Team Vaughan laid low on the Highveld

England 411 for 8 dec - South Africa 306 for 6
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By now, they should be feeling each other's pain. Gradually, through the agony of a frenetic tour, England began to unearth what they came for yesterday. But no sooner had the prize squeezed into view than South Africa's refusal to yield ensured that it receded again, leaving their bodies aching the more. For four weeks it has been like this between two sides who keep coming back.

By now, they should be feeling each other's pain. Gradually, through the agony of a frenetic tour, England began to unearth what they came for yesterday. But no sooner had the prize squeezed into view than South Africa's refusal to yield ensured that it receded again, leaving their bodies aching the more. For four weeks it has been like this between two sides who keep coming back.

At times during the Fourth Test, South Africa have been clinging on desperately and the suspicion arose briefly yesterday that their fingertips must be worn to the bone. The wonderfully eccentric batting of Herschelle Gibbs, who made his 14th Test century, ensured that they regained a firm grip on matters.

A mere 14 wickets have fallen in three days here and it might have been fewer if cloud cover had not assisted bowlers on the second day. The draw is a probable result unless the cloud returns, the pitch wears dramatically, or one of the bowlers can summon up one last formidable effort. But there is still something there for the bowler.

This series has been an arduous journey, draining on body and nerve, and next week it will reach its conclusion. If somebody were to lose here, another revival would be extremely improbable, so expect it to happen.

Roared on by the biggest crowd of the match, the home side overcame several potential calamities, largely the shedding of wickets when they were least expected to be shed. But they had already confounded England's hopes, nay expectations, of running through them.

Michael Vaughan declared at England's overnight score of 411 for 8 after rain slightly delayed the start. But the heavy cloud cover soon gave way to sunshine and the bowlers' advantage, already dissipated because of the manner in which England went about their task, was eroded further.

That South Africa were 105 runs behind at the close with four wickets in hand was down largely to Gibbs, though Mark Boucher comfortably justified his recall with a half-century. The balance might have shifted again. A crucial, flamboyant sixth-wicket stand of 120 ended when Boucher stabbed a wide one to point. Two balls from the end Geraint Jones, who was hit on the thumb the ball before, spilled a chance diving in front of first slip. It was a bad error.

Gibbs looked utterly out of sorts in his previous outings in this series and he was mercurial once more. But he fashions breathtaking attacking shots, which England assisted by offering him gold-plated invitations to hit the ball.

It did not help England's crusade that they suffered injuries to two bowlers yesterday. First, Ashley Giles dislocated his right thumb taking a catch at gully. That sort of incident can happen any time.

Then Stephen Harmison pulled up with one ball to go of his 13th over with severe pain in his calf. He returned to the pitch a limping caricature of the colossus who terrified the world's batsmen for a year. It was straightforward to presume that Harmison was suffering from a combination of the fatigue of playing four Tests in as many weeks and the lack of success that can heighten such tiredness.

In addition, Simon Jones' back went into spasm before the match started, rendering it easier for the management to replace him with James Anderson. England's misfortunes were compounded when Vaughan was charged by the match referee for comments made to the press about the umpires the previous evening.

There has hardly been time to draw breath since 17 December when this series began, let alone to do remedial work. Neither team has managed to shake off the other, although Andrew Strauss has dominated the series individually. Can any Test batsman have scored so many runs (614) in so few days (29)?

It was a bold move by Vaughan to close England's innings when play began 20 minutes late. Ideally, he would have liked to enforce the follow-on, which meant dismissing South Africa for fewer than 212, and at the very least it demanded instant success from his bowlers. What he got was the home side careering their way to 50 at a run a ball.

Matthew Hoggard was desperately wayward at the start, Harmison did not make the batsmen play often enough, Anderson bowled too many four balls in between sending his swingers past the bat. But Hoggard changed ends and changed his act. He had Graeme Smith leg before for the third time in the series, coming across his stumps. This was intelligent bowling. Shortly after, Jacques Rudolph steered to Giles in the gully. In the act of taking the catch, Giles jammed his right thumb.

The wicket that all England wanted also went to Hoggard when he managed to get one to lift off a length, surprise Jacques Kallis in his crease and ricochet on to the stumps.

