London: Marcus Trescothick added an unbeaten half-century to his first-innings double ton as England won the final Test by nine wickets at The Oval on Monday to level the series and deny South Africa a chance to script history.
The left-hander cracked a quick-fire 69 as England raced to the target of 110 after lunch on the final day. Trescothick hammered 12 fours in his 66-ball exhibition. Captain Michael Vaughan was the one man out, for 13.
Victory came in boundaries as the England opener and Mark Butcher put on 63 in 60 balls.
Trescothick, who made a career-best 219 in the first innings, stole the headlines from bowlers Martin Bicknell and Steve Harmison. Both took four wickets to skittle the Proteas for 229 in their second innings.
The tourists, seeking their first series win in England since 1965, had resumed on 185 for six, just 60 ahead and praying for another extraordinary rearguard action. But Bicknell took two wickets in two balls in his second over to all but kill off South African dreams.
Harmison, finding a perfect length to go with his bounce, capped his best performance by removing Shaun Pollock for 43 and Makhaya Ntini.Harmison took four for 33 off 19.2 overs to Bicknell’s four for 84.
No England side has won a home Test before after conceding so many runs — 484 — in the first innings.
But Trescothick’s feat, a century from Graham Thorpe on comeback and a 95 from Andrew Flintoff helped England to 604 for nine declared in their first innings, giving them their highest total against South Africa on home soil as well as a 120-run lead.
Bicknell, relying on accuracy while shaping the ball away from the right-handers, and Harmison, the quickest bowler in the game, did the rest.
Pollock, normally so expert at marshalling the tail, resorted to slogging two edges over the slips before inexplicably guiding a short Harmison delivery straight to gully, Thorpe taking the training-ground catch.
When Ntini was caught one-handed off Harmison by Smith, diving back at short leg, England marched off, Alec Stewart leading the way in his last Test, knowing they were set to complete a famous win. (Reuters)