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August 2, 2012
South Africa 262 for 5 (Petersen 124*, Rudolph 1*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England did not suffer the public humiliation, to adopt the admission of Graeme Swann, which they had endured at The Oval, but until the advent of the second new ball their gilded reputation was put under the fiercest scrutiny on the opening day of the Headingley Test as Alviro Petersen joined the procession of South Africa batsmen bent upon grinding them into the mud.
Petersen became the fourth South Africa batsman to take a century of England's attack with the second Test only a day old, following the example of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in the opening rubber. It was an intensely measured affair, strong through the leg side, and when he reached both his fifty and then his hundred by pulling first Tim Bresnan and then Stuart Broad it was a perfect summation.
Petersen was regarded as the weak link in South Africa's top six, certainly in England, perhaps in his own country, too, and he had been the only South Africa batsman to fail at The Oval. His defiance, most of all, emphasised that South Africa's discipline runs deep.
England managed to stifle him as the day progressed - his first 50 came in 78 balls, the next one in 137 - but it was meagre consolation on a day when they had pinned their faith in Headingley's capricious reputation by discarding Swann's offspin, fielding a quartet of fast bowlers and putting South Africa in to bat.
There was some movement, but for most of the day it seemed to trouble Matt Prior, England's wicketkeeper, more than anyone as South Africa's batsmen pressed on in their customary remorseless fashion. They have met England's defensive tactics by playing percentages and refusing to be rushed. The mindset of Test cricket is still ingrained within them.
The second new ball, taken at 238 for 3, at the unholy hour of 7pm, brought England hope. The crowd had thinned noticeably, but those who remained saw England remove both AB de Villiers, failing to leave a delivery from Broad, and the nightwatchman, Dale Steyn, cleaned up by Steven Finn. De Villiers had also been missed by James Anderson at second slip, a tough chance low to his left off Broad.
More activity was crammed into the last 30 minutes than the previous eight hours. England imagined that they had dismissed Petersen, too, lbw to Finn on 119, only for DRS to overturn Steve Davis' decision by showing as many suspected at first sight that the ball was going over the top.
Petersen had also had an escape before lunch on 29 when he was dropped by Alastair Cook, a routine chance to second slip which slipped through his hands and struck him on the knee. He was there because of the absence of Swann, but even allowing for his excellent catch later in the day to dismiss Kallis, there is not a Warwickshire supporter alive who does not regard Jonathan Trott would surely have been a better option.
How Headingley plays with the heart. Before that late surge, only when the clouds rolled in during the last hour before tea (eventually bringing rain, a prolonged stoppage and another 7.30pm finish in this drag of a summer) did England's pace attack prosper. Smith, Amla and Kallis all departed within 12 overs, but it proved a brief respite, gifts from heaven as rain rushed in from the south west.
Swann, instrumental in England's rise through the Test rankings, was omitted after 43 successive Tests and settled down for a disconsolate read of the Test match programme in the home dressing room. He found himself on the front cover under the headline Turning The Tide. It was unlikely to enhance his mood.
But it was the gangling figure of Finn around whom England's unrewarding morning centred. Finn is indisputably one of the most promising fast-bowling talents around, capable of 90mph-plus from a 6ft 8ins frame. But legs that long are not easily managed. When he first broke into the England side, he kept falling over in his delivery stride. Now he habitually collides with the stumps with a buckled front leg.
He can no longer airily dismiss it, as he did during the West Indies series. Finn had Smith caught at first slip by Andrew Strauss when he was only 6, but England's relief was short-lived as Davis called dead ball because Finn had knocked off the bails.
It was the fourth time he had done it in less than three overs and both South African openers had taken the chance to tell the umpires it was distracting them. Finn's habit had become so irritatingly regular it demanded a response and South Africa were professional enough to provide one.
Strauss, England's captain, jogged down from slip to protest but it was a pointless gesture. Davis was within his rights under Law 23.4 (vi) which states that either umpire can call dead ball if: "The striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery."
England put South Africa into bat, as their selection insisted that they must, but they were not exactly imbued with attacking spirit. Strauss is a conservative captain, and his approach is perhaps favoured by his coach Andy Flower, and Smith found himself met with two slips and a gully and four fielders on the leg side, three saving a single.
Smith had worked straight balls repeatedly through the leg side during his mammoth stand with Amla at The Oval, but he had also recently returned from a long haul flight to be at the birth of his first child and had not batted since. England could at least have seen whether he got the sleep out of his eyes. As it was, Petersen took most of the new ball, Anderson chuntered to little effect, Broad was notably low on pace unless something encouraged him, Bresnan was pedestrian and England looked up against it.
It was the 38th over before England broke through. Smith had been his usual obdurate self, shovelling balls to the leg side resourcefully. He is a big man, so pugnacious that one might imagine beneath is loose-fitting shirts are an army of miniature men, permanently fighting. There was nothing threatening in the full, leg-stump delivery from Bresnan, but he turned it to Ian Bell behind square and England accepted their release gratefully.
Amla, the triple-century maker at The Oval, almost fell for a single. Broad forcing an inside edge, but the ball dying in front of the wicketkeeper, Prior, as it was also slowed by a flick of the pad. But Amla ran himself out for nine in a mix-up with Petersen, lured reluctantly into a third run after an England misfield which left Broad in a strop, but short by a couple of metres as Bresnan heaved in a powerful throw from the boundary. Kallis looked in mint form, but fell for 19 as he cut at Anderson and Cook held a fast, low catch by his bootlaces.
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Graeme Smith was the last of South Africa's old guard. The roots of the new one need to grow deeper