Vaughan plays captain's innings to save England from themselves

Michael Vaughan will expect to post more substantial totals in 2005 than the unbeaten 82 he scored against South Africa yesterday, but the England captain may struggle to play a more important innings. England were reeling on 278 for 7 when Geraint Jones edged Shaun Pollock to Graeme Smith at first slip, and Vaughan, on 15, had given little indication of what was about to follow.

Michael Vaughan will expect to post more substantial totals in 2005 than the unbeaten 82 he scored against South Africa yesterday, but the England captain may struggle to play a more important innings. England were reeling on 278 for 7 when Geraint Jones edged Shaun Pollock to Graeme Smith at first slip, and Vaughan, on 15, had given little indication of what was about to follow.

In perfect bowling conditions and murky light, Makhaya Ntini and Pollock had caused havoc, dismissing Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Jones in the first 10 overs of the second day. At this juncture England looked as though they were about to waste the wonderful innings of Andrew Strauss on Thursday.

However, with the result of this match, and possibly the series, in the balance, Vaughan proceeded to show the sort of form which made him the No 1 batsman in the world during the winter of 2002-03. With the ball seaming and swinging around and with only the tail to bat with, the 30-year-old chose to abandon the attritional approach he had adopted and went on the attack.

It was a policy which changed the course of the day. A series of drives cuts and pulls allowed Vaughan to take the initiative away from the South African bowlers and put England into a strong position.

With England at 411 for 8, this should prove to be a highly competitive total if the weather remains as it was yesterday, yet Vaughan walked off an angry man after the umpires Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar decided to take the players from the field. He had every right to be annoyed after his team had worked so hard to get on top.

Ashley Giles added 51 runs with his close friend before driving one to cover and Stephen Harmison, who will restart this morning on 30, has already helped put on 82 vital runs.

The gloomy weather and occasional showers, which caused the players to leave the Wanderers on three occasions, did nothing to help England's progress. These breaks kept interrupting the batsmen's concentration. They also allowed the South African bowlers and the pitch to remain fresh. But then, with the South African attack looking ragged and the scoreboard rattling along, Vaughan was told that he had to leave the field. His mood would not have been helped by the reappearance of the sun five minutes after play was finally abandoned.

Heavy morning rain delayed the start of play by 160 minutes and batting immediately looked difficult on a pitch juiced up by the weather and several hours under a tarpaulin sheet.

In conditions like this there is no better bowler in the world than Pollock and Vaughan needed to be alert to keep him out. He probably did not feel it at the time but these obstacles may have supplied him with exactly what he needed.

The England captain had been in poor form before this exhibition, scoring just 84 runs in the first three Test matches. In each of his six innings he had reached double figures but had failed to go on to post a score greater than 20.

Carelessness, along with a lack of concentration, is the only way of explaining Vaughan's predicament because a batsman should be at his most vulnerable before he reaches double figures. However, this can happen on a good pitch when a player attempts to take the game to the opposition before he has become accustomed to the pace and bounce of the pitch.

Yet, there was never any chance of this happening on a surface where the ball was snaking around and beating the outside edge regularly. Survival was Vaughan's only concern and in order to do this he had to watch the ball like a hawk and hope that his feet were moving precisely.

He would have hoped that Hoggard would play a major role in blunting the second new ball. England's nightwatchman spent 20 minutes attempting to do just this before fending an Ntini short ball to gully.

Flintoff received his customary cheer as he entered the arena but never looked comfortable during the 19 minutes he spent at the crease. His innings was interrupted by a break for rain and he failed to add to his two runs after the interval.

South Africa's bowlers, and Ntini in particular, have got after Flintoff, peppering him with short-pitched balls. This tactic has unsettled the big man and played a part in his downfall. He loves to get on the front foot and crash the ball down the ground but Smith's bowlers have kept the ball away from his favourite shot. Flintoff will not want to see a replay of the horrible swipe that he edged to first slip. Everything about it was wrong and, but for Vaughan's brilliance, it could have been costly.

Wanderers Scoreboard

England won toss

England - First Innings

(Overnight: 263 for 4)

M E Trescothick c Boucher b Steyn 16

67 min, 47 balls, 3 fours

A J Strauss c Kallis b Pollock 147

355 min, 250 balls, 23 fours, 1 six

R W T Key c Smith b Ntini 83

214 min, 164 balls, 11 fours, 1 six

*M P Vaughan not out 82

276 min, 160 balls, 10 fours, 1 six

G P Thorpe c Dippenaar b Ntini 0

12 min, 8 balls

M J Hoggard c de Villiers b Ntini 5

29 min, 19 balls, 1 four

A Flintoff c Smith b Ntini 2

19 min, 11 balls

ÝG O Jones c Smith b Pollock 2

7 min, 6 balls

A F Giles c Gibbs b Steyn 26

60 min, 35 balls, 4 fours

S J Harmison not out 30

72 min, 49 balls, 6 fours,

Extras (lb13 nb5) 18

Total (for 8, 560 min, 124 overs) 411

Fall: 1-45 (Trescothick) 2-227 (Key) 3-262 (Strauss) 4-263 (Thorpe) 5-273 (Hoggard) 6-275 (Flintoff) 7-278 (Jones) 8-329 (Giles).

To bat: J M Anderson.

Bowling: Pollock 33-12-81-2 (7-3-18-0, 6-1-10-0, 3-1-14-0, 17-7-39-2); Ntini 34-8-111-4 (5-2-19-0, 6-0-24-0, 2-1-1-0, 3-0-6-1, 13-4-32-3, 5-1-29-0); Steyn 21-7-75-2 (nb2) (7-4-14-1, 3-0-22-0, 3-1-4-0, 5-1-15-0, 3-1-20-1); Kallis 22-2-79-0 (nb2) (4-1-6-0, 1-0-4-0, 3-0-13-0, 4-0-20-0, 5-1-12-0, 5-0-24-0); Boje 14-2-52-0 (nb1) (1-0-1-0, 13-2-51-0).

Progress: First day: 50: 89 min, 20.2 overs. Lunch: 77-1 (Strauss 40, Key 16) 28 overs. 100: 143 min, 33.4 overs. 150: 200 min, 46.5 overs. Tea: 187-1 (Strauss 107, Key 57) 58 overs. 200: 250 min, 60.2 overs. 250: 333 min, 78 overs. New ball taken after 80 overs at 252-2. Bad light stopped play 5.42pm. Close: 263-4 (Vaughan 9, Hoggard 0) 85.4 overs. Second day: rain delayed start until 12.41pm (min 83 overs; early lunch taken). Bad light stopped play 1.22-1.45pm 275-5 (Vaughan 14, Flintoff 2) 94.1 overs. Rain stopped play 2.34pm-4.18pm 293-7 (Vaughan 29, Giles 1) 104 overs. 300: 471 min, 105.5 overs. 350: 511 min, 113.5 overs. 400: 557 min, 123.3 overs. Bad light stopped play 5.55pm.

Strauss's 50: 132 min, 95 balls, 10 fours. 100: 224 min, 155 balls, 17 fours, 1 six. Key's 50: 146 min, 110 balls, 7 fours. Vaughan's 50: 222 min, 131 balls, 7 fours.

South Africa: *G C Smith, H H Gibbs, J A Rudolph, J H Kallis, H H Dippenaar, A B de Villiers, ÝM V Boucher, S M Pollock, N Boje, M Ntini, D W Steyn.

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

TV replay umpire: K H Hurter.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

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