Flintoff slices through South African middle order

Associated Press

Centurion, January 22:

England’s Andrew Flintoff took two wickets in one over after tea to send South Africa tumbling to 247 for nine when lightning and bad light brought an early end to play on Saturday in the fifth Test. Flintoff enticed Graeme Smith into a drive outside the off stump to offer a simple catch to Marcus Trescothick at first slip and depart for 25. Two balls later, it was another rash flashing drive from Shaun Pollock at a wide delivery which took the inside edge and smashed his middle stump.

South Africa, cruising earlier at 187 before losing its fourth wicket, then stumbled as Simon Jones snatched three more wickets, dismissing Mark Boucher (25), Nicky Boje (9) and Makhaya Ntini (6). Undefeated at the close were Andrew Hall on 11 and Andre Nel on one. After a poor morning session, England clawed back some ground before tea as AB de Villiers fell eight runs short of his maiden Test century and South Africa reached 196 for four at the break. De Villiers made 92 off 165 ball in 244 minutes, but looked increasingly nervous as he reached 90. The batsman had hit 15 fours in his innings and attempted to race through the 90s by taking on Ashley Giles instead of easing his way to three figures by taking the singles that were on offer. He first rushed down the wicket in an attempt to loft Giles over mid-on and then survived a confident lbw appeal on the next ball as he got a faint bottom edge to an ill-advised sweep.

De Villiers finally fell to a missed sweep, trapped leg before wicket directly in front by Giles. Flintoff snared the prized wicket of Jacques Kallis, uprooting his off stump with a yorker to send him on his way for just eight.

De Villiers had taken the home side to a strong 108 for one at lunch after he was surprisingly moved up the batting order at the expense of Smith. He reached his half-century off just 81 balls.