South Africa v England, 4th Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day January 14, 2005

Pollock rues lost initiative

South Africa's brains trust wonders where it's all gone wrong© Getty Images

Shaun Pollock admitted that South Africa had let a golden opportunity slip on the second day at Johannesburg, after an unbeaten 82 from Michael Vaughan, with sterling assistance from the tail, had rescued England from a disastrous start to the day. Following on from the dismissals of Andrew Strauss and Graham Thorpe last night, England lost three more big wickets under overcast skies this morning, as they slipped from 262 for 2 to 278 for 7.

"We let ourselves down," said Pollock. "Vaughan played well and [Steve] Harmison chanced his arm, but that's how you'd expect them to play on that wicket. We did our best not to let our levels drop, but in the afternoon they were in a more positive frame of mind. They hit some boundaries, not all of them good shots, but it was effective, and it got them rolling right direction.

"The wicket isn't that bad," he added, "but this morning the movement was put out of proportion by the overhead conditions and the amount of gloom around. By the end of the day, it was leaning more towards the type of wicket we had on day one. Sure, it was frustrating - no matter what game you are playing, you want to run through the tail - but at least by sticking around it shows the wicket is good."

The day finished in controversial circumstances, when the umpires took the players off for bad light, even though the conditions were possibly as clear as they had been all day. It brought a scathing response from Vaughan, who called for the umpires to show more consistency, although Pollock insisted that it had become difficult to sight the ball.

"It was difficult," he said. "Historically, the Wanderers is not a great ground for viewing, and when Vaughan was playing those hook shots at the end there, I was hoping I'd pick it up if one came towards me. And Jacques [Kallis] at slip was saying that if the batsman got a good nick on it, he might wear it!"

The stop-start nature of the day enabled Pollock to bowl virtually unchanged throughout, and he admitted he was feeling it by the end. "The other guys hadn't bowled any balls all day, but sometimes, when you're near the end of a spell, these rain breaks suit you. It's when they come after one or two overs that it's difficult, because you're just getting into your rhythm."

During the day, it was announced that Kevin Pietersen, the South African-born batsman who chose to qualify for England, would be coming out to reinforce England's one-day squad. The news drew a chilly response from Pollock, who used to play alongside him at Natal.

"In those days he was more of an offspinner who could bat a bit. He used to come in at No. 9 or 10 so he must have changed his game a bit. I also played against him once or twice at Warwickshire." Pietersen criticised the selectors for leaving him out of the original squad, but as Pollock added, "I'm sure he's chuffed now."

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo.