South Africa on the brink of levelling series
by Jinu Sabastian
DateLine: 7th January 2010
South Africa continued to exert control over the visiting English side as they successfully snuffed out three wickets towards the close of play. Smith who was batting beautifully and who was on the verge of a third double hundred against England was the main architect as he grinded the visitors to dust. He was well supported by Kallis while de Villiers, Duminy and Boucher threw their bat around to extend the lead. The English bowlers on the other hand wore a look of resignation as the visitors simply laid back waiting for the inevitable declaration. Set a mammoth target of 466, Strauss and Cook led the way with a strong reply but in the end the hosts were just too good for the visitors.
South Africa resumed on their overnight total of 312 for 2, a lead of 330, with their captain Smith on 162 not out. He eventually holed out for a magnificent 183, but thanks to a solid 46 from Jacques Kallis and cameos from JP Duminy and Mark Boucher, South Africa were able to declare 40 minutes after lunch on 447 for 7.
England in reply got off to a solid start as survival was the aim for the openers. Strauss and Cook took England to tea with the score 38 for 0, as they negotiated a hostile onslaught from Steyn and Morne Morkel who gave them a horrid working over. Strauss, on 1, edged Steyn inches short of Smith at first slip before being pinned on the shoulder by a rapid bouncer that nearly knocked him into his stumps, but he eased the pressure both on himself by driving Steyn through the covers for three fours in a row. Cook meanwhile was watchful as he left diligently outside off, while picking off his runs with flicks, sweeps and aggressive pulls through the leg-side. Cook (55, 116, 7x4) finally fell when he top edged a pull which was taken by a gleeful Boucher. Next to follow was the English skipper Strauss (45, 107 balls, 7x4) when he attempted to flick an off-stump delivery to leg, but Hashim Amla under the helmet intercepted a bobbling inside-edge, and hand South Africa a massive boost in the final phase of the day's play.
Pietersen has rarely looked his confident self during the tour as he struggled for fluency and timing. De Wet believed he had bagged him second-ball, when umpire Harper upheld an lbw appeal that was clearly shown on review to have taken an inside-edge, but Pietersen could not make his let-off count. He had added just five more runs in 20 balls before Steyn trapped him plumb with a fuller and straighter one. Anderson, on a king pair, came out and dug out a series of yorkers at the death while Trott looked quite calm in the middle as England will be hoping to escape this Test with a draw.