Hello from cloud nine. If you missed¬†Part 3, I encourage you to read it. History was made as we won our first test match as England coach. 1999 might have been a write off but the first few days of 2000 have been wonderful. Surely we’re no longer the worst team in the world? We’re still 2-1 down with two to play and South Africa are angry.

The conditions suggest I should probably bring in a spinner but I’m loathe to change a winning team. South Africa have no spinner of note so I’m prepared to risk it.

If I win the toss, I want to bat. That pitch is only going to get worse and I can see it being a long few days bowling in the sun if they win the toss. We have unchanged sides.

Their bowling averages make me sick. Each and every one of the ‘main four’ better than ours. Oh, we’ve lost the toss. South Africa bat. That’s a bad start.

I actually hate this Liebenberg character. He made five test appearances in real life but he bats like Brian Lara in this game. The opening pair put on 50, nearly reaching 100 before Bulbeck of all people gets rid of Gary Kirsten. That signals a good spell for us as Bulbeck follows up with the wickets of Cronje and Kallis. Whilst Headley removes Ackerman, bowling him all ends up. 113/4 and we’ve had a tasty lunch. This must be what it feels like to be successful.

Captain Cullinan dollies a catch to Bulbeck from the bowling of Gough and Bicknell accounts for Pollock for just 4. 174/6 and we’re cruising in the driver’s seat. But that nuisance Liebenberg is still in and he’s now joined by Enoch Stewart. Who has spent this entire series coming in at 8 and digging in.

The pair see off our onslaught and ease their way to the close of play. Liebenberg passes 100 whilst Stewart is batting like a windmill. The hundred partnership becomes 200 during the morning of Day 2 and our position of strength has become somewhat weaker. Eventually, Bulbeck rids us of Liebenberg for 168. Yet the scoreboard reads 411. Significant damage has been done. Gough gets an edge off DeVilliers whilst Bulbeck completes his five-for with a sharp caught and bowled. By the time Bicknell bowls Stewart for 138, South Africa have amassed 437. I’m not sure we have much chance of winning from here.

There is at least plenty of time. Atherton and Stewart steadily build our reply and to my surprise we put on 50 with minimal fuss. I practically fall off the balcony when the 100 comes up and I’m brought around by smelling salts when the 150 is up. Atherton departs for 52 but a 151 opening stand has given us a foothold in the match. Stewart is then bowled by that pest Schulz just 6 short of a century. And even when Thorpe departs for 9 we’re still 191/3.

Habib has been a bit of a revelation and he even calms Ramprakash. The pair pass 50 before Habib is trapped LBW to the impressive Kallis for 60. Hollioake makes only 9 but Sir Vince arrives to help Ramprakash pass 50. With the partnership hitting 50, Wells departs LBW for 38. 341/6 at the close of Day 3.

Day 4 is off to a rough start. Ramprakash reaches 75 but goes no further, nicking one behind from DeVilliers. The tail offer very little, though a couple of boundaries for leg byes help the total to 374. A deficit of 63. Considering we have two days to play, it’s poised nicely.

If we can bowl with the aggression we have done in the last few tests we could have our hosts worried. Sadly the devastating opening duo continue. Before we take two wickets in five balls. Firstly, Bulbeck removes Kirsten for the second time in the match then Headley bowls that damn Liebenberg for 50. Cronje and Ackerman rebuild but Goughy bowls Cronje then Hollioake gets an LBW decision on Ackerman to leave South Africa 140/4. A lead of just over 200. Kallis and Cullinan both fall in the 20’s and at 191/6, if we can get through the trail in the final session of Day 4 we might win this!

Bulbeck removes Stewart for just 9 and 225/7 is still a lead of less than 300. Pollock and DeVilliers have other ideas though and they survive an hour and a half with minimal alarm. 292/7 and a lead of 355 is where they draw the line. We’ll have an entire day to try and get it.

120 a session is quite a tall ask. It’s even taller when Stewart is bowled for 9 and Habib falls to the same mistake for just 14. 51/2 and still 304 needed. Thorpe and Atherton stabilise with a 50 partnership but Thorpe is out for 40. 113/3 and two sessions to go.

I’ve decided to push Gough up to number 5. Why? Well we’re at the point now where if we can score quickly we could go for the win. Taking risks will cost us wickets though and then it would be a nervous last session trying to avoid a disaster. Hence the idea is Goughy comes in and hits some meaty boundaries and gives us a chance. If he’s out cheaply, we’ll drop anchor.

He makes 17 off 12 balls to leave us 132/4. When Ramprakash can only make 18 we’re 161/5 and I think that’s it. Hollioake and Atherton nudge the ball about for an age but with their partnership on 49, Hollioake nicks behind for 27. Atherton has batted all day and has 80. But with just a few overs to go I’m letting him go for his shots to try and get his hundred. Typically he thrashes at one and is caught behind for 88. Two balls later, that’s it. A draw.

Down To The Wire

We might have got closer if we’d attacked for the second and third sessions but we would probably have lost. With another test to come, we can still save the series and we’ll take risks there if we can.

It all means we’ve got a decisive 5th Test next week and I’d love it if you would join me for it. Toodles for now!