Marcus Trescothick: I was shouting at the ball. Thankfully it listened

Day of days: The Fourth Test finale shredded the nerves of all involved. Marcus Trescothick relives the drama
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The Independent Online

As play began on the final day of the Fourth Test at the Wanderers last Monday, England were on a precarious 197 for 5 in their second innings, leading South Africa by 189 runs. The five-match series was tied at 1-1. Received wisdom was that only two results were feasible: a draw or a win for South Africa. So much for received wisdom. Here, England's Marcus Trescothick, who scored a spectacular and match-turning 180, reveals the inside story of a famous win.

As play began on the final day of the Fourth Test at the Wanderers last Monday, England were on a precarious 197 for 5 in their second innings, leading South Africa by 189 runs. The five-match series was tied at 1-1. Received wisdom was that only two results were feasible: a draw or a win for South Africa. So much for received wisdom. Here, England's Marcus Trescothick, who scored a spectacular and match-turning 180, reveals the inside story of a famous win.

The morning glory

When I turned up at the Wanderers on Monday morning I was 101 not out, and the first thing I wanted to do was go back out there and regain the concentration that I had had the day before. Our initial thought was that we had to put the game safe, and therefore we had to bat a certain amount of time. Do that and we knew we would also be in a position to get them back in and maybe have a crack at them. We were always going to declare and we just needed one good partnership. The fourth ball I faced was perfect, I played a really solid, late forward defensive, hit it perfectly and knew I was back to where I had been the day before. Geraint Jones and I had added 20 when he was out and Ashley Giles came in. We geed each other up, saying: "Look, we have to have a good partnership, otherwise we're going to be in the shit because we'll be into the tail." Ashley scores boundaries and he took the pressure off me a bit because he was playing so well. Of our stand of 50 he got 31, I got 13, with two different fields set. We went from 222 to 272 before Ashley was out, which meant we were almost out of South Africa's range. Matthew Hoggard, with whom I had been intending to play properly, departed quickly.

Chris Read brought out drinks and I chatted with him about how I should play. I said that I intended to take as much strike as I could, probably turning down singles, and asked him to check with the captain and coach if that was all right. But I also looked at the board and Nicky Boje was coming on. There were 10 overs to the new ball and I thought it was time for a gamble. I was a little bit nervous. I blocked a couple and then firmly decided to play the slog-sweep, a favourite shot of mine. I played a hard cut for four first, readjusting my premeditated shot, and then one was in my area. I toe-ended it a bit, but with the altitude and having a good bat it just carried. My heart was in my mouth and I was shouting at it: "Get over, get over." Thankfully, it listened. Another over from Boje, and again I was looking for a big one - and this time I did get hold of it. A message came from the changing room to take every run possible. That's when it changed completely and, believe me, in that situation you can take a risk on the quicker balls.

The new-ball burst

The work was actually done before their innings in terms of how we were going to bowl and the way we would go about it. We knew that the new ball was crucial. Steve Harmison bowled his best spell of the tour. We have not really been at our best with the new ball this series but he and Matthew both came out and fired straight away, both of them bang on target. Steve was getting it to jump from a length and you couldn't score off him, and at the other end Hoggy was getting it on top of off stump every time.

Another big factor was that Graeme Smith was not opening because of the concussion he had received in fielding practice the day before. Instead you had a young guy in A B de Villiers coming in to try to save a match in only his fourth Test. He fell early, and shortly after Hoggy bowled a perfect ball to Jacques Rudolph which hit middle stump.

The end of Kallis

To have a prayer of winning we absolutely had to get Jacques Kallis out early. He took guard and Hoggard bowled him a beautiful outswinger, so good that if we could bowl that every ball, we would get him out a few times. He edged it towards me at first slip. Jonesy dived for it from wicketkeeper. I could see him, but he was never touching it, he was never getting near it. I just stayed down the line of the ball. I was never that worried. The one two nights before off Herschelle Gibbs had been different because that was out of my eyeline, but this went right into the hands. We were on a roll.

The fall of Gibbs

Hoggard, bowling the spell of his life and getting the ball to nibble both ways, got three more wickets, at 80 (Boeta Dippenaar), 86 (Mark Boucher - when we knew we could win) and 118 (Nicky Boje). Now in came the concussed Smith. With Herschelle Gibbs still in, it brought together South Africa's usual opening partnership. Gibbs was batting with easy confidence, but one more wicket and they were opened up completely. They took it to 159 when Gibbs hit a four. Smith raised his arms in exultation, thinking it was Gibbs's second hundred of the match. But it took him only to 98. Next ball Giles bowled one faster and flatter which hit him low on the front pad. I shouted louder than I have ever shouted for an lbw off a spinner. Umpires rarely give these, but this had a quicker trajectory. Most importantly, it was hitting.

The pulsating finale

Freddie Flintoff then bowled the quickest spell of the game. He cranked it up big-time just when we needed to tie it down. He bowled brutally to Shaun Pollock, first hitting him on the head. Pollock played the next, tried to leave one and was dropped by the captain (his second of the day), and was finished off with another beaut. At that stage the sun was beaming down. My only fear was that there were only 50 minutes left. If you can get into the last quarter of an hour you can hang on. I was nervous, because I didn't want to get as close as we had in Durban and miss out again. We had to win, otherwise it would have been devastating. Smith started to play some shots. But Makhaya Ntini was lbw. Nine down. Then Smith played so expansively that I actually thought he was trying to win it. An edge from Dale Steyn flew through slips, Jimmy Anderson dropped Smith at point. You pray it's not the opportunity gone. Stay upbeat. But the clock's ticking. Hoggard returned and I was immediately relieved. This was the man with 11 of the 19 wickets. I relaxed. He bowled at Steyn as he had at the openers. I knew it was a only matter of time, and Steyn feathered one to the keeper. That was it. England in my time have had some momentous victories. One tends to be overtaken by the next. But this was on an epic scale.

Marcus Trescothick was talking to Stephen Brenkley

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