Combustion of natural gas in a spark-ignition engine has been studied experimentally in a single-cylinder research engine, as well as analytically with the aid of a thick-flame burning simulation. Cylinder pressure measurements, averaged over 100 cycles, have been used in determining average combustion progress an cyclic variations in early burning time. The dependence of early (0-10%) and main (10-90%) combustion durations on load, speed, equivalence ratio, and chamber geometry (disc vs. bathtub) have been determined. A combustion simulation based on laminar burning at the Taylor microscale, with rapid flame propagation in regions of concentrated vorticity, has been used to estimate burning zone thickness, flame propagation rate, and the amplitude of cyclic variations in the early combustion period. The simulation provides a good representation of combustion over a wide range of operating conditions.