That it went as close as it did was largely due to a display of weaknesses rather than one of strengths, and both sides must undergo harsh self-scrutiny if they are to feature in the semi-finals of the World Cup. But England by no means fielded a first-choice side, five players being rested from the side who won in Bloemfontein on Thursday.
Even so, it was no excuse.Michael Atherton is no doubt aware that South Africa have an aversion to run chases. But if it was that which led him to bat first, he would have regretted the decision almost immediately as the new ball began swinging and bouncing. He made the wrong decision by bowling here in the Test five weeks ago; he was wrong again yesterday when he opted to bat.
Atherton himself went for a duck first ball after he pushed forward at one from Pollock that seamed and bounced to find an edge. This was a day game and it started an hour before the Test here did: there was clearly some juice in the pitch.
Unsurprising then, that the England captain was the first of three quick wickets for Pollock, who also saw his team home with the bat after a middle- order stutter threatened what should have been a stroll in the park. Only Neil Fairbrother, with a steady unbeaten 57, could cope.
The bowlers fared little better, and only Darren Gough, with three for 31, and Phil DeFreitas, with two for 35, got anything from the pitch, though Gough struggled at first to control his line, conceding three wides in a first over that went for 11. Nevertheless, England were at no point entirely out of the game as South Africa obligingly lost wickets at regular intervals.
With just over 10 overs to go, Pollock managed to kick away a ball that he had back-cut towards his stumps. It was a crucial bit of footwork. That close miss meant that England had to take wickets, a task Atherton entrusted largely to Watkinson and White, more in hope than expectation. Their collective experience at this level amounted to five caps.
England also gambled when they batted too, once again opting to open with DeFreitas, thus giving him licence to hit and take advantage of the fielding restrictions in place for the first 15 overs. It was a bold choice, but once Atherton was out to the second ball of the innings, the role should have been downgraded to suit the situation. It had become apparent that the pitch contained more movement than it did runs.
DeFreitas did, however, strike two handsome fours off Craig Matthews over extra cover, though by the time he was out he had missed more deliveries than he hit. Eventually he perished to a steepling catch by Donald at mid-off as he tried to take similar liberties with Pollock.
It was not a pitch to play chancy shots on, but then neither was it one for strokeless caution, a method Robin Smith adopted when he padded up to a straight ball from Pollock that would have ripped out middle stump. This was Smith's first game since the last Test and he looked rusty, despite drilling Matthews past cover point for the shot of the day.
Smith's dismissal not only brought Pollock his third wicket in five overs - just deserts for his combination of accuracy and aggression - it also drew Mark Ramprakash to the crease, a man in crisis being pitched into a crisis. And his partner, Graeme Hick, did not venture a word of comfort to the player close to his wit's end, at least not until the over was completed three balls later.
The pair may not have repaired the situation, but at least they got the scaffolding in place before Hick chopped Donald on to his stumps while trying to cut. That left Ramprakash in charge while Fairbrother found his touch, a role he played sensibly before edging Hansie Cronje behind, a frustrated shot after a spell of inertia.
His departure did not appear to deter Fairbrother - who often played here for Transvaal last winter - from dropping anchor. In fact it was Craig White, perhaps sensing that his World Cup opportunities were slipping away, who decided to be bold, using his feet to crack several fours over the infield. He contributed 33 runs to Fairbrother's 13 in their 50 partnership.
Once White went, brilliantly caught by Cronje at extra cover, the score was 139 for six and it was left to Russell to attack the remaining overs in his first one-day international since 1991. This he did, smashing Donald through extra cover for successive boundaries, before Fairbrother joined in, hitting a six over square leg. Fifteen runs were taken off the final over, but it was never going to be enough.
Donald warning, page 23
Scoreboard from the Wanderers
(One day - England won toss)
P A J DeFreitas c Donald b Pollock 13
27 min, 23 balls, 2 fours
*M A Atherton c McMillan b Pollock 0
1 min, 1 ball
R A Smith lbw b Pollock 9
34 min, 25 balls, 1 four
G A Hick b Donald 14
51 min, 29 balls, 1 four
M R Ramprakash c Richardson b Cronje 27
86 min, 68 balls, 2 fours
N H Fairbrother not out 57
128 min, 92 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
C White c Cronje b McMillan 34
46 min, 38 balls, 5 fours
D A Reeve c Richardson b Donald 10
22 min, 15 balls, 1 four
R C Russell c Cronje b Snell 18
14 min, 12 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
Extras (lb7,w7,nb2) 16
Total (8 wkts, 208 min, 50 overs) 198
Fall: 1-1 (Atherton), 2-23 (DeFreitas), 3-25 (Smith), 4-53 (Hick), 5- 88 (Ramprakash), 6-139 (White), 7-168 (Reeve), 8-198 (Russell).
Did not bat: M Watkinson, D Gough.
Bowling: Pollock 10-2-31-3 (nb2) (6-2-8-3 2-0-9-0 2-0-14-0); Matthews 8-0-34-0 (6-0-25-0 2-0-9-0); Donald 10-0-53-2 (w4) (6-0-24-1 2-0-11-0 2-0-18-1); McMillan 10-0-27-1 (nb1,w2) (6-0-15-0 4-0-12-1); Snell 6-1- 29-1 (5-1-14-0 1-0-15-1); Cronje 6-0-17-1 (w 1) (one spell).
Progress: 50: 72 min, 104 balls. 100: 139 min, 206 balls. 150: 179 min, 260 balls.
Fairbrother 50: 125 min, 90 balls, 2 fours.
A C Hudson b Gough 17
56 min, 33 balls
R P Snell c Fairbrother b DeFreitas 8
14 min, 12 balls
*W J Cronje c Russell b DeFreitas 7
11 min, 10 balls, 1 four
D J Cullinan c Russell b Gough 25
46 min, 30 balls, 4 fours
J H Kallis run out (Smith-Reeve) 16
53 min, 49 balls
J N Rhodes c Russell b Gough 44
85 min, 65 balls, 1 four
B M McMillan c Smith b White 35
74 min, 49 balls, 3 fours
S M Pollock not out 18
42 min, 29 balls, 1 four
D J Richardson not out 10
16 min, 15 balls
Extras (b1,lb7,w8,nb3) 19
Total (7 wkts, 202 min, 48.1 overs) 199
Fall: 1-19 (Snell), 2-29 (Cronje), 3-63 (Hudson), 4-73 (Cullinan), 5- 114 (Kallis), 6-157 (Rhodes), 7-180 (McMillan).
Did not bat: C R Matthews, A A Donald.
Bowling: Gough 10-2-31-3 (w4) (2-0-11-0 5-2-9-2 3-0-11-1); DeFreitas 8-0-35-2 (nb2) (6-0-25-2 2-0-10-0); Reeve 10-0-43-0 (nb1,w1) (3-0-18-0 5-0-16-0 2-0-9-0); Hick 3-0-13-0 (w1) (one spell); Watkinson 9-0-43-0 (w1) (4-0-16-0 2-0-7-0 3-0-20-0); White 8.1- 1-26-1 (w1) (2-0-11-0 4-0- 10-0 2.1-1-5-1).
Progress: 50: 43 min, 58 balls. 100: 99 min, 143 balls. 150: 149 min, 217 balls.
South Africa won by 3 wickets.
Umpires: D L Orchard and R E Koertzen.
Match referee: C W Smith.
Man of the match: S M Pollock.Reuse content