For England, the end was merciless yesterday. This time, there were no last-ditch heroics, no dramatic twists, no gripping climax, and indeed no Graham Onions. South Africa went about their business with a clinical authority and ruthless intent.
At the start of the fourth day, they needed seven more of their opponents' wickets to win the fourth Test and level a spellbinding series at 1-1. On the stroke of lunch they had the lot and victory by an innings and 74 runs, every bit as overwhelming as it sounds, perhaps more.
The coup de grâce was applied by their occasional off-spin bowler, JP Duminy, who pierced Ryan Sidebottom's ungainly heave. But the coup de théâtre was provided, as it had been the night before and actually from the first morning, by South Africa's ace fast bowling duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
The extreme pace generated, allied to sharp, late swing in the case of Steyn, and steepling bounce in the case of Morkel, was altogether too much for England. Brutal though it was, it was a wonderful sight to behold as they went in search of their prey.
The likelihood of the tourists batting two days to save the match and win the series was always remote. It would also have been more than they deserved on the balance of proceedings. Steyn and Morkel made it impossible. Resistance came only in the inevitable form of Paul Collingwood, a man once more standing all but alone on the burning deck, but knowing that this time, sooner or later, he would be engulfed by the flames.
Had England been offered a tied Test series at the start of the tour (not to mention victory in the one-day series that preceded it) they would have snapped it up quicker than a tramp after supermarket scraps. But in the end they were left disappointed, not so much by the result but because of the manner in which they had succumbed after hanging on so grimly.
It was an outcome that starkly illustrated the difference between the sides. True, England won the second Test in Durban with style and intelligence but in both the first and third matches of the series they had only one second-innings wicket remaining with Onions having to fend off defeat, his reward for which was, astonishingly and perversely, to be dropped for the final encounter.
Not that Onions, as either batsman or seam bowler, would have made much difference at the Wanderers. From the first ball on, when their captain, Andrew Strauss, was snaffled at short leg off Steyn's loosener (his only one of the entire match), England were losing. When they allowed themselves to become distracted by the perceived shortcomings of the Decision Review System and the apparent reprieve of South Africa's captain Graeme Smith when he was only 15 and seemed to have been caught behind – and whatever they say, they were distracted –they were finished.
The batting was simply not up to it either collectively or individually, with the honourable exception of Collingwood, who renounced his Brigadier Block soubriquet by plundering 71 in 88 balls yesterday. This included a six off Steyn which came right out of the screws, sailed over mid-off and is a contender for shot of the series. But England's two innings lasted 47.5 overs and 42.5 overs respectively, which could be interpreted as being bowled out twice in less than a day.
England's bowling resources were adequate but they paled by comparison with Steyn and Morkel, two men approaching the height of their powers, who carry the threat of being able to terrorise opposition batsmen for the next five years. On the sporting pitch with prevailing conditions that suited them both they were irresistible. If Wayne Parnell, a debutant in this match, makes the most of his rich gifts, South Africa could have a pace attack for the ages.
Between them, Steyn and Morkel took 14 wickets in the match (seven each), 34 in the series after Steyn missed the first Test and took a while to be fully match-honed. But somehow it was neither of them who made the initial breakthrough yesterday, for which South Africa had to wait 40 minutes. Partly, this was because of the stoicism and swashbuckling of the overnight pair of Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen and partly it was because Steyn, as he has made a habit of doing, kept passing Collingwood's bat. The stoicism, incidentally, was supplied by Pietersen, the swashbuckling by Collingwood, role reversal by any name.
Pietersen looked in good order and was in admirable self-denial mode. He left and he defended until, having accrued three runs from 22 balls in the morning, he was suddenly tired of being cribbed and confined. The upshot was a swish at Parnell, the thin nick being taken by Mark Boucher.
Morkel, who had bowled three initial overs without reward, was brought back. In the space of six ferocious balls he took three wickets. Ian Bell fended off a lifter to second slip, Matt Prior was dropped off his first ball at short leg and top edged his second, Stuart Broad, gloved a leg-side ball and had to wait for the review, made at South Africa's request, departing even then with an unbecoming reluctance.
Steyn nailed Swann with an extremely rapid late away-swinger and Duminy, seizing easy spoils, ended Collingwood's bold innings before easily fooling Sidebottom. Seven wickets had fallen for 121 runs in 29.3 overs. A belter of a Test series was done and England would be extremely grateful there was no fifth Test.
