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The Bulletin by Jenny Thompson
December 28, 2004
CloseEngland 139 and 281 for 1 (Trescothick 132, Strauss 132*, Butcher 1*) lead South Africa 332 by 88 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss both strolled to centuries as England gained an 88-run lead in a remarkable turnaround on the third day at Durban. England had started the day staring defeat in the face, but a majestic first-wicket stand of 273 gave them a real chance of chasing victory. Trescothick eventually fell to Shaun Pollock in the final session for 132, but England bossed the day and they have nine wickets remaining, with the obdurate Strauss, unbeaten on 132, set to resume tomorrow.
Strauss and Trescothick batted cleverly throughout the day: they respected the metronomic Pollock, but took on the other bowlers, exploiting some defensive field placings along the way. Strauss continued in impressive vein, and his imperious timing and measured temperament were much in evidence throughout. It was also an important innings for Trescothick, whose record on tour (an average of 34) falls way below his home form, where he averages over 53. But here at Durban he grew in confidence throughout, creaming some silky boundaries and taking the attack to the left-arm spinner Nicky Boje. And it was Trescothick who brought up his century first, with Strauss following hot on his heels.
But what a difference a day makes. After two days where survival for all batsmen - except Jacques Kallis - was extremely hard, the pitch turned docile overnight and offered almost nothing for the bowlers all day. Boje found some turn, as did Graeme Smith, but they were both punished as Strauss and Trescothick made hay.
All of the bowlers worked hard, and aggressively, but largely without reward as Strauss prospered with 13 fours in his fourth hundred in nine Tests, and his second of the series. There were few alarms early on, as Strauss immediately went on the offensive, while Trescothick took his time to cast off the shackles. Dale Steyn bustled in with fire in his belly but was wayward and continued to be expensive, as he was taken for more than five runs an over.
Smith brought himself on in the middle session and his part-time offspin found Strauss' edge immediately, but the ball flew past first slip and on to the boundary. Pollock came back into the attack, and found a menacing line, as Strauss played and missed four short of his century. Makhaya Ntini found Trescothick's edge on 98 - as Pollock had done earlier - but the ball sailed through the vacant second-slip area. Both batsmen survived the nervous nineties and moved on to their centuries in fine style.
Then, at last, came the breakthrough. Pollock seized the new ball after tea, Trescothick probed at a good-length delivery and edged through to AB de Villiers (273 for 1). Trescothick's fall kick-started a catalogue of near-misses, and England were lucky to not lose another wicket by the time bad light brought play to an close 45 minutes early. Strauss escaped after edging Ntini to third slip where Martin van Jaarsveld dived forward and clutched at a low chance. And the very next ball Strauss's false pull shot nearly found glove as the ball sailed through to the keeper. Then Mark Butcher was made to sweat on an lbw shout from Pollock, but he survived and England's lead grew bigger.
If the second day belonged to Kallis, then this one was certainly Trescothick and Strauss's. Their partnership of 273 was England's fifth highest opening stand. And theirs was the first opening stand of 200 for England since 1991, when Graham Gooch and Michael Atherton shared 203 runs against Australia. They also broke the record for a first-wicket partnership at Kingsmead.
But amid the clattering of records was a real sense of purpose, as they chipped away at the deficit, and South Africa's confidence. It has been a fascinating contest and could still go either way in the last two days. England's lead is slender and if South Africa can take early wickets tomorrow then they will very much be in the ascendancy. On today's evidence, it's a big if.
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