St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

The Matches St George's Park - Gloom lifts as Proteas level one-day series at 1-1
Gloom lifts as Proteas level one-day series at 1-1
Neale Emslie

In a summer of despair, South African cricket skipper Graeme Smith revelled in a bright shining moment at Sahara Oval St George’s last night as he struck his first limited overs century to lead his team to a thrilling three-wicket victory over England in the third Standard Bank one-day game.

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Marcus Trescothick, closest camera, and Geraint Jones walk onto the field at St George's Park for the start of play.

Set a testing target of 268 to win, Smith produced a terrific innings of 105 off 131 balls as the South Africans levelled the seven-match series 1-1 by reaching 270 for seven with five deliveries remaining.

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Marcus Trescothick watches as Andre Nel sends the ball flying down the pitch.
South Africa's Nicky Boje looks on as England's Kevin Pietersen sprawls in the dust.
It was, though, another tense finish and there were shades of the tied match in Bloemfontein on Wednesday as the home side slipped from a strong-looking position to find themselves requiring 39 runs to win off the final five overs and only four wickets in hand. With the top-order back in the hut, it was left to the experience of Mark Boucher and the determination of Ashwell Prince to get the innings back on track, which they did in a lightning stand of 43 in six overs for the seventh wicket.

Boucher was the dominant force, cracking 33 off 21 balls to swiftly reduce the asking rate and then Pollock and Prince wrapped it up to the jubilation of the packed ground as the lefthander, with two needed, smashed a four off the first ball of the final over.

The victory, though, was set up by Smith who surpassed his previous best one-day international total of 99 made against Sri Lanka in 2002-03. It must have been a particularly sweet moment after the struggles his team have faced over the last year, although he was made to endure moments of extreme stress before victory was finally achieved.

Gibbs played another pivotal role in the middle-order, hitting his second successive fifty to help Smith add 107 in 19 overs for the fourth wicket. Their dismissals did create unnecessary pressure, but their batting will have injected some confidence into the team for the rest of the series.

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Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher celebrate the fall of yet another England wicket.
Vikram Solanki (66) hit his fourth one-day international half-century to head the England run-makers, but the tourists didn’t make the most of winning the toss. Four of their top five batsmen were dismissed in the thirties, inhibiting their chances of getting closer to 300. Although they built decent partnerships – the first four were 49, 50, 57 and 51 – the regular loss of wickets allowed SA to limit the damage late in the innings.

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Andrew Strauss leaves the field.
Solanki’s 66 came off 87 balls with just four fours, testimony to the accuracy and discipline of most of the South African bowlers. On the slowish nature of the pitch, anything short was severely punished, but once the SA attack found the right length, England battled to up the tempo as the innings progressed.

In fact, the home side fought back strongly in the final 10 overs to concede only 58 runs in that period while picking up four wickets. The bowlers were well backed up by the fielders and it helped that they sent down only three no-balls and one wide in the 50 overs.

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The best was Andre Nel, who got the key wicket of Marcus Trescothick in his opening spell, followed later by a telling three-over stint when he removed Solanki and the dangerous Kevin Pietersen.

Fans at the packed ground, as at other venues, booed the SA-born Pietersen, who showed his aggravation at the treatment he has received by gesturing to the main stadium in triumph when he took a fine catch to dismiss SA batting ace Jacques Kallis.

While Nel led the bowling on this occasion, he got strong support from Makhaya Ntini (358), Shaun Pollock (144) and spinner Nicky Boje (142).

Weekend Post
February 5, 2005.

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