England fight back after South Africa post 418
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Centurion Park, Centurion
Scorecard:South Africa v England
Player:GP Swann, M Ntini, MV Boucher
Event:England in South Africa 2009/10

DateLine: 17th December 2009


England did well to put up a strong showing after they let South Africa get out of jail to post a challenging total of 418. The pitch had eased out considerably but England will be worried as the pitch was showing variable bounce. Unlike South Africa who rarely went past the three run mark during their innings England at one stage went at more than five runs per over.


The English bowlers for once opted for a fuller length earlier in the day and Anderson was immediately rewarded when Kallis adding just eight runs to his overnight score of 112 was caught low at slip by Collingwood. But after the dismissal of Kallis the bowlers once again reverted back to the shorter length giving Boucher and Duminy enough width to score runs and also leave alone the balls which need not be attacked. After one hour of exercise in futility by the English seamers Strauss had to turn to his off spinner Swann and the bowler for the third time in the match struck in his first over of a new spell. Duminy (56) who had scored a sedate half-century prodded at one turning away from him and edged to Collingwood at lone slip, a dismissal that mirrored the dismissal of Prince yesterday. The tall left-handed Morne Morkel was the new man in and it was evident from his stay that his sole aim was to occupy the crease. Boucher meanwhile survived a drop when an out of control hook from him was very nearly gobbled up by Onions at fine leg only for the fielder to misjudge the flight of the ball and drop it much to the chagrin of Broad.


Swann could have had Morkel just before lunch when he trapped the left-hander leg before to which the on-field umpire agreed. But the batsman decided to challenge the decision and the third umpire ruled it in the favour of the batsman. Morkel played the ideal foil to Boucher before he fished at a wide ball from Onions and was caught by Prior for a patient 13. It seemed right time for Boucher to step up the ante but the keeper-batsman trusted Harris' batting capability as the tailender showed commendable batting capability. The English team began to show frustrations as the South African batsmen showed stomach for fight. Finally Boucher's fighting innings was brought to an end when Swann with a regulation off break was able to get the batsman give an easy catch to Cook at short leg. Friedel de Wet, the debutant, then proceeded to frustrate the English side with an innings that was a mixture of slogging and blocking.


Harris and de Wet continued to pile agony on the English team as they took them past the tea and at that point it seemed that England will be taking the third new ball which was due in 10 overs. But after tea Harris (38) could not continue for long as he played on from a delivery from Onions and then Swann claimed his fifth wicket of the innings when de Wet was trapped leg before. South Africa was finally dismissed for 418 in their first innings.


Ntini bowling the first over of the English innings in his hundredth Test match very nearly celebrated it when Cook in the fourth ball of the innings pushed uncertainly at a delivery only for de Villiers, of all the fielders, to drop it. de Wet who was bowling his first over in international cricket started of with a shocker as he bowled a wide one down the legs. But soon the debutant adjusted his line of attack as he began to trouble Cook with deliveries that straightened after pitching. Cook (15) was squared up repeatedly by Ntini and de Wet and finally the latter put him out of his misery with an excellent out-swinger which the left-hander feathered through to Boucher as England lost their first wicket.


Jonathan Trott joined his skipper in the middle and the two set about calming the English nerves with assured stroke-play. Trott did not waste much time at the crease as he caressed a classy cover-drive to signal his intentions. With a technically correct Trott at the other end Strauss began to open up. Trott survived a close call on 12 when the left-arm spinner Harris was convinced that he had trapped the batsman leg before. But the on-field umpire negated the appeal and the South African team went for the review after much consultation. It did not take much time for the third umpire to decide that Trott was safe and the South African side lost one of their review. The pair brought up their fifty run partnership for the second wicket in 13.2 overs which was brought up by a thumping pull by Strauss of a lively de Wet. Strauss (44) and Trott made sure that England did not suffer any more casualty as England closed the day on 88 for the loss of one wicket in 23 overs.


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