Fourth Test Johannesburg (Third & fourth day of five) South Africa beat England by an innings & 74 runs
England won toss
ENGLAND First Innings 180 (Collinwood 47; Steyn 5-51; Morkel 3-39).
SOUTH AFRICA First Innings
Friday Overnight: 215-2 (Smith 105)
H M Amla c Prior b Broad......... 75
138 balls 8 fours
J H Kallis c Anderson b Sidebottom......... 7
A B de Villiers c Collingwood b Broad......... 58
119 balls 5 fours
J P Duminy c Collingwood b Swann......... 7
20 balls 1 four
†M V Boucher c Trott b Swann......... 95
118 balls 9 fours
R McLaren not out......... 33
56 balls 5 fours
D W Steyn not out......... 1
Extras (b 8, lb 9, w 5, nb 1)......... 23
Total (7 wkts dec, 119 overs)......... 423
Fall: 1-36 (Prince), 2-201 (Smith), 3-217 (Amla), 4-217 (Kallis), 5-235 (Duminy), 6-355 (de Villiers), 7-419 (Boucher).
Did not bat: M Morkel, W D Parnell.
Bowling: Anderson 30-4-111-0 (nb1) (6-2-14-0, 5-0-22-0, 6-1-29-0, 7-1-18-0, 6-0-28-0), Sidebottom 31-6-98-2 (10-4-24-0, 3-0-8-0, 9-2-23-2, 2-0-14-0, 3-0-9-0, 4-0-20-0), Broad 29-4-83-3 (w1) (6-0-16-1, 4-1-22-0, 4-1-12-0, 7-2-16-1, 3-0-5-0, 4-0-11-1, 1-0-1-0), Swann 23-0-93-2 (7-0-30-0, 2-0-5-0, 4-0-9-1, 9-0-46-0, 1-0-3-1), P Collingwood 6-1-21-0 (4-1-9-0, 2-0-12-0).
ENGLAND Second Innings
A J Strauss lbw b Parnell......... 22
45 balls 3 fours
A N Cook c Smith b Morkel......... 1
I J L Trott c de Villiers b Steyn ......... 8
9 balls 2 fours
K P Pietersen c Boucher b Parnell......... 12
42 balls 2 fours
P D Collingwood c Morkel b Duminy......... 71
88 balls 12 fours 1 six
I R Bell c Kallis b Morkel......... 5
17 balls 1 four
†M J Prior c Smith b Morkel......... 0
S C J Broad c Boucher b Morkel......... 1
G P Swann c de Villiers b Steyn......... 20
17 balls 3 fours
R J Sidebottom b Duminy......... 15
17 balls 2 fours
J M Anderson not out......... 1
Extras (lb 6, w 1, nb 6)......... 13
Total (42.5 overs)......... 169
Fall: 1-6 (Cook), 2-21 (Trott), 3-48 (Strauss), 4-84 (Pietersen), 5-103 (Bell), 6-103 (Prior), 7-104 (Broad), 8-134 (Swann), 9-154 (Collingwood), 10-169 (Sidebottom).
Bowling: Steyn 14-1-64-2 (nb2) (5-0-18-1, 6-1-28-0, 2-0-16-1, 1-0-2-0), Morkel 16-5-59-4 (w1, nb3) (6-2-21-1, 3-1-13-0, 5-2-15-3, 2-0-10-0), Parnell 8-1-17-2 (2-0-5-1, 6-1-12-1), McLaren 3-1-13-0 (nb1) (one spell), Duminy 1.5-0-10-2 (1-0-2-1, 0.5-0-8-1).
Third day progress: South Africa: 250: 76.2 overs, 300: 91.3 overs, Lunch: 324-5 (de Villiers 43, Boucher 51) 97.0 overs, 350: 102 overs, Tea: 386-6 (Boucher 79, McLaren 12) 109 overs, 400: 112.1 overs. Close of play: England: 48-3, 13.2 overs. Boucher 50: 67 balls, 4 fours; De Villiers 50: 108 balls, 4 fours. Fourth day: 50: 14.4 overs, 100: 28.3 overs, 150: 38.5 overs. Collingwood 50: 65 balls, 10 fours.
Umpires: S J Davis (Aus) & A L Hill (NZ).
TV replay umpire: D J Harper (Aus).
Match referee: R S Mahanama (S Lanka).
Series drawn 1-1.Reuse content