Rain revives England after Smith century
Close South Africa 215 for 2 (Amla 73*, Kallis 7*) lead England 180 (Collingwood 47, Steyn 5-51) by 35 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Graeme Smith's second century in as many innings hoisted South Africa into a position of utter authority on the second day of the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers, but England's fading hopes in the contest were boosted by a massive thunderstorm that swept across Johannesburg midway through the afternoon session, and left the outfield completely underwater. Although play resumed briefly after a four-hour delay, there was time for just 23 deliveries before bad light closed in, leaving South Africa well placed on 215 for 2, a lead of 35, but braced for a race against time if, as expected, this match is to be interrupted by more bad weather in the coming three days.
Only 51.2 overs were possible on the second day, although in the time available, South Africa did their utmost to cement their dominant position. They resumed on 29 for 0 and lost just the solitary wicket in the morning session, that of the out-of-form Ashwell Prince, for 19, while rattling along at almost four runs an over. Though Smith eventually fell three overs before the heavens opened, his uncompromising 105 from 187 balls had laid the platform from which the middle-order, weather permitting, will be able to compile a formidable first-innings lead.
With Hashim Amla unbeaten on 73, and Jacques Kallis still fresh at the crease on 7 not out, there's plenty of runs still to be extracted from South Africa's line-up, but the second day was all about Smith, who used his heavyweight reach and every inch of his bat to withstand a tricky first hour against a still-new ball, before growing in stature as the conditions eased and the morale of England's bowlers began to lag. At Cape Town last week, his magnificent 183 proved insufficient to revive his team's hopes of a series win, but he's never yet lost a rubber in which he has reached three figures. Whatever transpires this time, it won't be for want of trying.
By and large, England bowled and fielded without inspiration in the three-and-a-half hours at their disposal. Ryan Sidebottom, who was controversially preferred for this match to the hard-working Graham Onions, eventually ended Smith's stay with a well-directed seamer that zipped off the edge and struck Andrew Strauss like a cannonball at first slip, but his contribution was under scrutiny from the moment he resumed the attack in the second over of the day. During that crucial first hour, his natural tendency to move the ball away from the left-handers meant that once again too many deliveries were allowed to pass harmlessly through to the keeper, and England's likeliest utiliser of the overhead conditions, James Anderson, wasn't introduced until the day was 40 minutes old.
Nevertheless, Sidebottom was involved in the single biggest moment of controversy of the day, when Smith, on 15, survived a review for a caught-behind decision as he swished loosely at a wide bouncer, and appeared to get an audible top-edged snick through to Matt Prior. Umpire Tony Hill turned down England's frenetic appeals, as did the third umpire, Daryl Harper, although the reasoning given was bizarre. In the absence of HotSpot and the Snickometer, such decisions were always likely to be marginal, but by insisting that he had heard no noise at all, Harper went against the evidence heard by most viewers around the world, and raised interesting questions about the quality of the TV feed available to the decision-makers.
England did have some consolation three deliveries later when Prince propped forward to a good-length delivery from Broad and edged into Graeme Swann's midriff at second slip. But Smith was never likely to be perturbed by the controversies raging off-field (which would eventually culminate in an official complaint from the England management) and he set about surviving the remainder of a probing full-length spell from Broad, before signalling a change of tempo with drinks looming by pulling Anderson in front of square for his most confident stroke of the morning.
Swann, as ever, caused a few flutters of alarm, finding typically sharp spin from his very first over and tempting Smith into an injudicious drive that looped off a leading edge to no-man's-land at short cover. But Smith responded instantly, by clubbing Broad for two more fours in his next over, to reach his half-century from 105 deliveries. By lunch, he had continued to get the better of his duel with Swann to move to 84, and his hundred came up after the break from 182 balls, as he chopped firmly at a wide delivery from Sidebottom, and threaded his stroke through point.
All the while, Amla bedded in for the long haul, as he reverted to the stoic attitude that had carried him to his hundred at Centurion in the first Test, and contributed an equal share to a second-wicket stand of 125. He gave his innings a kick-start with a pair of nudged fours off the hip as Sidebottom lost his direction early on, before driving and carving Anderson for two more boundaries in consecutive deliveries. He brought up his half-century before lunch with a similar whistling drive through the covers, but for the most part he was content to deal in ones and twos, as he provided a lesson in crease occupation to the skittish England batsmen who had squandered their opportunities on the first day.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo