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July 12, 2008
An outstanding collective effort from England's attack dismantled South Africa for 247 on the third day and left them following on at Lord's. Monty Panesar took the bowling honours with four wickets during a spell which highlighted his importance to the team in this series, after the groundwork was laid by the trio of quicks who took out the top order. Only Ashwell Prince, with a fine century, provided substantial resistance and South Africa headed in again 346 behind.
Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie, back out where they started the day, survived four overs against Panesar and Kevin Pietersen. There was some great by-play from Pietersen, who was still riding on the high of a rare Test wicket after he removed Dale Steyn to end the first innings in fading light. Pietersen ended with a huge shout against Smith and there were smiles allround, but Smith's grins came through gritted teeth after another sobering day.
Pace has been the buzzword leading into this series, of both South Africa's abundance and England's perceived lack of a cutting edge. However, England have been able to sit back quite contently in the knowledge that they hold the ace in the pack when it comes to spin and Panesar showed why. He teased out wickets with flight and spin, ripping one round McKenzie's pads and another through the defences of Morne Morkel.
Yet England's quick bowlers laid down a few markers of their own. They have never pretended to possess the 90mph qualities of Steyn and co., but that is more than compensated for by home knowledge and guile. Whereas South Africa were short of variation, England's trio each brought something different. James Anderson mixed swingers with cutters, Stuart Broad caused problems with his splice-jarring length and Ryan Sidebottom used his angle to remove the key obstacle of Jacques Kallis.
Prince raised his game like few of his team-mates have been able to do over the last three days. He was the one member of the top-order with questions begin asked about his place after a highest score of 38 in eight innings. Here he showed all the fighting qualities that have become his trademark, but also expressed himself with some handsome boundaries. The hundred arrived off 173 deliveries and was greeted with a leap from Prince as he savoured the moment. However, the personal satisfaction of the achievement will be clouded the team's predicament.
England were on top of their game from the very start as they reduced South Africa to 47 for 3. Facing a total of almost 600 can make even the flattest pitches appear trickier and England's attack immediately found more assistance from the surface. It was extra lift from a good length that did for Smith as a ball from Anderson climbed and took the shoulder of the bat. Smith's expressions have grown less cheery from the moment he stuck England in, and he walked off with 251 fewer to his name than the last time he batted at Lord's.
England's attack had strong game plans for the top order. For Hashim Amla there was a clear policy of testing him against the short ball and he was forced onto the back foot Broad then exploited his tentativeness with a full delivery outside off. Sidebottom, after bringing a couple of deliveries back into Kallis, he pushed one wider and Kallis chased it. The edge flew low to the right of Andrew Strauss at first slip, who managed to get his fingers under the ball to ignite huge celebrations from England.
McKenzie fought through the early setbacks, but fell in the second over after lunch when he failed to cover the line with his pad. The amount of turn from outside leg even caught Panesar by surprise. Even when the innings went quiet, with Prince and AB de Villiers adding the one substantial partnership of 70, Michael Vaughan kept control by blocking off the runs. Once the early hardness disappeared the quicks had to switch to different skills, and began searching for reverse swing, while Vaughan rotated his options. Anderson produced a tight spell as 16 runs came in a 12-over spell leading up to tea.
England's catching was in full working order, too, and Anderson pulled off a blinder at mid-on, diving full-length to his left, to remove de Villiers. Broad struck with the first ball of a comeback burst, then Panesar returned to the fore as he ripped one through Morkel following a teasing over. South Africa have a genuine tail and Paul Harris' hack to mid-on - where Anderson pulled off his second fine catch - didn't do Prince any favours.
Prince at last found someone to stay with him as Steyn showed reliance against a predictable short-pitched barrage. Their 14-over partnership forced Vaughan to take the second new ball and, shortly after Prince reached three figures, Sidebottom found the outside edge. If South Africa are going to escape they need to learn Prince's effort for the two days ahead.
With pleasant weather, enthusiastic public and a brand new ground on its way, Nepal could make a serious case to become the next neutral venue for international cricket