Monday 11 August 2008 

England Take Consolation Win By Six Wickets

Kevin Pietersen's first Test match in charge of England ended in fairytale fashion as Andrew Flintoff smashed a six to win the fourth and final match against South Africa by six wickets.

Chasing 197 to win, the home side closed on 198 for four after half-centuries from Alastair Cook (67) and Andrew Strauss (58) laid the foundations with a 123-run stand although South Africa claimed the series with a 2-1 scoreline.

South African captain Graeme Smith admitted his side had not been at their best in this dead rubber. "We were slightly off the boil", he conceded. "But you have to give credit to England and their performance."

Openers Cook and Strauss batted through the morning session to take the heat out of the run chase and despite losing three wickets for 26 runs after lunch, England were never in any serious danger.

The pair batted cautiously at first before accelerating during the second hour of play after Strauss was caught by Ashwell Prince at leg slip off of a Morne Morkel no ball.

Both men got off the mark with leg-side boundaries and Cook continued to pepper the boundary boards as South Africa bowled too short, feeding his strength on the back foot and another cut shot from a short ball saw him reach a 14th Test half-century.

Both negated the threat of spinner Paul Harris by using their feet although some uneven bounce out of the rough patches kept things interesting for the left-armer.

Strauss moved to his half-century after lunch before England's wobble. Cook edged Ntini to Smith at slip, Ian Bell completed an unhappy return to number three in the order when Ntini bowled him round his legs and Strauss was caught at leg slip by Smith off of Paul Harris.

Kevin Pietersen (13) and Paul Collingwood (25 not out) added 35 runs in quick time to settle any nerves and when Pietersen was caught by Neil McKenzie off of Harris, it just set the stage for Flintoff (11 not out) to win the game with one huge blow over long-on.

England seized the advantage by bowling South Africa out for 194 before replying with 316, Pietersen hitting 100 before South Africa were bowled out for 318 in their second innings.

South Africa won by ten wickets at Headingley, and by five wickets at Edgbaston after the first Test at Lord's was drawn.

Pietersen paid tribute to his opponents, saying, "They played fantastic cricket, played some great innings and their bowlers have done a good job."

John Pennington
© Cricket World 2008