Jones propels England to brink of history

<preform>South Africa 337 &amp; 229<br> England 425 &amp; 93-3</preform>
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The Independent Online

England were left a tantalising 49 runs away from a record eighth successive Test victory here yesterday when bad light brought an early conclusion to the fourth day's play in the first Test against South Africa.

England were left a tantalising 49 runs away from a record eighth successive Test victory here yesterday when bad light brought an early conclusion to the fourth day's play in the first Test against South Africa.

Chasing a target of 142, England had reached 93 for 3 when the umpires gave Graeme Smith, the South African captain, the opportunity to take his side from the field and delay the tourists' celebrations.

Weather permitting, Michael Vaughan's side should complete a hard-earned victory this morning. With Andrew Strauss, a dynamic young thruster in imperious form, and Graham Thorpe, a gnarled old pro, at the crease England's immediate future is in sound hands.

Both will be aiming to be present when the winning runs are hit and revel in the success of this team surpassing those captained by Percy Chapman and Arthur Shrewsbury, who led England sides to seven consecutive Test matches victories in the 1880s and the late 1920s.

The charge for victory was set up by Simon Jones, who was involved in five of the eight wickets which fell. The Glamorgan fast bowler ripped through the South African middle-order, claiming four crucial wickets in a fiery seven-over spell - and took a brilliant catch which kick-started England's revival.

The Proteas were working themselves into a competitive position when Jones was reintroduced into the attack after lunch. South Africa had extended their lead from 11 to 113 and still had six wickets in hand. But after Jones's pace and hostility had beaten the defensive push of Jacques Kallis, the remaining batsmen were able to muster only 28 more runs.

Jones has his critics - none more so than Geoffrey Boycott, the former England opener and respected commentator - and he still has some way to go before he can be considered a quality fast bowler. But the 25-year-old has potential and he had already shown what he is capable of when taking a five-wicket haul in Trinidad in March.

Strauss and Thorpe were understandably disappointed when the umpires deprived them of the chance to win the game there and then. But the floodlights at St George's Park had been on for more than two hours.

The not-out pair had already shown their intent by declining the chance to return to the dressing room. But batsmen no longer have the sole say on whether conditions are fit enough for play. Once the light falls below a certain level the fielding side are deemed to be at a disadvantage and umpires Darrell Hair and Simon Taufel had no alternative but to give Smith the option.

After bowling South Africa out for 229, England got off to the worst possible start when Marcus Trescothick was dismissed by the first ball of their reply. The left-hander was attempting to leave a delivery from Shaun Pollock, but it seamed back into him and touched wood on its way through to the wicketkeeper.

Mark Butcher fell 19 balls later to a stroke he would rather forget. Makhaya Ntini bowls from wide of the crease and angles the ball across left handers and Butcher did well to reach it with a wild reckless slash. The chance flew to Smith, who held on to a good catch at first-slip.

England were on 11 for 2 and South Africa were beginning to believe they could produce something sensational. But Strauss, a centurion in the first innings, and Vaughan settled the team's nerves.

The batting of Strauss, and his ability to deal with tricky situations, is becoming more impressive with each Test. The 27-year-old Strauss appears oblivious to pressure. Even the loss of his captain, who was bowled by a beauty from Dale Steyn, failed to distract him. Strauss continued to control matters and had reached 51 by the close.

Smith and Kallis were looking in equally ominous form during the opening 75 minutes of the day. England knew the toughest task they faced was breaking this partnership and when Butcher dropped Kallis at extra cover on 28 the visitors would have began to fear the worst.

Smith had just driven Andrew Flintoff down the ground when the all-rounder bowled nothing more than a speculative bouncer at the left-hander. But Smith, sensing that he was beginning to take control, went for the shot. The top edge flew into the gap between fine-leg and deep square-leg but Jones's speed and athleticism saw him dive forward and reach the ball.

With Smith gone, England had an end to bowl at and seven overs later Boeta Dippenaar chopped Ashley Giles on to his stumps. But it was the dismissal of Kallis, who was trapped lbw in Jones's first over, which finally turned the game England's way.

England were still celebrating when Jones rather fortuitously dismissed Pollock. Television replays showed that the ball had flicked the top of his left pad, and not his bat, but this failed to concern 11 ecstatic fielders. Flintoff then found the outside edge of Zander de Bruyn's bat and Trescothick took an excellent diving catch at first slip.

Jones's confidence was growing and a beautifully disguised slower ball was too much for Thami Tsolekile. A dire session for South Africa ended when Andrew Hall was run out by Thorpe attempting to scamper a second run.

¿ South Africa's Andrew Hall has been officially reprimanded for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct yesterday after being found guilty of gesturing in an aggressive manner upon the dismissal of a batsman.