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January 14, 2010
Close South Africa 29 for 0 (Smith 12*, Prince 15*) trail England 180 (Collingwood 47, Steyn 5-51) by 151 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England's hopes of emerging from South Africa with a memorable series win were dealt a devastating blow on an eventful first day at Johannesburg, as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel combined with ruthless intent on a helpful but not unplayable surface. The pair claimed eight wickets between them, including four inside the first ten overs alone, to bundle England out for a meagre 180 inside two sessions, and take a massive stride towards the victory that would square the series at 1-1.
In reply, South Africa's openers, Graeme Smith and Ashwell Prince, negotiated 12 tricky overs in gloomy evening conditions, reaching 29 for 0 after much of the afternoon session had been wiped out by rain and bad light. Though England's seamers found prodigious swing to keep the run-rate in check, they were unable to make the incision that could have lifted their spirits after a morale-crushing display in the opening gambits of the match. Nevertheless, the loss of two hours of play, and the promise of similar weather for the rest of the week, could yet provide them a route to salvation.
England's recent visits to the Wanderers have rarely been dull affairs, and this match began in sensational fashion, reminiscent of their 2 for 4 collapse in November 1999, when Andrew Strauss became the first England cricketer since Stan Worthington in 1936 to fall to the very first delivery of a Test match. The ball that got him, from Steyn, was a largely anonymous sighter on leg stump, but Hashim Amla had been cleverly positioned at backward short leg, and reacted in an instant to dive full-length to his right and scoop a brilliant low chance.
Strauss had earlier won the toss and batted first with some slight trepidation, recognising the likelihood of a tough first hour in dank conditions against a pumped-up new-ball pairing. Without his rock-solid temperament to guide their approach, England's middle-order faltered disastrously, much as they had done in their hapless meltdown at Headingley in the summer. Within ten overs they had slumped to 39 for 4, and though Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell provided a mini-revival with a fifth-wicket stand of 76, Steyn returned after lunch to mop up the tail for the richly-deserved figures of 5 for 51.
Prior to the match, England had spoken strongly of taking a positive mindset into a match that they need only draw to claim the series, but when they were put on the spot, the top-order suffered from a collective freeze. Jonathan Trott produced his nerviest and least convincing Test innings to date, inside-edging his fourth delivery, from Morkel, inches past his leg stump before being pinned plumb lbw for 5 in the same over, which brought Kevin Pietersen to the middle, under pressure following one of the leanest spells of his career, and habitually anxious to get off the mark.
Pietersen could have run-out his partner, Alastair Cook, before he had scored, and though he settled his nerves with a sweet clip through midwicket off Morkel, he fell meekly in the same over, wellying a muffed pull to Wayne Parnell, one of South Africa's two debutants, at mid-on. Cook meanwhile looked as composed as anyone in the situation. He survived a tough chance on 4 when Amla at short leg couldn't cling onto a firm push off the pads, but had moved calmly along to 21 when Morkel struck for the third time in his spell - a full-length delivery that zipped from a leg-stump line to trap Cook on the crease. The decision went to review, and though there was some suspicion of a no-ball, umpire Daryl Harper rightly upheld the onfield decision.
And so, at 39 for 4, it was down to the guts and grit of Collingwood and Bell once again. Of the two, it was Collingwood who set the tempo in an innings of significantly greater aggression to his stonewalling performance at Newlands. With attacking fields in place, there were plenty runs on offer for his favourite clips and nudges, as well as his trademark one-day pull shot, with which he picked off two sixes, including one, off Jacques Kallis, from the very last ball of the morning session.
By lunch, Collingwood was 44 not out from 55 balls, which was four more runs than he had managed in 133 more deliveries in his previous Test innings. But after the break, he added just three more to that tally, before Ryan McLaren - a surprise selection ahead of Paul Harris - found his leading edge with a sharp seamer that ducked from leg to off, and JP Duminy scooped a lobbed catch as he leant forward at point. The major threat at this stage, however, was Morkel, who was extracting some fearsome lift from a good length, and on 34, Bell might have gone to an outstanding one-handed take in the gully, only for Prince to spill the chance as he crashed to earth.
It wasn't a costly miss, though. With England firmly under the cosh, Bell was prised from the crease one run later, courtesy of an exceptional piece of bowling from Steyn, who set him up with a succession of sharp outswingers, before flipping the shiny side and zipping an perfectly pitched inducker through his half-formed defences. Matt Prior attempted a counterattack, pulling Steyn in front of square for an aggressive boundary, but then nicked a similar shot through to Boucher four overs later.
At 136 for 7, the innings was once again in freefall, and Stuart Broad opted to go down swinging. He scythed Kallis for a brace of hoicked fours through the covers and midwicket, but then over-extended himself in the same over and flapped a tame swat to mid-off. The recalled Ryan Sidebottom never had a chance to get going, seeing out five dot-balls before snicking his sixth, from Steyn, to the keeper, and once again it was left to the unquenchably optimistic Graeme Swann to slap a merry run-a-ball 27, and provide the scorecard with some sheen of respectability.
Fittingly though, it was Steyn who snared him, via another thin edge to the keeper, as England were rolled over inside 48 overs. They've clung on twice in desperate scenarios so far in this series, but getting out of this predicament will test their Houdini impersonations to the max.
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala