England thwart South Africa's victory march
by Jinu Sabastian

Ground:Centurion Park, Centurion
Scorecard:South Africa v England
Player:PD Collingwood, F de Wet, KP Pietersen, IJL Trott
Event:England in South Africa 2009/10

DateLine: 20th December 2009


The images of the draw at Cardiff during the first Test of Ashes 2009 flooded one's mind as England hung on gamely to secure a nail-biting draw in the first Test of the four-match series. Test cricket continued to get the best advertisement for it's cause for survival as both the sides played it's heart out to secure a win. The match was thought to be dead until Smith took the new ball and it was the new ball that caused mayhem in the English ranks. The 12.5 overs that came after the new ball was taken produced 23 runs and five crucial English wickets. Once again the much abused Collingwood came to the rescue of the English side as he battled hard to ensure that England finished the Test match without going one-down in the series.


England got of to a poor start in the final day when they lost the overnight watchman Anderson (10) in the 13th ball of the day. Cook and Trott held fort for 10.1 overs in which the duo managed to add just eleven runs. It was very much evident from the pair's approach that survival was their aim and not runs. The pitch did not misbehave as initially thought and both the batsmen were largely untroubled in the middle. Cook survived for 55 balls for his 12 but Harris finally got one to turn a bit which took the glove of the left-hander before Graeme Smith at leg slip took the catch. It was when Pietersen entered the scene that the score began move as the belligerent right-hander looked for every available scoring opportunity.


With Pietersen scoring runs it began to rub on Trott who took began to play some shots rather than be stuck at one end. Trott flicked Harris through midwicket to bring up the half-century stand. After lunch Pietersen survived a scare in the second ball of the 38th over when the right-hander was trapped leg before plumb by a de Wet delivery but cruelly for the bowler he had over-stepped. That was the leeway that the right-hander needed and he made sure that he did not let the opportunity pass. The former skipper looked quite determined in the middle and more importantly he oozed confidence. Pietersen was soon acknowledging the crowd who appreciated his fifty which came of 76 balls as the match was soon slipping from South Africa's grasp. With Pietersen opening up Harris opted for over the wicket defensive line with the aim of just playing on the belligerent right-hander's ego. But Pietersen who seemed to have matured immensely was sensible enough not to do anything stupid.


Trott soon brought up his fifty in 135 balls and the South African side were getting frustrated with the events happening around them. Finally after tea to the relief for South Africans they got a breakthrough but it was due to Pietersen's misjudgment. Pietersen (81) committed a harakiri and that gave the visitors a panic attack. Pietersen tapped a ball from de Wet to covers and set of blindly to the non-striker's end but Trott was unresponsive and Pietersen just kept running on to pavilion. The pair added 145 runs in 43.3 overs and the South African side heaved a sigh of relief.


A steely looking Collingwood then joined Trott and the two then set out to take the English side to safety. With his bowlers unable to force a breakthrough with the older ball Smith took the new ball when it was available and soon it brought cheers to the South African camp. de Wet got one to take of viciously from a good length which took the shoulder of Trott's bat and was sailing past the slips when de Villiers in a moment of brilliance leaped to his left and took a one-handed stunner to give the kind of inspiration the the hosts were desperately seeking. Bell walked out into the middle with question marks raised over his place and he provided more ammunition to his detractors as he lamely hung his bat out to an out swinger from de Wet and edged to Boucher who took a diving catch in front of the first slip. Collingwood once again put his hand up for his team but Prior departed for a duck when a fast short-pitched delivery from de Wet fizzed past Prior taking the shoulder of his bat on its way to Boucher who made no mistake as England slipped to 208 for 7 with 8.1 overs remaining.


South Africa continued to chip away at England's batting line-up as Harris got one to pitch in the rough and get the outside edge of Broad's uncertain blade which was snapped up by Boucher behind the stumps. It was very much evident that Broad had edged it and it was desperate review hoping against hope that the decision would be overturned but it was not. Swann (2) battled hard to support Collingwood but an off-cutter from Morkel beat his defenses and struck him plumb before the stumps. Collingwood was adamant that the decision should be referred but the look on Swann's face betrayed that he felt that he was in trouble. The third umpire did not take long to support the on-field umpire's decision and soon England lost their ninth wicket as South Africa was all over them.


With nineteen balls remaining tailender Onions strode out into the middle and he looked visibly nervous. Collingwood was unable to get the last ball single to shield Onions for two over on a row as once he timed a ball too well to collect a boundary of the last ball while in the next over the close in-fielders refused to give the Durham scrapper the needed single. Ntini was entrusted to bowl the last over and it was not without drama. The first ball was short outside off stump which Onions calmly tapped to on-side while on the second ball Onions agonizingly hung his bat out lamely to a ball that whistled past the outside edge. Ntini again opted for a short ball but Onions played it out safely but the next ball kept very low and was straight but Onions showed enough competence to keep that one out of harm's way. Ntini bowled the next two balls short but Onions once again was upto the task as he played it out safely to secure a draw for his team and celebrated it by pumping his clenched fists to a relieved dressing room.


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