Travelling the short distance between the team hotel in Swiss Cottage and Lord's Cricket Ground for his first day in complete charge of the England side, Michael Vaughan would have been visualising great deeds from his team in the second Test. Before play started, England's bright new captain would have tried to use the sound thrashing his one-day side inflicted on the same opponents here in the recent NatWest Series final, to highlight how quickly things can change. Sadly for Vaughan, on a day he is never likely to forget, it was once again the actions of a ruthless and confident South African side that dominated proceedings.
Following a weak and at times irresponsible batting display from England, who were dismissed for a meagre 173, South Africa's openers nonchalantly eased their way to within 41 runs of a first-innings lead before Herschelle Gibbs bottom-edged a cut shot on to his stumps. The attacking right-hander need not have worried because his captain, Graeme Smith, despite being hit on the left hand by an Andrew Flintoff bouncer, continued with his superlative form.
By the close, Smith, unbeaten on 80, and Gary Kirsten had moved the tourists to 151-1, a position from which England, for the second Test in a row, will be looking to the skies for divine intervention as much as inspiration from themselves.
But for a last-wicket stand of 55 between Darren Gough and James Anderson England's demise would have been even more embarrassing on a pitch offering a little rather than extravagant assistance to the bowlers. However, even this partnership would have failed to put a smile on the faces of those in the home dressing-room. England's more realistic players would have thought that if it was that easy for Gough and Anderson to score runs, Gibbs and Smith should have little trouble.
While there can be little excuse for the manner in which three of England's top seven batsmen were dismissed - to top-edged hook shots - there has to be an element of sympathy because of events in the previous three days. When competing at this level, players do not need the sort of distractions which have surrounded them. Focusing on the job of scoring runs or taking wickets would have been hard even for the experienced members of the side.
South's Africa Makhaya Ntini, with figures of 5 for 75, was the outstanding performer. Charging in from the Nursery End, the right-arm fast bowler's pace troubled all of England's batsmen and despite being expensive he deserved the honour of becoming the 10th South African bowler to find his name on the honours board in the visitors' dressing-room.
Having watched his captain drop Marcus Trescothick at second slip on eight, Ntini got his man three overs later when he forced the left-hander to edge a ball on to his stumps. Despite finishing his opening spell with the figures of 9-4-10-1 Shaun Pollock looked fairly innocuous compared to his quicker partner, though he did account for Mark Butcher, who looked in superb touch during the 17 balls he spent at the crease. Butcher's exit led to the arrival of Nasser Hussain. Since his surprise resignation Hussain will have spent many hours wondering just what people thought of his four years in charge of the national side.
The warm, and in places standing ovation, the Essex batsman received until he arrived in the middle would have meant a huge amount to Hussain. To have more than 28,000 people show their appreciation for your efforts made this entrance more emotional than any. Before taking guard the 35 year-old spent a minute or two composing himself and did well to keep his first ball from Pollock out.
Hussain's innings failed to provide him with the score he was looking for when an Andrew Hall nip-backer sliced through an attempted cover drive and knocked back his off-stump. Despite Ntini's achievement, Hall was the pick of South Africa's bowlers. Bowling a fuller length than his team-mates the right-arm medium pacer nipped the ball about and caused each batsman he bowled to trouble.
Anthony McGrath fell four balls after Hussain for an unconvincing four and the home side were teetering on 77 for 4. Standing at the non-striker's end, Vaughan must have already been wondering what he had let himself in for. However, in the next over bowled by Ntini, who returned to the attack for the injured Dewald Pretorius, the England captain added to his side's woe when he top-edged a hook shot that flew to fine leg where the substitute fielder Neil McKenzie took a safe catch.
Immediately after lunch, a rushed Alec Stewart chipped a pull to square leg and Ashley Giles edged a Hall away swinger to first slip. At this stage, Andrew Flintoff was being peppered with bouncers from the hostile Ntini. With only the tail to bat, the Lancashire all-rounder took on one such ball only to see the top edge fly straight to Paul Adams at deep square leg.
Harmison failed to trouble the scorers before losing his off-stump to Ntini, giving the fast bowler his third but most valued five wicket haul.
Gough provided the highlight of the day when he hit the left-arm leg-spin of Adams twice into the crowd for six. By then, though, the cheers were more in relief than celebration.
South Africa won the toss
ENGLAND - First innings
M E Trescothick b Ntini 6
31 mins, 17 balls, 1 four
*M P Vaughan
c sub (N D McKenzie) b Ntini 33
109 mins, 66 balls, 4 fours
M A Butcher c Hall b Pollock 19
18 mins, 17 balls, 4 fours
N Hussain b Hall 14
47 mins, 30 balls, 1 four
A McGrath c Kirsten b Hall 4
3 mins, 4 balls, 1 four
ÝA J Stewart c Adams b Ntini 7
23 mins, 12 balls
A Flintoff c Adams b Ntini 11
59 mins, 36 balls, 2 fours
A F Giles c Pollock b Hall 7
28 mins, 16 balls, 1 four
D Gough c Adams b Pollock 34
78 mins, 48 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes
S J Harmison b Ntini 0
15 mins, 11 balls
J M Anderson not out 21
48 mins, 38 balls, 2 fours
Extras (b5, lb3, w1, nb3, p5) 17
Total (234 mins, 48.4 overs) 173
Fall: 1-11 (Trescothick); 2-35 (Butcher); 3-73 (Hussain); 4-77 (McGrath); 5-85 (Vaughan); 6-96 (Stewart); 7-109 (Giles); 8-112 (Flintoff); 9-118 (Harmison); 10-173 (Gough).
Bowling: Pollock 14.4-5-28-2 (nb1) (9-4-10-1 2-1-9-0 3.4-0-9-1); Ntini 17-3-75-5 (w1) (6-1-41-1 10-2-28-4 1-0-6-0); Pretorius 4-0-20-0 (nb2) (one spell); Hall 10-4-18-3 (4-1-6-2 6-3-12-1); Adams 3-0-19-0 (one spell).
Progress: First day: 50: 62 mins, 12.5 overs. Lunch 94-5 (Stewart 5, Flintoff 4) 25 overs. 100: 141 mins, 28.4 overs. 150: 221 mins, 45.3 overs. Innings closed 3.17pm - early tea taken.
SOUTH AFRICA - First innings
*G C Smith not out 80
180 mins, 135 balls, 12 fours
H H Gibbs b Harmison 49
150 mins, 96 balls, 5 fours
G Kirsten not out 9
29 mins, 19 balls, 1 four
Extras (b4, lb5, nb4) 13
Total (1 wkt, 180 mins, 41 overs) 151
Fall: 1-133 (Gibbs).
To bat: H H Dippenaar, J A Rudolph, ÝM V Boucher, S M Pollock, A J Hall, P R Adams, D Pretorius, M Ntini.
Bowling: Gough 7-1-32-0 (nb3) (5-1-18-0 2-0-14-0); Anderson 10-3-31-0 (5-1-23-0 5-2-8-0); Harmison 9-3-30-1 (4-1-19-0 5-2-11-1); Flintoff 8-0-27-0 (nb1) (6-0-21-0 2-0-6-0); Giles 7-0-22-0 (one spell).
Progress: First day: 50: 57 mins, 12.5 overs. 100: 117 mins, 26.2 overs. 150: 178 mins, 40.4 overs.
Smith 50: 100 mins, 79 balls, 8 fours.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D B Hair (Aus).
TV Replay Umpire: P Willey (Eng).
Match Referee: R S Madugalle (S Lanka).Reuse content