Trescothick's immaculate century stops England from falling apart

England 411-8 dec & 197-5 South Africa 419
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The Independent Online

Stephen Bucknor and Aleem Dar are unlikely to feature on Michael Vaughan's Christmas card list this year after the comments he made about the pair cost him the small matter of £5,500.

Stephen Bucknor and Aleem Dar are unlikely to feature on Michael Vaughan's Christmas card list this year after the comments he made about the pair cost him the small matter of £5,500.

On the second evening of this fascinating Test the England captain questioned the consistency of the umpires' decision-making when bad light forced him to begrudgingly leave the field. At the time England were in a strong position and Vaughan wanted play to continue.

However, 48 hours later, and in similar light, he appeared very keen for England's batsmen to leave the Wanderers field when Messrs Bucknor and Dar offered Marcus Trescothick and Geraint Jones the opportunity of returning to the dressing room. Vaughan's rattled team were on 197 for 5 and despite there being 15 overs to be bowled, the batsmen left the arena like a flash.

With a lead of 189, and Trescothick unbeaten on 101, this is the type of position from which England usually surged to victory in 2004. But times have changed. South Africa are a far more resolute outfit than those whitewashed during the summer and Vaughan's diffident team are beginning to look battle-weary.

The fourth Test is wonderfully poised entering the final day and, on a pitch which is beginning to offer inconsistent bounce, all three results are possible. Yet England's eagerness to get out of the firing line suggests that it is they, and not South Africa, who are feeling vulnerable.

This apprehensive approach is the result of dreadful bowling in South Africa's first innings. Stephen Harmison, who strained a muscle in his left calf on Saturday, is unlikely to bowl again in the match and the remaining members of the attack haemorrhaged runs on a helpful surface.

Vaughan would be very reluctant to set South Africa a target today and England will be looking to bat for as long as they can this morning. The home side are the likeliest victors but England's best chance of winning would arise if they were bowled out for 270 with 75 overs of the game remaining.

Their position would have been far more exposed but for Trescothick, who posted his 10th Test century. The Somerset opener has been in inconsistent form on this tour but once again he produced a classy and chanceless display when his side needed it. The footwork of the left-hander may be leaden but when he strikes the ball like this it is easy to see why he averages over 40 in Test cricket.

A vociferous crowd and the early loss of Andrew Strauss and Robert Key failed to upset Trescothick's concentration and in Vaughan he found an equally positive ally. The sight of England surging ahead caused Graeme Smith - the South African captain was struck on the left temple during fielding practice before the start of play - to climb off the physio's bench and return to the fray.

Trescothick and Vaughan's partnership had added 100 runs before Smith's reappearance and his presence stung South Africa into action. Vaughan was the first to go when, on 54, he edged a Shaun Pollock away- swinger through to the wicketkeeper. Three balls later Graham Thorpe weakly chipped a push down the wicket and Jacques Kallis hung on to an excellent diving catch.

The South African's have unsettled Andrew Flintoff and again he looked tetchy. The Lancashire all-rounder pulled Pollock for a huge six but then wafted aimlessly at the next delivery and gave Mark Boucher his second catch of the day.

With South African hopes of moving 2-1 up in the series rising, and a 20,000 crowd cheering them on, England appeared to be there for the taking before the umpires intervened.

Matthew Hoggard was the pick of England's attack on Saturday but in all honesty he did not have a great deal of competition. Vaughan, unbeaten on 82, declared England's innings closed before the start of the third day in order to give his bowlers the best possible conditions in which to bowl but this selfless and brave act was wasted.

Harmison's figures look respectable but his waywardness on this tour has been a huge disappointment. Yet this was not as distressing as the sight of him hobbling off the ground with a calf strain.

England have not ruled out his chances of bowling today, and hope he will be fit for the final Test which starts on Friday, but there must be a real chance that he has bowled his last ball of the tour. With this in mind the selectors have asked Gloucestershire's Jonathan Lewis to get to Johannesburg as quickly as he can.

South Africa had failed to add to their overnight score of 306 for 6 when Pollock unwisely padded up to the second ball of the day and gave Hoggard his first five-wicket haul for England in 27 Test matches - just reward for the way he manfully led a depleted, and at times despondent attack.

He should have had a sixth wicket three balls later but Geraint Jones grassed a simple chance offered by Nicky Boje. This was the England wicketkeeper's second costly aberration in seven balls - he dropped Herschelle Gibbs two balls before the close of play on Saturday evening. The brilliant South African opener was on 136 at the time and he added a further 25 runs to his overnight score before cutting a James Anderson long hop to third man.

Jones' butterfingers this time allowed Boje to add 44 crucial runs to South Africa's total, and these mistakes, along with a little cameo from Makhaya Ntini, enabled the home side to reach 419 and gain an eight-run lead.


