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January 6, 2010
Alastair Cook believes England can draw on recent experiences to haul themselves to safety in the third Test at Newlands and retain their series lead. The tourists go into the final day on 132 for 3 after three late wickets undid the strong start laid down by Cook and Andrew Strauss who added 101 for the first wicket.
On 55, Cook gave his wicket away to Friedel de Wet with a loose pull and Strauss was caught at short leg off Paul Harris three overs later. However, the real hammer blow to England's hopes came when the out-of-form Kevin Pietersen was trapped lbw by Dale Steyn, having been earlier offered a reprieve via the review system after Daryl Harper missed a huge inside-edge.
But already in this series England have battled to a draw after seeing out the final day at Centurion with nine wickets down, despite a late collapse against de Wet, while last year's Ashes escape at Cardiff is still used as inspiration.
"We're going to have to be realistic about it and would settle for the draw," Cook said. "We've got to take a lot of confidence from the situations we've been in - at Cardiff and the first Test here - where we've managed to scrape out a draw. We've got the fighters to do that, in the right positions - so we hope we can do it one more time."
The manner in which both England's openers fell continued a pattern for the match where the top order have played a hand in their own demise. "It was pretty disappointing. We're probably one wicket behind where we'd have liked to have been," Cook said. "Obviously, you'd like to be nought down but realistically, we've just lost a couple more than we'd have liked."
In England's favour, though, is the fact that the wicket has seemingly become easier to bat on as the match has developed. The new ball continues to be a threat, especially against Morne Morkel and Steyn, but England's opening partnership showed that it was possible to prosper.
"The wicket has held together quite well. The wickets so far have been lost in clumps, and we've got to try to avoid that tomorrow," Cook said. "Yesterday and today have probably been the best two days to bat on it, and I don't see a drastic change tomorrow.
"There's a little bit more rough for Harris to the left-handers. But apart from that, there's just a little bit of variable bounce we hope we can get through and fight like we have done in previous times."
AB de Villiers said it had been a surprise the pitch hadn't broken up more, particularly after the 40-degree heat of the third day, but remained confident there was enough on offer for the South Africa attack.
"We all expected the cracks to open up a bit more, but there is still enough for the seamers to gain out of the wicket," he said. "We are trying to get it to reverse - not by stepping on the ball, but by shining it - and we have Paul Harris looking good as well so hopefully we'll hit those cracks that open up a bit."
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