Vaughan 3-0-16-0 (one spell); Flintoff 7-0-31-2 (3-0-9-2, 4-0- 22-0).
Progress: First day: 50: 32 min, 13.3 overs. Lunch: 78-2 (Gibbs 41, Cullinan 12) 27 overs. 100: 167 min, 39.1 overs. 150: 232 min, 52.2 overs. Tea: 157-5 (Rhodes 14, Klusener 8) 56 overs. 200: 279 min, 65 overs. 250: 316 min, 74.2 overs. Close: 253-6 (Klusener 63, Pollock 1) 76.1 overs. Second day: (Play began early at 10am). New ball: 80 overs, 269-7. 300: 395 min, 90.1 overs. 350: 470 min, 108.2 overs. Lunch: 365-7 (Klusener 119, Boucher 38) 11 0 overs. 400: 514 min, 119.3 overs. 450: 555 min, 127.4 overs. Innings closed: 2.31pm.
Cullinan: 50: 132 min, 93 balls, 7 fours. Rhodes: 50: 166 min, 125 balls, 5 fours. Klusener: 50: 72 min, 54 balls, 8 fours. 100: 196 min, 127 balls, 14 fours, 1 six. 150: 309 min, 201 balls, 21 fours, 1 six.
England - First innings
M A Butcher b Pollock 4
8 min, 11 balls, 1 four
M A Atherton not out 58
192 min, 133 balls, 9 fours
*N Hussain not out 70
183 min, 125 balls, 9 fours, 2 sixes
Extras (lb2,nb5) 7
Total (for 1, 192 min, 44 overs) 139
Fall: 1-5 (Butcher).
To bat: M P Vaughan, A J Stewart, C J Adams, A Flintoff, A R Caddick, D Gough, C E W Silverwood, P C R Tufnell.
Bowling: Donald 12-3-48-0 (3-2-5-0, 3-0-29-0, 6-1-14-0); Pollock 15-5- 41-1 (nb4) (6-1-24-1, 4-1-12-0, 5-3-5-0); Hayward 8-1-31-0 (nb1) (1-0- 6-0, 5-1-22-0, 2-0-3-0); Klusener 6-2-14-0; Cronje 3-1-3-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Second day: Tea: 33-1 (Atherton 4, Hussain 23) 7 overs. 50: 48 min, 11 overs. 100: 102 min, 22.3 overs.
Atherton: 50: 123 min, 81 balls, 8 fours.
Hussain: 50: 83 min, 54 balls, 7 fours, 2 sixes.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and R E Koertzen (SA).
TV replay umpire: D L Orchard.
Match referee: B N Jarman.
Compiled by Jo King
KLUSENER'S PLACE IN HISTORY
Lance Klusener's 174 was the sixth highest score by a player batting at No 7 in Tests.
Score Date Venue Opponents
Don Bradman (Aus) 270 Jan 1937 Melbourne England
Dennis Atkinson (WI) 219 May 1955 Barbados Australia
Jack Ryder (Aus) 201no Jan 1925 Adelaide England
Dennis Lindsay (SA) 182 Dec 1966 Johannesburg Australia
Ranjitsinhji (Eng) 175 Dec 1897 Sydney Australia
Lance Klusener (SA) 174 Dec 1999 Port Elizabeth England