England regain lost ground

England v South Africa, 4th Test, Headingley, Day 2

The day started off depressingly for diehard England fans. South Africa, not content with ruining their day yesterday, by reaching 260 when they should probably have been bowled out for half that, pooped the party even further by hanging around for 105 minutes and adding 82 more runs,

And when they were finally all out there was one tense over for England's openers to face before the lunch interval. We'd been here before: on the third evening at Trent Bridge, England had one over to negotiate. That time, Marcus Trescothick didn't even survive the first ball, and England never really recovered.

So this time it was vital that Trescothick and Michael Vaughan saw out that one over - and they did, even collecting 11 runs to make lunch go down that much easier. And though Vaughan departed shortly after lunch, Trescothick and Butcher never looked back. They were helped that the new ball was in the hands of Dewald Pretorius, very much the apprentice to the absent sorcerer Shaun Pollock. And with Monde Zondeki limping off after his batting heroics, South Africa were exposed in the field.

England's two contrasting left-handers ripped into the bowling. Trescothick, out of sorts in the series so far, got those pigeon toes twinkling, and eventually began to rasp out the crunching cover-drive that signifies he is in form. Meanwhile Butcher, who has been in fine fettle all summer, sprinted ahead, clunking cuts, drive and pulls to all parts. He surged to 50 with his seventh four, a ferocious chop off Andrew Hall. There were also seven fours in Trescothick's half-century, which he reached an over or two later with a couple of prime cuts to the boundary off Makhaya Ntini.

By now most of those England fans had emerged from behind the sofa, only to fall back on it in astonishment when Trescothick and Butcher amazed everyone by accepting the umpires' bad-light offer about an hour after tea. It was a decision that allowed the shell-shocked South Africans to regroup - and also, inevitably, it cost a wicket almost immediately play resumed.

Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden CricInfo.

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