Walk-on part in Test history

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The Independent Online

Before the Fifth Test is finally consigned to the record books, it deserves another nod in its direction. By any reckoning it was some match. Whatever your view on the forfeiture of innings in such a contest, and no matter if you think Test cricket should be sacrosanct, it was a memorable day.

Before the Fifth Test is finally consigned to the record books, it deserves another nod in its direction. By any reckoning it was some match. Whatever your view on the forfeiture of innings in such a contest, and no matter if you think Test cricket should be sacrosanct, it was a memorable day.

What might simply have been a washed-out game became riveting. They were special circumstances, certainly, and I'm not advocating resuscitating all matches in such a way. But it worked wonderfully this time, for the spectators at the ground, those in their armchairs at home and for the contestants.

With just five balls left when Darren Gough clubbed a boundary through midwicket, England came out of the series with a victory which for three days had seemed impossible. The series score was 2-1, not 2-0. Rain had fallen over Centurion and Johannesburg incessantly. The match had nowhere to go except down the plug-hole of history.

On the final day, when the sun at last dawned, Hansie Cronje, South Africa's captain, made a declaration offer before play began. The pitch had been, should we say, sporting on the first day, the only time when play had been possible, and South Africa already had 155 on the board. England were not about to hand them a 3-0 series win. The offer was declined.

Forty minutes into the session it was obvious that the pitch had flattened and that a run chase was possible. It was worth a gamble for both sides. The captain, Nasser Hussain, left the pitch. The deal was done: both sides gave up an innings, England had 249 to get in 76 overs.

I didn't sadly play too great a part in the two-wicket victory. At tea when I had not been in long I thought about the overs ahead. I'm a great believer in destiny, I thought my time had come. It hadn't, as was to be proved too soon after.

When we won I jumped eight feet in the air, chuffed and elated, all those things. Later on in the evening, when we were talking about the match and preparing to say cheerio to the boys not staying on for the one-day series, I felt briefly a touch low. Michael Vaughan spotted this. He had scored a wonderful halfcentury in the game, confirming that he has what it takes to succeed at every level. Composure, good technique and good judgement.

Michael had some kind words for me, about how he had played and missed sometimes during the series, how it had gone for him and not for me. These were welcome words from a great team-mate. But deep down I knew that from the Third Test my form had not been all it could have been. But it was a historic win and I was part of it.

So to the one-day tournament. England have a better chance of winning it than they did the Test series. This is not to make any outrageous predictions. South Africa's prowess as a one-day side is clear, Zimbabwe are no mugs. We have a new team but we have some flair and determination. We won't go lightly.

Most sides get into a position where they evolve. England found they could not do that. But now they have changed, they have to keep faith. They have to stay with it until a winning formula is found. If they lose, wait until they win.

This whole tour has been a new experience for me so far and last week I was asked to be on the one-day tour committee along with Nasser Hussain, Duncan Fletcher, Mark Alleyne and Graeme Hick. Without revealing England's strategy we have discussed the need to have wickets in hand at the end of an innings, to have stability in the middle order. By this time next week we will have played three matches, two of them against South Africa, and will have some idea of what is working and what is not.

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