So it continued with England chipping away, though the fourth wicket was to provoke a bizarre intervention by the match referee. Boeta Dippenaar edged one to first slip after an ungainly, 30-minute, scoreless struggle. Marcus Trescothick took the catch close to the ground, as close as it could have been. Some television commentators cast doubt on the legitimacy of the catch, misinterpreting hopelessly the playing conditions by suggesting the third umpire be called upon. Only if the line of vision of both umpires is obstructed can the third umpire be summoned, on the perfectly sensible grounds that the camera, foreshortening the vision as it does, lies. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, said the commentators could incite the crowd and asked them to check their facts.

When Hoggard had A B De Villiers caught hooking by Giles at backward square leg, South Africa were 184 for 5 and England could see the series looming before them again. But by now Gibbs was back in form and Boucher had too much to prove (to himself and others) to be intimidated.

In warm evening sunshine that Vaughan could not have imagined when he declared, South Africa were frolicking. Vaughan took the second new ball, and Gibbs and Boucher propelled it to all parts.

Wanderers scoreboard

England won toss

England ­ First Innings

411 for 8 dec (A J Strauss 147, R W T Key 83, M P Vaughan 82*; M Ntini 4-111)

South Africa ­ First Innings

*G C Smith lbw b Hoggard 29

(Played across swinging ball; 71 min, 37 balls, 4 fours)

H H Gibbs not out 136

(421 min, 273 balls, 20 fours)

J A Rudolph c Giles b Hoggard 4

(Loose drive to gully; 29 min, 21 balls)

J H Kallis b Hoggard 33

(Bottom edge on to stumps from sharply rising ball; 86 min, 68 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

H H Dippenaar c Trescothick b Flintoff 0

(Low edge to first slip from firm-footed drive to full-length ball; 34 min, 20 balls)

A B de Villiers c Giles b Hoggard 19

(Top-edged attempted pull shot to fine leg; 53 min, 43 balls, 3 fours)

ÝM V Boucher c Strauss b Anderson 64

(Tired cut to point off wide long-hop; 130 min, 90 balls, 11 fours)

S M Pollock not out 0

(10 mins, 2 balls)

Extras (b1 lb7 w5 nb8) 21

Total (for 6, 91 overs, 421 min) 306

Fall: 1-61 (Smith), 2-75 (Rudolph), 3-138 (Kallis), 4-149 (Dippenaar), 5-184 (De Villiers), 6-304 (Boucher).

To bat: N Boje, M Ntini, D W Steyn.

Bowling: Hoggard 25-2-101-4 (nb4) (4-0-21-0 6-1-21-2 7-1-14-1 5-0-21-1 3-0-24-0), Harmison 12.5-4-25-0 (nb2) (2-0-6-0 6-3-3-0 4.5-1-16-0), Anderson 21-3-84-1 (w5) (5-0-22-0 6-2-27-0 6-1-13-0 2-0-9-0 2-0-13-1), Flintoff 23.1-6-62-1 (nb2) (8-3-18-0 7.1-3-16-1 1-0-8-0 3-0-7-0 4-0-13-0), Giles 7-0-22-0, Trescothick 2-0-4-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Third day (min 98 overs, 10am start): a damp patch on the outfield would have delayed the start until 10.20am, so Vaughan declared at 10am on the overnight score. 50: 59 min, 13.2 overs. Lunch 97-2 (Gibbs 42, Kallis 10) 28 overs. 100: 147 min, 32 overs. 150: 231 min, 49.4 overs. Tea 164-2 (Gibbs 78, De Villiers 5) 54 overs. 200: 301 min, 65.2 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 246-5. 250: 366 min, 81 overs. 300: 407 mins, 89 overs.

Gibbs 50: 155 min, 114 balls, 10 fours. 100: 320 min, 207 balls, 17 fours.

Boucher 50: 97 min, 74 balls, 9 fours.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and S A Bucknor (WI).

TV replay umpire: K H Hurter (SA).

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

First Test (Port Elizabeth): England won by 7 wkts.

Second Test (Durban): Match drawn.

Third Test (Cape Town): South Africa won by 196 runs.

Fifth Test (Centurion): 21-25 January.

One-Day International series

30 January: First ODI (Johannesburg).

2 February: Second ODI (Bloemfontein, D/N).

4 February: Third ODI (Port Elizabeth, D/N).

6 February: Fourth ODI (Cape Town).

9 February: Fifth ODI (East London, D/N).

11 February: Sixth ODI (Durban, D/N).

13 February: Seventh ODI (Centurion, D/N).