England eye win at Centurion

Associated Press

Centurion, January 24:

Andrew Flintoff cracked 77 runs and took two quick wickets as England led South Africa by 53 runs at stumps on the fourth day of the fifth cricket Test on Monday.

At the close of play, South Africa was 59 for two in its second innings and, with 98 overs scheduled for the final day at Centurion Park, England is in a good position to force a victory.

England leads the series 2-1, having won the first test by seven wickets and the fourth by 77 runs. South Africa won the third test by 196 runs, while the second test was drawn.

The first day of play was lost through rain on Friday, making a win for South Africa unlikely.

Flintoff, playing his last Test before foot surgery to repair a bone spur, attacked the South African bowling in a brief flurry after lunch to see England to the safety of 359 — a first-innings lead of 112 after the home side’s 247.

Flintoff was restrained as he went to his 50 off 123 balls in 170 minutes. But by the time he was dismissed edging Andrew Hall to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, he had faced only 21 more balls and hit 12 fours and a six.

Graham Thorpe was the other wicket to fall in the second session, bowled by a good yorker from Andre Nel for a fighting 86 off 269 balls in 339 minutes. Nel was the best of the South African bowlers, finishing with six for 81 in his first Test after a long absence through injury. He polished off the England tail, which has been something South Africa’s bowlers have struggled to do all series. He snapped up the last four wickets as England added only 24 runs.

Flintoff was given the new ball when South Africa came out to bat, as Steve Harmison’s calf injury sustained in the fourth Test was playing up again.

The big allrounder responded with a hostile seven-over spell. He had Herschelle Gibbs caught behind for four and bowled Hall for nine. Undefeated at the close were AB de Villiers on 20, and an aggressive Jacques Kallis, who reached 19 off just 19 balls, including a big six off Ashley Giles.