Jones bails out England to force tie

England 270-5
South Africa 270-8
Match tied

The official result of the nerve-shredding match here last night was a tie. In every other respect it was an England victory, one that just might finally see off South Africa for good this winter, although do not bet on that.

The official result of the nerve-shredding match here last night was a tie. In every other respect it was an England victory, one that just might finally see off South Africa for good this winter, although do not bet on that.

A crowd that had been baying for a home victory for 10 tense but rewarding overs fell suddenly silent. South Africa's two batsmen slumped solemnly from the field, looking at the ground because they could not bring themselves to look anywhere else.

England cavorted, and Kevin Pietersen, the bludgeoning centurion of four hours earlier, lifted Geraint Jones off the ground in a joyous bear hug. Jones it was who, standing up to the last ball from Kabir Ali, not only took cleanly a skidding yorker, but then stumped the batsman, Andrew Hall. Had he made a simple fumble - and they have not been in short supply from Jones on this tour - South Africa would have had the bye they needed to win the second match of the series to level the score at 1-1.

Marcus Trescothick who had led England on the field in the absence of Michael Vaughan with a stomach bug said: "We pulled it out of the fire. It's amazing what a bit of pressure can do." His biggest decision was to ask Kabir, in only his third match, to bowl the last over after an indifferent evening. It worked, just, as three wickets tumbled in the final over.

Perhaps South Africa deserved to win after striving so gallantly to reach their total. Perhaps they deserved to win because they are so clearly in disarray about what is their best side and who should bat where in it. Perhaps they deserved to win because it would have supplied perfect balance to a long series.

But England stuck at it and they refused to panic in the last over when it seemed certain that South Africa had done enough to win. They had gradually clubbed the runs they needed, never quite in front of the clock but never quite behind it either.

Jacques Kallis, batting maestro, and Herschelle Gibbs, batting in the unaccustomed position of four, had shared a wonderful third-wicket partnership of 134 in 26 overs. Their departure led to a flamboyant contribution from Justin Kemp but when Darren Gough bowled him with a swinging yorker, England might have had their noses in front.

Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher refused to be cowed by the target. They had been propelled up the order for their experience and they used it all. With 36 wanted to win from five overs, they arrived at the last needing eight.

Kabir attempted a yorker first ball. Instead, it was a full toss above waist height, a no ball counting one run, which Boucher clumped for four. Three were wanted from five. But Boucher, going for glory, was caught on the midwicket boundary.

South Africa could muster only two more runs. Ashwell Prince was run out, Pollock scrambled a last single to tie the scores, leaving Hall to face the final ball.

Trescothick said: "I hadn't got a clue what was going on with the field. I was more concerned getting Kabir to bowl the right ball." In the event, Kabir bowled perhaps his best ball of the evening. Hall could not make contact and Jones, improbably, took the ball, waited for the batsman to leave his ground and whipped off the bails. It was the smartest piece of wicketkeeping of his international career.

Pietersen's bear hug was not his only outrageous manoeuvre. His strokes fell into that category as did his gesture when he reached his hundred. He almost devoured the emblem on his helmet.

Most other players would have given the badge depicting the three lions a fashionably obligatory peck. Pietersen looked as if he might make love to it there and then on the outfield, had there been sufficient time between balls. But his innings of 108 not out in 96 balls, took England to a total of 270, 40 beyond what they might have achieved. Such an emotional outpouring of devotion deserved its reward.

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