Greetings to you. It’s time for the 5th and final test of our tour to South Africa. It started badly, two heavy defeats left us staring down the barrel at a 5-0 whitewash. But a 3rd test victory (the first of my tenure) and a 4th test draw have left this series in the balance. Sort of. We can’t win and South Africa can’t lose. But my word, we could draw.
It’s a pickle of a pitch. The weather itself gets better as the test goes on but the pitch is only going to go one way. My probably flawed logic is that I want to bowl last on what might well be a minefield by then.
South Africa don’t have a spinner and are unchanged again whilst I’ve recalled ‘Question of Sport’ finest in place of Bicknell, who is a little unlucky to miss out.
We’ve won the toss and I’ve opted to bat. The game plan is to dig in and survive the conditions. We can’t win the match on Day 1 but we can sure as hell lose it. As long as we’re competitive, I’m trusting that Day 5 pitch to be my saviour. With that in mind, we’re soon 48/3. Atherton, Stewart and Habib all get started but can’t convert, with Habib ludicrously running out Atherton the highlight of a drastic morning. Lunch tastes sour.
Thorpe and Ramprakash have read my instructions and begin the rebuilding job. As usual though, just when things are looking up some idiot gets bowled by Alan Donald and in this case it’s Graham Thorpe. On 49, your heartless man. Ramprakash gets to 43 and he also departs, edging to the slips from the bowling of Donald again. 157/5 is not good. Hollioake and Wells follow the same pattern of getting into double figures and departing. Gough shoulders arms and gets a duck, leaving Headley and Bulbeck to push us over 200 before we run out of luck on 229. It’s not great but we’ll see if we can put them under pressure.
The big thing is you can see the ‘wear’ icon is already pretty full. That’s great news for Tuffers. We come out firing as our new found aggression and the pesky Liebenberg edges behind for just 4. I’m so pleased to see the back of him. Cronje and Kirsten muddle on for a bit before Hollioake removes Kirsten. Good. Headley has been the revelation of this series and he gets Ackerman for just 2. He got 300 in the first match, so this pleases me. Bulbeck picks up Cronje LBW and at 86/4, the match is in the balance. It then rains for an entire day, which is inconvenient but probably matterless.
Kallis and Cullinan begin to rebuild. Immaculately playing the ball around the ground. Belief is starting to drain away until Tufnell tempts Cullinan to come down the track and Stewart whips the bails off. He bowls Pollock next ball and although Enoch Stewart survives the hat-trick, Headley soon removes him. Tuffers eventually traps Kallis LBW and Donald caught at slip for a duck, before Hollioake finishes the innings removing DeVilliers. 208 all out from 142/4. We have a 21 run lead.
It’s so rare for us to be favourites for anything. I think if we can get 200 plus we’ll be in a strong position as it really is becoming a bit of a minefield. Atherton and Stewart manage 13 between them before both are out. Uh oh.
Habib and Thorpe steady the ship with a 50 partnership but Thorpe eventually edges Cronje to gully for 29 that took 112 balls. Slow and steady lads. Another 50 partnership between Habib and Ramprakash keeps the pressure on but that pesky Donald bowls Ramps for 32. 138/4 and a lead of nearly 160. Just keep chipping aways lads.
Habib is holding us together really. The theme continues with Hollioake, Wells and Bulbeck adding 38 between them but Habib reaches his 100 despite running out of partners. He’s a hero. Gough takes a blow on the hand and retires hurt, which will presumably stop him from bowling. We’re all out for 250, Habib has 127 of them and South Africa will need 272 to win.
There’s four sessions to get them; so time won’t be a factor. I can’t see this being a draw. As a result we’re a little bit tentative, I don’t want to go aggressive and leave ourselves under pressure too soon. Unfortunately that means we’re a bit toothless, so despite Gough being passed fit to bowl it’s soon 50 without loss for our hosts. Boo.
With the final session negotiated, Day 5 needs to be our day. Gough’s economy rate is incredible but that is of little use to us. Eventually Hollioake finds a breakthrough, with Liebenberg’s 21 his last contribution of the series. Good riddance. Tuffers removes Cronje for 11 and Kirsten hilariously runs out Ackerman to reduce them to 98/3. Bulbeck gets Kallis for just 4 which I feel is a vital breakthrough and 121/4 at lunch leaves things finely balanced.
Kirsten has been holding things together for South Africa so Adam Hollioake bowling him all ends up for the second time in this match is a big deal to me. Captain Cullinan and Pollock have a big job on and when Headley tempts Cullinan to edge behind, we’re just four wickets away. Pollock is swinging like a windmill though and connecting. Stewart is doing what he has done so many times and piling on late agony. A 50 partnership has me very worried and by the time they reach tea at 230/6, it’s basically over…
South Africa need 42 and we need 4 wickets. Pollock and Stewart are set but all we can do is go for broke. Headley steams in and at last, Pollock picks out a fielder. The safe hands of Graham Thorpe. DeVilliers streaks a 4 over the slips but then picks out Bulbeck at cover. 250/8. It’s tense. Stewart nudges his side closer to the finish line but is trapped in front by Tuffers. How is that squire? The finger goes up. One more!
Donald and Schulz are the last pair. They’ve caused us so many problems with the ball but they are about three big blows away from finishing this series. Schultz manages one of them from Headley, but here comes Tufnell…
Whip the bails off! Yessss!!!!
We’ve done it! We’ve… drawn the series.
Confirmation of our two massive defeats and two sneaky wins… and a draw. Yes.
There we have it then, the first signs of a recovery from being the worst team in the world. We’ve got a shed load of ODI’s to come so if there’s a demand to read about my failings in the white ball game, I’ll bring them to you soon. For now though, thanks for reading!