Vaughan relies on 'positive' attitude to seal series victory

Click to follow
The Independent Online

England will become only the second nation since South Africa's readmission to Test cricket to win a series in the country if they manage to avoid defeat in the fifth Test, which starts today in Centurion. This is the Proteas' 21st home Test series since they were welcomed back into the cricketing fraternity 13 years ago, but Australia, who won 2-1 in 1996-97 and 2000-01, are the only side to have left these shores as victors.

Following their astonishing victory in Johannesburg on Monday, Michael Vaughan's side are now 2-1 up in this series, but the England captain has promised that his team will not be looking to play for a draw.

"Our mindset has got to be purely on winning the game," Vaughan said. "We have to go out and play in the same fashion as we normally do, which is positively. If we were to go out looking to draw the game, our mindset will be completely wrong. So we have to make sure we remain positive and continue to play positive cricket.

"South Africa are a good team and we saw in Cape Town how capable they are. This whole series has been up and down, and each game could have gone either way. I am sure this match will not be any different."

Judging by the green nature of the pitch, there should be no shortage of action during the next five days. Both captains commented on its appearance and this could well lead to a couple of changes in each side.

Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff both finished the fourth Test with injuries but have been declared fit to play. England seem prepared to gamble on their fitness, and ask for one last effort.

Although James Anderson picked up two important wickets at the Wanderers, he had a game to forget. The Lancashire swing bowler sprayed the ball all over the place, and but for Matthew Hoggard's brilliance could have left England exposed. Anderson looked pretty downbeat at practice yesterday and it appears as though he will loose his place to Simon Jones, his close friend.

Jones missed out at the Wanderers with a back injury but is now fully fit. The Glamorgan fast bowler trained with the Test squad in the morning, before rain curtailed matters, and was then told to have a bowl with the one-day specialists in the afternoon.

Yet the conditions at Supersport Park could be most suited to Jonathan Lewis's style of bowling. The Gloucestershire seamer was rushed to South Africa when Harmison strained his left calf during England's 77-run victory in Johannesburg. Lewis has no great pace, but he pitches the ball in the business area and would exploit any lateral movement in the pitch.

England may be tempted to play Lewis as a fifth seamer - at the expense of Ashley Giles - but this is a game England do not have to win. And picking a replacement ahead of a player who was originally selected in the squad would not fit in with the England selectors demand for continuity.

In the eight Test matches played at this ground, the side winning the toss has decided to field on seven occasions. Today is unlikely to break that trend. There can be little doubt that the groundsman has been asked by the South Africans to prepare a pitch that will produce a result.

"Winning is our only option," Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, said. "A loss or a draw really means nothing to us. A win is what we are after and that is a good motivation for the guys. We know what we need to achieve in this Test match and there will be times when we have to risk a few things."

The first of these gambles will come in the selection of their side. England declared twice in the last Test and South Africa will need to take 20 wickets if they are to win this match. In an effort to achieve this the South African selectors have dropped Dale Steyn and Charl Langeveldt from their squad and called up Andre Nel. Andrew Hall retains his place and the all-rounder could well act as South Africa's fifth seamer.

These two fresh bodies could be crucial. This is the fifth time in five weeks these two teams have lined up against each other and England's fast bowlers are being held together by tape and painkillers.

Nel's aggressive nature will offer the South Africans something different. The burly fast bowler has spent a couple of seasons playing for Northamptonshire and his fiery temperament is sure to liven things up. The 27 year-old has taken 14 wickets in his last two first-class matches and is the bowler Ray Jennings, the South Africa coach, once promised to pay 1,000 rand to if he hit Allan Donald on the head in a domestic match.

Nel took five wickets, including that of Brian Lara twice, in the Test against the West Indies 12 months ago, but he will be remembered most for being whisked away from the ground at the close of play to be married.

Centurion is a good venue for South Africa. The home side have won six of the eight Test matches played here. But England are the only opponents they have yet to beat. In 1995-96, rain washed out the final three days of the match and in 1999-2000, England won the famous game that Hansie Cronje fixed.

South Africa (from): G C Smith (captain), N Boje, M V Boucher, A B de Villiers, H H Dippenaar, H H Gibbs, A J Hall, J H Kallis, A Nel, M Ntini, S M Pollock, J A Rudolph.

England (from): M P Vaughan (captain), J M Anderson, A Flintoff, A F Giles, S J Harmison, M J Hoggard, G O Jones, S P Jones, R W T Key, J Lewis, A J Strauss, G P Thorpe, M E Trescothick.