The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kirsten ton takes SA to safety

Leeds: Gary Kirsten saved South Africa with a trademark 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 ó and from the loss of their captain Graeme Smith from the fourth ball of the match ó to close at 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) before sharing an unbroken partnership of 118 for the eighth with Monde Zondeki.

Zondeki, who came in at number nine on his debut to face a hattrick 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.

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 Hussainís fingertips at gully. Otherwise, Kirstenís 18th Test hundred was an extraordinary exhibition of his mental powers.

When Englandís all-seam attack was dominating the morning and afternoon played out in overcast conditions, he planted deep roots and refused to be shifted. In the afternoon session, the left-hander scored just 15 runs in almost 19 overs while concentrating on survival.

The first hour had been all Englandís, their accurate bowling performance, in seaming conditions but on a true surface, a revelation. 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.

Bicknellís 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, the ball seaming away and taking the edge to the keeper to make it 21 for four after an hour. Rudolph and Kirsten, however, changed the mood with their partnership. (Reuters)

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