Close England 165 for 2 (Trescothick 64*) trail South Africa 484 (Gibbs 183, Kirsten 90, Kallis 66, Pollock 66*) by 319 runs
Good to be back: Graham Thorpe pulls a boundary in his 28 not out
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The fun ended four overs early because of bad light, and Sod's Law dictated that Marcus Trescothick was out there when the umpires started brandishing their lightmeters. But this time there was little to argue about when Trescothick and Graham Thorpe marched off.
Trescothick had started scoreless for 22 balls, but cut his 23rd gleefully for four. He and Mark Butcher added 50 before Butcher played across one from Andrew Hall and was pinned in front for a breezy 32 (78 for 2). After that Trescothick stuck there for an uncharacteristically stodgy knock, although his 128-ball half-century did include nine fours. Late on he clunked Paul Adams to the midwicket boundary, then eased the next ball, a full-toss, through extra cover for four more.
By the close he had reached 64, and put on 87 with Thorpe, who also started quietly on his return to Test cricket. But he soon looked at home, as indeed he should at The Oval, with that familiar nurdle to the on side, skipping back from right foot to left, to the fore.
Earlier Michael Vaughan had twinkled to 23 before he drove at one from Pollock which jagged away late, and the resultant edge was pouched nonchalantly by Herschelle Gibbs at second slip (28 for 1). It was Pollock's 300th Test wicket: he is the 19th bowler to reach that landmark, but only the second from South Africa after Allan Donald (330). None of the bowlers above him has taken his wickets as cheaply - at the end of the day Pollock's average was 20.56, ahead of Malcolm Marshall (20.94) and Curtly Ambrose (20.99).
In the morning England took five wickets and conceded only 70 runs. They grabbed an early wicket in the first full over, when Jacques Rudolph played all round a straight one from Martin Bicknell before he had scored (365 for 5). Bicknell almost had a second scalp straight away, but this time Venkat kept his finger down after Mark Boucher was rapped on the pads.
Bicknell continued in an impressive first spell of 7-1-23-2. First Boucher edged just short of Andy Flintoff at second slip, then an awayswinger nipped through to Stewart. Boucher (8) may have been unlucky, as the TV replays suggested no contact was made, but Venkat disagreed (385 for 6).
Jimmy Anderson, who took a wicket with the final ball of the first day, joined in the pad-rapping, clouting Kallis on the knee, but again the collision took place outside off stump. And when Stephen Harmison joined in with a probing spell, all the England fast men who were off the pace yesterday had come to the party today. Nasser Hussain, at home nursing that broken toe, would have approved.
The only blot on England's landscape was Kallis, who brought up the team's 400 and his own half-century with a quick single off Harmison. But he didn't last much longer, eventually departing for 66 in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Pollock laced a straight-drive back at the bowler, and Ashley Giles managed to fingertip it into the stumps with Kallis millimetres short of his ground (419 for 7).
That brought in Hall, fresh from his match-turning 99 not out at Headingley, but there were no such heroics this time. Flintoff bent one in to trap him in front for 1 (421 for 8). And Butcher made sure England enjoyed their lunch by winging in a fine, flat throw from deep mid-off to catch Adams short as he tried for an optimistic second after Pollock's drive (432 for 9).
But it took England 11.2 overs - and 52 precious runs - to wrap things up after lunch. Anderson finally threaded a yorker through Ntini's big slog, but there was time for Pollock to compile another important half-century, which he reached by bonking Giles into the Vauxhall Stand for a massive six.
After a much-improved bowling display all round by England, Anderson, Giles and Bicknell finished with two wickets apiece - but Mr Run-out finished with three victims, only the fourth time England have managed that in a Test innings (worryingly for Vaughan, England lost all three of those matches).
With England's batsmen following their bowlers' lead, this match is much more evenly poised at the end of the second day than seemed likely after the first one. Those sellout crowds for Saturday and Sunday could have a classic on their hands.