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December 17, 2009
Close England 88 for 1 (Strauss 44*, Trott 18*) trail South Africa 418 (Kallis 120, Swann 5-110) by 330 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Graeme Swann chiselled away with skill and diligence to claim a richly deserved five-wicket haul, but South Africa's lower-order took the honours on an attritional second day at Centurion. They made light of the early loss of their overnight stalwarts, Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy, to grind out a competitive first-innings 418 on a pitch that offered little of the spice it had promised in the build-up to this match. By the close, England had overcome a jittery new-ball spell to reach 88 for 1 in reply, with Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott unbeaten in an 63-run stand for the second wicket.
It was a day of frustration for England, who once again felt that they had got the rough end of the referral system, and that was before South Africa's last four wickets kept them baking in the outfield for 45 overs while adding 102 precious runs. But it was a day that culminated in emotion for the South Africans, most particularly when Makhaya Ntini - in his 100th Test - and Friedel de Wet - in his first - came together to share the new ball in a testing final session.
Ntini might have struck in the very first over of England's reply, when Alastair Cook poked at a sizzler outside off stump and sent a head-high chance bursting through AB de Villiers' fingers at third slip, but instead it was de Wet who claimed the first breakthrough of the innings. Having launched his career with an ugly wide long-hop that passed harmlessly down the leg side, he settled quickly into a bustling wicket-to-wicket rhythm, and got his reward when Cook snicked a thin edge through to the keeper, Mark Boucher.
With adrenalin pumping at both ends, England were ripe for a plucking at 25 for 1, but Strauss kept his cool outside off stump while cutting and pulling anything loose, while Trott - making his overseas debut at No. 3 in the country of his birth - survived a referred lbw decision from Paul Harris when he had made 12. Replays showed that while the ball might have clipped leg stump, umpire Davis's original decision was to be upheld. Trott brushed off that near-miss, and reached the close well set on 18.
Such an arduous day's work did not appear to be on the cards for England after a successful first hour of play. England's seamers were a chastised unit after their wayward fare on the first day, and James Anderson got his reward for a determined off-stump line when Kallis nicked a low edge to Paul Collingwood at second slip, having added just eight runs to his overnight 112. Swann then entered the attack to nail Duminy for 56 with his fifth delivery of the morning - a near-replica of the third-ball offbreak that did for his fellow left-hander, Ashwell Prince, in his opening spell of the match - and at 316 for 6, a swift denouement was not out of the question.
Instead England were thwarted by that perpetual nuisance, Boucher, who fell one short of his half-century after a two-and-a-half-hour stay, and the unlikelier impediments of Paul Harris and the debutant Friedel de Wet, who bashed and blocked their way through 17 overs in a gritty ninth-wicket stand of 37. Morne Morkel also hung around for an hour in making 13, although England had been understandably aggrieved on the stroke of lunch when Swann believed he had extracted him lbw for 8, only for the decision to be overturned on review.
It was the fifth intervention in a row that had gone against England - after Prince's lbw reprieve on the first day had been followed by England's two naive rolls of the dice - and though there was no quibbling with the verdicts that had been returned on each occasion, the clear sense of irritation was quickly exacerbated as Boucher got on with what he does best. His refusal to yield rubbed off on a succession of partners, starting with Morkel, whose hour-long stay only came to an end after Onions had roughed him up with a bouncer that crashed into his jaw, before another back-of-a-length delivery was flapped to the keeper.
Harris was greeted by a barrage of short balls, particularly from England's designated enforcer, Broad, but by hanging back in his crease he bought himself time to gauge the pace of the pitch, and by tea he was entrenched on 33 not out from 80 balls, with four fours to his name including a rare lofted drive to keep Swann on his toes. Neither patience nor aggression could make any impression on a pitch that was starting to look flatter than anyone could have predicted.
As a consequence, Swann was once again England's stand-out performer. He whirled away through a further 21.2 overs - in addition to his 24 from the first day - and it was his ability to make breakthroughs from standing starts that eventually did for Boucher, whose first ball after the afternoon drinks break tweaked off the inside-edge and into the grateful hands of Cook at short leg. But, before he could get too carried away with his celebrations, Swann was pummelled for a brace of fours in the same over by the debutant de Wet, whose calmly compiled 20 was an impressive introduction to the fray.
Graham Onions denied Harris his maiden Test fifty by bowling him via an inside-edge following an untimely attack of cramp in his thumb, whereupon Swann extracted de Wet lbw to complete his third five-wicket haul. Appropriately, his celebrations had to be interrupted as the decision was sent to review, but this time there was no question about the validity of the call. That left England with 23 overs to negotiate before the close, but despite the early excitement, Strauss and Trott ensured that the long haul to parity was launched in a diligent fashion.
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