Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 19 News List

`Horrible' heroics save South Africa from shame

REUTERS , LEEDS, ENGLAND

Gary Kirsten saved South Africa with a "horrible" back-to-the-wall century against England on the opening day of the fourth test at Headingley.

The touring side recovered from 21 for four -- and from the loss of their captain Graeme Smith from the fourth ball of the match -- to close on 260 for seven.

Kirsten, whose unbeaten hundred was his second in consecutive test innings, put on 95 for the fifth wicket with Jacques Rudolph (55) as the seaming conditions eased before sharing an unbroken partnership of 118 for the eighth with Monde Zondeki.

Zondeki, who came in at No. 9 on his debut to face a hat-trick ball from Andrew Flintoff, finished with a maiden first-class half-century.

Kirsten, on 109, had batted for all but a couple of minutes of the entire day, spending most of his time in studious and trademark defense.

"Graeme Smith is a man of extremes, he either makes me wait all day or I get in in the first over," Kirsten said.

"We were obviously in a lot of trouble. A lot of people say that suits my game, to hang in, to play terribly and to look horrible. I was able to do that.

England, who won the third test to level the series at 1-1, ended the day at Headingley cursing two missed opportunities.

On 28, Kirsten had been caught off Flintoff at cover only for a no-ball to be called. On 42, he had edged Flintoff through Nasser Hussain's fingertips at gully.

Otherwise, Kirsten's 18th test hundred was an extraordinary exhibition of his mental powers.

James Kirtley, man of the match on his debut in the third test, struck first after South Africa opted to bat.

The left-handed Smith, who made double centuries in the first two tests and who was still averaging 132 on Thursday morning, chased a wide delivery and snicked behind for two.

Seamer Martin Bicknell, recalled for his third test after a 10-year absence from the side, then cut a ball away from Herschelle Gibbs to have him snaffled for a duck by Alec Stewart, making the score two for two.

It was soon 16 for three when Jacques Kallis, attempting to take the initiative, drove Bicknell straight to Michael Vaughan at wide mid-off after making six.

Bicknell's 54-ball opening spell of two for 12 contained just four scoring shots as he stuck to a disciplined off-stump line.

Kabir Ali, on his debut, then removed Neil McKenzie with his fifth delivery.

Rudolph and Kirsten, however, changed the mood with their cautious partnership.

Rudolph looked set to open up, unleashing several cuts and reaching his 50 with his eighth and ninth fours off consecutive balls, before he attempted to whip Ali away to leg only to be adjudged lbw.

Mark Boucher followed off the last ball before tea, beaten for pace by a Flintoff delivery and miscuing a pull to Vaughan at mid-off.

First ball after the break, Andrew Hall was caught at gully for his second golden duck in a row and, at 142 for seven, South Africa looked in trouble again.

By the close, it was the 35-year-old Kirsten, sticking to drives and pulls for his 16 boundaries, and the 21-year-old Zondeki, who wore the broadest smiles.

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