England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day August 17, 2012

Bairstow battles to keep England alive


England 208 for 5 (Bairstow 72*, Prior 22*) trail South Africa 309 (Philander 61, Duminy 61, Finn 4-75) by 101 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

South Africa must have sensed for much of an engrossing day at Lord's that their ambition to displace England as the No 1 Test side in the world was slowly edging closer. Their fast-bowling attack has impressed throughout the series and once again they treated England's batsmen to an unflagging examination.

Jonny Bairstow begged to differ. He was the replacement for Kevin Pietersen, the character in a KP-produced soap opera who would be set up for a fall, and he knew that Pietersen's supporters would regard him as a pale imitation of the real thing. His Test experience was only three matches old and it they had not gone awfully well. But against a formidable South Africa attack with the series in a critical phase he steeled himself to make an unbeaten 72 from 137 balls that kept England in contention.

England's fourth wicket fell at 56, just as South Africa's had on the first day, but two identical scores had a different feel: South Africa had the sense merely of a troubled Test first morning; England's smacked of a side labouring to turn the tide of a series that South Africa have dominated and produce a win in the final Test to claw it back to 1-1.

Bairstow then added 124 in 38 overs with Ian Bell, who pored for 158 balls over 58 before Vernon Philander, whose consistent hammering of a good length has been ill rewarded in this series, finally put together a successful sequence that ended with Bell squirting a low catch to third slip.

Bell was intent upon the long haul; Bairstow was initially more concerned with the next short one after a shaky Test baptism against the West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach. This time he had donned a chest guard and met all thrown at him with reasonable equilibrium. South Africa never quite directed the ball at Bairstow's body with the same intent as Roach, but gone was the jerky, self-preservation that had characterised those anxious early steps in Test cricket.

He played within himself until tea and then from the moment he pulled Morkel to the square leg boundary - a favourite area - he sensibly tried to steal the initiative. It would be quite a heist because South Africa have guarded it throughout. The new ball is nine overs away.

It was a sweltering day, that rarest of things in a crabby summer. The skies turned a supportive shade of blue as England began to bat at Lord's with Andrew Strauss in his 100th Test. More than eight years ago, he made a century on debut on his home ground. With the Test series in the balance, a capacity crowd hummed with respectable debate about whether he could possibly make another one.

But by tea, Strauss' day was also turning blue. South Africa were defending only a moderate first-innings total, but Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and James Taylor were all dispensed with by the 24th over.

South Africa pair up Dale Steyn against Trott as soon as possible and Steyn straightened one a fraction to have him lbw, an excellent use of DRS by Graeme Smith. Cook's footwork had been stilted and he had only 7 from 40 balls when his disorientation was summed up by his chasing of a wide one from Steyn and a catch for Jacques Kallis at second slip. Taylor, after two boundaries in an over against Steyn, a nervous edge followed by one of his specialities, a back-foot boundary through point, edged Morne Morkel to first slip.

As for Strauss, once again it was his old terroriser, his old adversary, Morkel, who did for him. In the last over before lunch, he brought one back down the slope to demolish Strauss' stumps and, in the process, destroying any assumptions in north London that in the wake of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, history could be so pre-ordained.

In one delivery, Morkel had reminded us that Test cricket was a hard school where statistics had to be earned. Morkel has been Strauss' perpetual nightmare. He began his innings with 112 runs against Morkel at an average of 17. As he walked to the pavilion, he was in no mood to update the statistics; the media will do that for him. Smith allowed himself a stern smile of satisfaction. South Africa's captain had again preferred Morkel for the new ball ahead of Steyn and even though Morkel was initially inconsistent, he tightened up as the short pre-lunch session, 10.4 overs in all, developed. Strauss played and missed and was struck in the ribs, his unease again evident.

South Africa had been dismissed for 309 on the second morning with Philander taking his best Test score to 61 before he was last out, stumped trying to lift England's offspinner Graeme Swann, into Regent's Park.

The total represented a fine recovery after they had lost half their side for 105 on the opening day. At 262 for 7 overnight they added another 47 runs in 13.4 overs. Philander, 46 not out at the end of the first day, reached his half-century by pulling Stuart Broad through square leg. Broad's pace, again noticeably down in his 50th Test, was causing growing conjecture about his state of health only a month before he is due to lead England in World Twenty20.

The first day had concluded with Steyn struck on the body by Steven Finn and successfully protesting that with two Lord's floodlights inoperative it was too murky to continue. The second morning began with Steyn peppered by James Anderson and flinging a glove up to protect his face.

