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England v South Africa 4th Test

Fourth Test, The Oval, day five: England 316 & 198-4 beat South Africa 194 & 318 by six wickets

By Jamie Lillywhite

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook
Strauss and Cook shared their second century stand of the series

England sealed a six-wicket victory over South Africa in the final Test at The Oval to hand Kevin Pietersen a winning start as Test captain.

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook put on 123 as England looked set to cruise to the 197 needed for the consolation win.

Cook departed for a fluent 67, but Ian Bell made only four and three balls later Strauss (58) fell at leg gully.

Pietersen departed with 15 needed and Andrew Flintoff hit the winning runs with a six to make the series 2-1.

It looked as though the new captain would not be needed when Cook and Strauss overcame their slow start to take England within 74 of victory.

Despite mischievous comments from South Africa skipper Graeme Smith in the slip cordon that the pitch may have started to deteriorate, there were really no gremlins at all, but when the scoring rate dipped below one per over England's target seemed rather distant.

There were no quick singles as prescribed in the run-chase coaching manuals, but the openers had things in hand.

Strauss, however, looked sketchy outside his off-stump early on again, but gradually grew in confidence after getting off the mark with a clip off his legs to the boundary.

Morne Morkel, who, like Forrest Gump, was revealed to be suffering from an injury to the buttock, was fast and hostile but mostly erratic.

One delivery pitched in the footmarks well wide of off-stump and had to be collected by Smith at first slip.

But Strauss should have been dismissed for only four after falling to a trap set by Smith.

Ashwell Prince had been positioned at leg gully the ball before, but Strauss still played a clip off his legs, which was easily snaffled by the fielder, but Morkel scuppered the best laid plans by over-stepping.

Aided by extras and overthrows the scoreboard began to rocket and, after only 11 came in the first 11 overs of the innings,the century stand was recorded 15 overs later.

Cook's shot selection was spot on, he was positive in defence and his timing when rocking back to pull or cut was exemplary, but the South Africans gave him plenty of opportunities to score.

Whether the tourists were content with their overall series victory, it was a surprise to see Smith, not a man noted for his genial disposition on the field, laughing merrily while England's openers flourished.

When the ball was pitched up it brought rewards, and Cook was guilty of driving without due care and attention, the sixth time he has passed fifty but failed to reach three figures this year.

The customary England wobble then ensued.

Bell, who might have been lbw moving across his stumps first ball had there been an appeal, departed in similar fashion when instead of hitting the pad, the ball uprooted the leg-stump.

Strauss, who had his problems against Paul Harris when the slow left-armer persisted from over the wicket into the rough, continued to try the leg glance and was caught off bat and pad by Smith, who eventually positioned himself behind square on the leg-side.

Jonathan Agnew

Paul Collingwood, free from the pressures of the one-day captaincy, was a reassuring presence and showed further evidence of his return to form with a confident unbeaten 25.

Collingwood displayed his trademark clean-hitting leg-side shots and it is unfortunate he will still be suspended for the start of the one-day series just when he has regained his touch.

The stage was set for Pietersen to hit the winning runs, perhaps with a switch hit, but after one memorable whip through mid-wicket for four, he was out rather tamely, caught at short-leg off bat and pad.

Instead it was Flintoff who applied the coup de grace with a solid thump straight back down the ground over the ropes off Harris, to give England heart going into the one-day matches that begin with a Twenty20 international on 20 August.

see also
England set for tricky run chase
10 Aug 08 |  England
Pietersen ton puts England ahead
08 Aug 08 |  England
New era begins well for England
07 Aug 08 |  England
South Africa in England in 2008
02 Aug 08 |  Cricket

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