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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 08:45 GMT
SA v England talking points
Michael Vaughan
Vaughan impressed with his captaincy but struggled with the bat
England's Test series in South Africa will be remembered as much for debates that raged behind the boundary rope as for the action on the field.

Michael Vaughan's team came out on top 2-1 despite a number of problems along the way.

Tour schedules, injuries to key players, form issues and the mercurial South African weather were all obstacles which had to be overcome.

BBC Sport looks at the factors behind an entertaining, fluctuating series.

PLAYING SCHEDULES

Several members of the Test squad had already been involved in competitive action in the controversial Zimbabwe series, but some players came to South Africa having not been in action for three months.

The decision to play only one first-class warm-up game raised some eyebrows, and after South Africa A inflicted a seven-wicket defeat on England in that match, the criticism intensified.

A week later, England won the first Test to answer the doubters.

But England were clearly weary after being afforded just five days off in between the first three Tests, and lost that third match in Cape Town.

The luxury of a week before the fourth Test inspired the tourists to victory, but just three days later they were competing in the final match, with the one-day series to follow five days afterwards.

SOUTH AFRICAN WEATHER HEADACHES

The first problem with the elements came in the Boxing Day Test, the second match of the series.

England were closing in on their ninth successive victory with eight South African wickets in the bag, when the umpires decided to offer the batsmen the chance of an escape, despite the floodlights at Durban.

Light was against England again on day two in Johannesburg, delayed by two hours to rain, as a dominant Vaughan's pursuit of a century was halted when the umpires agreed with Graeme Smith that it was too dark.

That failed to stop them sealing a fine victory, although Vaughan was hit with a 5,000 fine for calling the officials' decision as "inconsistent".

The weather gave England an extra day's rest by washing out the first day of the final Test, then electrical storms brought respite to the batsmen on day three.

LONG-TERM INJURY CONCERNS

England's reliance on all-rounder Andrew Flintoff was clear once again, when they gave him a series of injections in preference to an operation to ensure his participation in the series.

Andrew Flintoff

The burly Lancastrian has been troubled by a bone spur problem on his left ankle since last summer, the result of hundreds of overs with the ball.

He needs surgery to avoid long-term damage, but England know the balance of their side would collapse without him and hope the operation will allow their key man to return in time for the Ashes in the summer.

Steve Harmison's calf injury was patched up to allow him to play in the final Test even though there were fears the injury could worsen without rest.

SOUTH AFRICA SELECTION

The unpleasant subject of racially-motivated selection returned as the home side tinkered endlessly with their line-up.

Mark Boucher was the unanimous choice of coach and captain, a wicket-keeper/batsman to rank amongst the best in the world game.

But amid rumours of quota-influenced selection, youngster Thami Tsolekile was preferred for the first Test.

He lasted only one match as AB de Villiers took over the gloves, before Boucher came back for the final two matches.

Hashim Amla, their first Asian player, looked out of his depth but played in two matches as 18 players were used in the series.

NUMBER ONES DROP DOWN CHARTS

England began the series boasting the world's number one bowler and a former number one batsman, but neither made a major impact.

Steve Harmison memorably yorked Jacques Kallis for a duck on the first day but had few other highlights, with best figures of 3-91, as he took nine wickets in the series at a cost of 73 runs each.

Skipper Michael Vaughan again failed to find his best batting form as doubts continued about the effects of captaincy on his batting.

The skipper played some stylish shots in an unbeaten 82 in Johannesburg, adding another fifty in the second innings.

But the other four matches yielded only 110 runs from eight innings and a poor stroke saw him dismissed for a duck in the first innings of the final Test.

Vaughan had the satisfaction, however, of being at the crease as England secured the draw at Centurion to clinch a 2-1 series win.




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