Steyn became the eighth batsman to fall, pouched by Swann at second slip as he edged a drive at Broad and when Morkel also began to provide useful late-order runs, South Africa's resilience was again beginning to put England's four-strong attack under pressure. But Finn, although not at his best, picked up his fourth wicket with a wide ball delivered from around the wicket as Morkel's edge was expertly intercepted in front of first slip by Matt Prior.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jeremy on August 18, 2012, 14:00 GMT

    A 6-run lead to England & South Africa about to begin their 2nd innings as I write this. A fine knock to Bairstow, it was a shame he didn't register a maide test hundred as he thoroughly deserved it. As for comments regarding his inability to play the short ball, what a load of baloney. Steyn and Morkel peppered him with hostile short balls, and he responded well. Anderson was the pick of the bowlers for England, and he must continue that form and take some early wickets. If (and it is a big "if") England can have SA 5 for 120 or so, then we'll see how the challengers respond to the pressure. Either team can win from here. Which player will take this game by the scruff of the neck and win it for his team. Anderson or Finn are the obvious choices for England, but Swann may also chip in after an excellent display of tail-end batting earlier. As always, may the better side win.

  • Nicholas on August 18, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    @Garp / Snowsnake and a few others: In English conditions, fast (90mph+) bowling is useless, and goes straight to the boundary for 4. Slowing the pace down to ~80mph allows something much more effective than raw speed: swing, drift and seam movement. Great bowlers like Steyn and Morkel know this, and use it. The Aussies did not during the last ODI series, and got whitewashed.

  • John on August 18, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    @Garp - rubbish. Apart from bowling speeds - which I'm sure you should realise with VP isn't everything - you're saying we should drop Broad,Trott and Cook ? Cook score a 100 in the 1st test , Trott scored 60 odd in that test and also helped see us to safety in the last test and Broad (who was probably most under pressure) took 5 for in the last inns before this test. Also re our bowlers we were unlucky not to bowl you out cheaper , if you look at how often the ball beat the bat in day 1 final session. Jimmy was really unlucky not to get 5 for and bowled better than Finn who took 4. I know SA have had periods of bad luck with the ball too but we'd have bowled you out twice last test had Smith not declared so we can't be all that bad.

  • Alan Bain on August 18, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    Kevin who? Seriously this is a very close match which I reckon will go to the side that holds its nerve under presssure. And as SA are one of the teams involved we all know the answer. If Dame Vera lynn was from SA she'd sng ''We'll choke again don't know where don't know when'...

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    @Marcio, Weather conditions will obviously always have an influence over matches played in England, I do think though, that the quality of Steyn and Morkel to pick wickets consistently has overcome that. It looks very much from here as though England will be chasing a pretty decent target batting last now. I think batting last at Lords is no simple place to be in, more likely even trickier than batting on the first day. There's the old saying at the toss... You can think about bowling and that you may just bowl the opposition out cheaply, but you should bat first anyway. Winners bat first, it has always been so, it's a show of confidence and come the 4th innings having runs already on the board is the best of places to be in.

  • yogi on August 18, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    first time I saw Bairstow play,must admit I liked what I saw.The aggression with which he smashed Tahir for 3 fours in one over was awesome.He has a bright future.BTW, this match is interestingly poised.Looking forward to the 3rd days play.

  • Dummy4 on August 18, 2012, 8:08 GMT

    @Indianajones99... You take out KP's best 4 innings, out of just 27 and then say he 'only' averages 43?! Really, what kind of statictical interpretation is that? Why don't you take out his worst four instead? How do the other players compare with the same treatment? I'm no great fan of KP, but you just can NOT do that. His big knock in Adelaide was more important than any knock the likes of Bell and Strauss have ever played and yet you throw it out as a statistical anomoly?

  • John on August 18, 2012, 7:55 GMT

    I see there are several comments saying that England only took wickets in this game because they were bowling in favourable conditions. I was actually lambasted for saying that SA had the better bowling conditions in the 1st test - and that also when I was responding to a commenter who was questioning our bowling attack's quality - and while SA thrashed us fair and square the bowling conditions on day 2 until the rain came down and cleared the mugginess certainly helped change the game. Eng's batsmen did the team no favours either in that test but in the last test when the 2 sides had equal conditions it was a level game. Very one eyed indeed

  • John on August 18, 2012, 7:55 GMT

    @Meety on (August 17 2012, 23:02 PM GMT) We might have to try and take a leaf from your guys book who proved that an inconsistent batting line up can chase a 300+ total down against this quality SA attack

  • John on August 18, 2012, 7:54 GMT

    @VillageBlacksmith on (August 18 2012, 00:39 AM GMT) Bad shot by Bell , but come on man it was the men above who failed more than Bell and his SR was improving after he saw through the early onslaught. Surely Bell must get some credit for holding the inns together. If Bell and Jonny went cheaply SA could well have had us following on. SA may still be slightly on top but there certainly isn't much in it

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