England won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 411 for 8 dec (A J Strauss 147, R W T Key 83, M P Vaughan 82no; M Ntini 4-111).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings

*G C Smith lbw b Hoggard 29

71 min, 37 balls, 4 fours

H H Gibbs c Hoggard b Anderson 161

482 min, 307 balls, 25 fours

J A Rudolph c Giles b Hoggard 4

29 min, 21 balls

J H Kallis b Hoggard 33

86 min, 68 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

H H Dippenaar c Trescothick b Flintoff 0

34 min, 20 balls

A B de Villiers c Giles b Hoggard 19

53 min, 43 balls, 3 fours

ÝM V Boucher c Strauss b Anderson 64

130 min, 90 balls, 11 fours

S M Pollock lbw b Hoggard 0

11 min, 4 balls

N Boje run out (Hoggard-Giles-Jones) 48

117 min, 80 balls, 6 fours

M Ntini b Giles 26

70 min, 46 balls, 4 fours

D W Steyn not out 0

12 min, 2 balls

Extras (b9 lb11 w6, nb9) 35

Total (553 min, 118.1 overs) 419

Fall: 1-61 (Smith) 2-75 (Rudolph) 3-138 (Kallis) 4-149 (Dippenaar) 5-184 (De Villiers) 6-304 (Boucher) 7-306 (Pollock) 8-358 (Gibbs) 9-399 (Boje) 10-419 (Ntini).

Bowling: Hoggard 34-2-144-5 (nb5) (4-0-21-0, 6-1-21-2, 7-1-14-1, 5-0-21-1, 3-0-24-0, 6-0-34-1, 3-0-9-0); Harmison 12.5-4-25-0 (nb2) (2-0-6-0, 6-3-3-0, 4.5-1-16-0); Anderson 28-3-117-2 (w5) (5-0-22-0, 6-2-27-0, 6-1-13-0, 2-0-9-0, 2-0-13-1, 6-0-24-1, 1-0-9-0); Flintoff 30.1-8-77-1 (nb2) (8-3-18-0, 7.1-3-16-1, 1-0-8-0, 3-0-7-0, 9-1-26-0, 2-1-2-0); Giles 8.1-0-25-1 (7-0-22-0, 1-0-3-0, 0.1-0-0-1); Trescothick 5-1-11-0 (w1) (2-0-4-0, 3-1-7-0).

Progress: Third day: 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 in 366 min, 81 overs. 300: 407 min, 89 overs. Close: 306-6 (Gibbs 136, Pollock 0) 91 overs. Fourth day (10am start; min 98 overs): 350: 469 min, 101.1 overs. 400: 546 min, 116.5 overs. Innings closed: 12.12pm.

Gibbs's 50: 155 min, 114 balls, 10 fours. 100: 320 min, 207 balls, 17 fours. 150: 469 min, 297 balls, 23 fours. Boucher's 50: 97 min, 74 balls, 9 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

M E Trescothick not out 101

235 min, 164 balls, 15 fours

A J Strauss c de Villiers b Ntini 0

5 min, 4 balls

R W T Key c Kallis b Ntini 19

36 min, 27 balls, 4 fours

*M P Vaughan c Boucher b Pollock 54

156 min, 110 balls, 8 fours

G P Thorpe c and b Kallis 1

4 min, 3 balls

A Flintoff c Boucher b Pollock 7

16 min, 12 balls, 1 six

ÝG O Jones not out 1

13 min, 5 balls

Extras (lb3 w6 nb5) 14

Total (for 5, 235 min, 53.2 overs) 197

Fall: 1-2 (Strauss) 2-51 (Key) 3-175 (Vaughan) 4-176 (Thorpe) 5-186 (Flintoff).

Bowling: Pollock 13-1-60-2 (nb1,w5) (6-0-39-0, 3-0-8-0, 4-1-13-2); Ntini 14-2-45-2 (7-0-31-2, 7-2-14-0); Kallis 13-4-45-1 (nb1) (8-2-30-0, 5-2-15-1); Steyn 4.2-0-20-0 (nb3 w1) (4-0-20-0, 0.2-0-0-0); Boje 9-0-24-0 (one spell).

Progress: Fourth day: Lunch: 7-1 (Trescothick 1, Key 4) 2 overs. 50: 40 min, 8.5 overs. 100: 102 min, 21.5 overs. Tea: 131-2 (Trescothick 69, Vaughan 31) 29 overs. 150: 164 min, 39 overs. Bad light stopped play 5.17pm.

Trescothick's 50: 93 min, 67 balls, 8 fours. 100: 229 min, 159 balls, 15 fours. Vaughan's 50: 141 min, 96 balls, 8 fours.

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

TV replay umpire: K H Hurter.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.