Hussain's innings, curtailed when bad light and rain ended play an hour early, was a monument of discipline and self-denial. It takes the captain into fifth place between Michael Atherton (643 minutes at Johannesburg four years ago) and Geoff Boycott (629 minutes for his 100th hundred at Headingley in 1977) as England's leading occupiers of the crease. Boycott later told anyone who would listen that he once got dropped after scoring 200 against India in the time it took Hussain to score one.
If he bats for any length of time this morning, Hussain may yet overtake Atherton and possibly Clive Radley (648 minutes for 158 against New Zealand in 1977/78), though much will depend on the support from the last man, Phil Tufnell. The spinner would have to last until well after lunch for him to supplant the leader of the pack, Len Hutton, whose 364 against Australia at The Oval in 1938 took 797 minutes.
England have treated this match like a foxtrot, with their captain leading in all but the quick bits. Those were left to Alec Stewart, whose 95 runs in 149 balls stood out like Shergar among a herd of donkeys.
Stewart, who came in after Darren Maddy had failed to add to his overnight score, conceded a five-hour and 54-run start to his captain. By the time he was fourth man out for 95, lbw to Nantie Hayward, there were only 15 runs in it. It was a cruel moment for the man who had almost single-handedly justified England's cautious efforts on the first day. His innings, though, did take him past Australia's Mark Waugh as the batsman who has made most runs in the 1990s.
Afterwards Hussain had nothing but fulsome praise for his senior player. "The plan with the early start was to wear them down, but Alec played one of the best innings I've seen by him. He took the pressure off me and batted beautifully."
Speaking of his own feat, Hussain felt the heat and humidity had made the test more physical than mental. Perhaps being born in Madras, a fairly hot and steamy place itself, helped to stir something previously untapped in cooler climes and considering he had probably sweated his own body weight over the last two days, he looked far from distressed.
"I'm pretty tired but I'm pleased with the position we're in. When you win the toss, you need to make in excess of 350, which we've not done recently. Now we've achieved that for the second Test in a row."
Asked if he had perhaps batted too slowly at times, especially on the first day, Hussain replied: "We need different people to bat at different tempos to make a good side."
More importantly, and a point thrown into sharp relief by Stewart's superb offering, Hussain made runs when clearly not on top of his game. It is a feat only best players tend to achieve.
If his approach to batting caused some controversy, his decision to come off for bad light at the third offer also attracted criticism from some quarters. England had, after all, occupied the crease for nearly two days and should surely have ben trying to force the pace.
Hussain justified it by saying that with South Africa unlikely to bat in the gloom, he wanted to bat on today in order to break up tomorrow's morning session, extended by half an hour to make up for time already lost in the match. In Durban's draining heat and humidity, it is a sensible ploy and one hopefully to which his bowlers will respond.
Excluding Stewart and Hussain, England's scorecard once again made fairly sorry reading and after the Surrey man had gone, they lost five wickets for 68 runs. Considering life was made easier yesterday by a quickening pitch and outfield, as well as some tired bowlers, it was a tame performance.
Maddy, whose locked wrist on the bat handle means he goes too hard at the ball in defence, popped a short one up to Paul Adams off Allan Donald. Chris Adams, struggling to get his machismo working in harmony with his bat, was bowled off a thin bottom-edge by his namesake with a full toss. It was a horrible dismissal, and the delivery should have been met with nothing less than the meat of the bat. In fact, he was lucky to have reached 19, having already been dropped by Shaun Pollock on eight after lazily clipping Donald off his toes.
With the score 336 for 5, England really needed to press on and after tea Andrew Flintoff betrayed his side's intentions when he got off the mark with an imperious cover drive for four off Adams. Sadly for him, it was to be his only boundary as Hansie Cronje, coming on for a belated bowl, reverse swung one into his pads.
It was no fluke and Cronje repeated the delivery next ball with the same result to send Andrew Caddick packing for a golden duck. The hat- trick repelled, it needed Darren Gough to stay with Hussain.
He did not, at least not for long, and when Chris Silverwood edged Pollock behind after backing away, much of the captain's hard graft had been nullified. Unless the bowlers can do their bit, and quickly, this match has draw written all over it.
More cricket, page 17
Second day; England won toss
ENGLAND - First Innings
M A Butcher c Klusener b Adams 48
195 min, 160 balls, 4 fours
M A Atherton b Hayward 1
35 min, 20 balls
*N Hussain not out 146
634 min, 463 balls, 17 fours
D L Maddy c Adams b Donald 24
143 min, 120 balls, 3 fours
A J Stewart lbw b Hayward 95
203 min, 149 balls, 15 fours
C J Adams b Adams 19
54 min, 36 balls, 3 fours
A Flintoff lbw b Cronje 5
20 min, 19 balls, 1 four
A R Caddick lbw b Cronje 0
2 min, 1 ball
D Gough c Klusener b Donald 9
27 min, 25 balls, 1 four
C E W Silverwood c Boucher b Pollock 0
3 min, 4 balls
P C R Tufnell not out 0
15 min, 5 balls
Extras (b1,lb14,w3,nb1) 19
Total (for 9, 166.4 overs) 366
Fall: 1-7 (Atherton), 2-82 (Butcher), 3-138 (Maddy), 4-294 (Stewart), 5-336 (Adams), 6-345 (Flintoff), 7-345 (Caddick), 8-362 (Gough), 9-362 (Silverwood).
Bowling: Donald 23.4-3-67-2 (4-1-4-0 3-2-3-0, 5-0-18-1, 4-0-11-0, 5-0- 24-0, 2.4-0-7-1); Pollock 33-14-55-1 (6-3-8-0, 6-1-14-0, 4-3-1-0, 8-3- 17-0, 6-3-8-0, 3-1-7-1); Hayward 20-3-74-2 (w2) (5-1-14-1, 5-2-11-0, 3- 0-9-0, 2-0-23-0, 5-0-17-1); Kallis 23-9-38-0 (w1) (3-2-4 -0, 3-2-1-0, 5-2-7-0, 2-0-3-0, 4-1-12-0, 6-2-11-0); Klusener 17-5-38-0 (nb1) (4-2-5- 0, 5-1-6-0, 5-1-12-0, 3-1-15-0); Adams 43-17-74-2 (2-1-1-0, 20-9-25-1, 14-4-33-0, 7-3-15-1).
Progress: Second day: 150 in 354 min, 89.5 overs. 200 in 403 min, 101 overs. 250 in 469 min, 118.1 overs. Lunch: 256-3 (Hussain 95, Stewart 72) 122 overs. 300 in 558 min, 138.4 overs. Tea: 336-5 (Hussain 130, Flintoff 0) 151 overs. 350 in 640 min, 160.5 overs. New ball taken after 161 overs at 352-7. Bad light stopped play at 4.06pm.
Hussain 50: 282 min, 213 balls, 5 fours. 100: 466 min, 343 balls, 11 fours. Stewart 50: 79 min, 60 balls, 8 fours.
South Africa: G Kirsten, H H Gibbs, J H Kallis, D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, L Klusener, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, A A Donald, M Hayward, P R Adams.
Umpires: D B Cowie (NZ) and D L Orchard (SA).
TV Replay Umpire: W A Diedricks (SA). Match Referee: B N Jarman.
Compiled by Jo KingReuse content