England battle as South Africa retain control
England 48 for 0 (Strauss 19*, Cook 20*) trail South Africa 419 (Petersen 182, Smith 52, Broad 3-96) by 371 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Alviro Petersen had been the batsman in South Africa's top six that England least worried about, the only one to fail during their crushing innings victory at The Oval.
For Petersen to respond with 182, his highest Test score, did not really fit the script, especially as the script also involved England winning the toss in the second Test and putting South Africa in to bat, anticipating that their quartet of fast bowlers would cause mayhem. Instead, the tourists survived until tea on the second day.
Petersen did not just prove less vulnerable than England had anticipated, he produced the Test innings of his life: 182 in 365 balls, a ball for every day of the year, a year which from England's perspective will go down as an annus miserabilis.
It could have been worse for England. As their captain, Andrew Strauss, reflected on a strategy that had failed to bring the desired effect, he could at least take solace from the 17 overs that he survived alongside Alastair Cook before rain forced a premature end.
South Africa's new-ball bowling was awry, with Morne Morkel in particular spraying the ball wide of the left-handers' off stump. Dale Steyn, whose entrance was delayed until the sixth over, was driven down the ground as Strauss passed Len Hutton, on his home ground as well, in the list of England's leading Test runmakers. That is not the sort of statistic they announce on the PA at Headingley; if Strauss gets 200, somebody might deign to mention it.
But Petersen was the opener to celebrate. His innings was the cornerstone of South Africa's austerely compiled 419. Unless the weather forecast proves entirely wrong or Headingley, the great trickster among Test grounds, stages its greatest ruse of all time, it should at the very least protect South Africa's 1-0 lead entering the final Test at Lord's.
He needed treatment shortly before lunch for a hamstring strain, which was serious enough for him not to field during England's innings and go to a Leeds hospital for a precautionary scan. It might put him out of the rest of the match but the same levels of pain were felt by the media, who were unable to talk to him.
He finally succumbed to Stuart Broad in mid-afternoon, edging to the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior. He departed with his reputation enhanced, a fourth Test hundred secured and a Test average now comfortably above 40.
The manner of his dismissal begged the question why England had not countered him with fullish deliveries on or around off stump more often because this was the area where he rode his luck. England's lengths were shorter, their lines straighter, and Petersen flourished throughout with strong leg-side strokeplay, reaching both his fifty and hundred on the first day with confident pulls.
England had to resort to DRS to claim Petersen's wicket. The not-out decision by Rod Tucker was such a howler that Broad grinned at the absurdity of it all, knowing that the TV umpire would routinely overrule it. It was yet another example of how the Decision Review System enhances the game.
Once Petersen departed, at 353 for 7, England began to make progress, Vernon Philander swung Steven Finn to Tim Bresnan at deep square leg, Morne Morkel's attempted lofted drive against Broad fell tamely to Alastair Cook at mid-off and Imran Tahir fell without scoring, steering James Anderson to slip.
England remained committed to their long-held policy under Strauss and Andy Flower, the director of cricket, to play controlled Test cricket and draw their opponents into error. But their opponents were South Africa. They are not easily deflected from their task.
England had to settle for just the wicket of Jacques Rudolph in the first two hours. Even Rudolph's dismissal served to challenge the sense of England's omission of Graeme Swann in favour of an all-pace attack. Kevin Pietersen, whose part-time offspin was introduced in desperation 20 minutes before lunch, puffed out his cheeks and turned his second ball sharply past Rudolph's outside edge for Prior to complete the stumping.
It was referred by the square-leg umpire but Rudolph's foot was on the line, not behind it. It was a narrow call - and will doubtless be too narrow for some partisan observers - but all the evidence was in favour of the third umpire, Asad Rauf. England had taken a wicket that they sorely needed. Back in the dressing room, Swann's testosterone levels probably rose sharply with frustration.
Petersen also resorted to technology with telling effect earlier in the day. He had successfully overturned an lbw decision made by umpire Steve Davis shortly before the close on the first day when he was 119 and he did so again, this time before adding to his overnight 124, when Anderson's delivery was shown to be both high and going down the leg side.
It was a perfect first session for South Africa. The second new ball was less than eight overs old at start of play and there was enough movement to encourage England's bowlers, but Petersen and Rudolph absorbed the pressure, accepted their moments of fortune with composure, and maintained a rigorous approach that has characterised South Africa's cricket through the series.
The day began with six successive maidens but to term it stalemate would be misleading because with every over that passed the ball was ageing and, much to their frustration, England's chances were receding. Both Anderson and Broad were on their mettle, more purposeful than the first day, and nearly half an hour had elapsed when Petersen pushed Anderson into the off side for the first run.
England bowled shorter at Rudolph than Petersen, recognising his unwillingness to hook or pull, but he was in no rush and a series of conscientious leave-alones were combined with an occasional flirt to third man.
Rudolph had managed 19 from 73 balls on the ground where he played with distinction for Yorkshire for several seasons, imagining that his South Africa career was over, before Pietersen struck.
But the other Petersen ground forward, surviving an occasional flash at a wide one, willing himself to remain true to the stern disciplines that South Africa believe will bring them the series.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo