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Bradman Style Does It For England  


There is only one word that aptly describes the Fifth Test between England and South Africa at The Oval - incredible. That one adjective perfectly described not only England's victory to square the series 2-2, but also the Bradmanesque performance of Marcus
Trescothick and the resolve of Graham Thorpe on his return to the Test arena.

And it could also be used alongside the name of Andrew Flintoff, who is bringing a new dimension to the game, and the bowling of Martin Bicknell and Steve Harmison, who may well have booked themselves winter employment through their second innings performances.

To single out individuals is not to detract from the whole because this was an all-round team performance with captain Michael Vaughan showing just how quickly he is settling into a job that was thrust upon him. I still have to pinch myself to ensure I haven't been dreaming because when I left The Oval with three overs remaining on Thursday evening South Africa were 360-3 and I thought they would get between 700 and 800.
James Anderson took a wicket with the last ball of the day and that night the England captain assured me his side would be batting soon after lunch on the second day.   He was as good as his word and his opening partner treated us to an innings of awesome power and authority.   And Marcus was not satisfied with a double ton, emerging for the second innings to score an unbeaten half century - the only batsman to have got a double and a half at The Oval after Sir Don Bradman. Full marks to Marcus because he had been under some pressure during the summer and his knocks were the perfect answer to the critics. You can't keep a good man down and so Graham Thorpe's century on his return was almost predictable, but it did take an awful lot of courage and strength.

And that brings me to the one and only Freddie Flintoff.   It takes a very special talent to be able to change the whole complexion of the match in 90 minutes, but that's what he did on Sunday and his reward for a magnificent knock was to be named England's Man of the Series.  It was a performance that comes along ever so infrequently and not only did it change the nature of the game, but also the mentality of the opposition. They were on the back foot now and Bicknell and Harmison made them pay for it on a glorious batting wicket.   It's going to be very difficult for the selectors to overlook the young northerner and the veteran southerner when they decide who to take to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka this winter.

The South Africans have been magnificent tourists and ambassadors, but I suspect it will be Michael Vaughan, despite occupying the crease less than he would have anticipated, rather than Graeme Smith, despite his two double hundreds, who looks back on the series with greater joy.
Now Michael can look forward to his next big match - to Nichola in
Sheffield later this month.


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