Bell and Bairstow pull England out of immediate trouble
CRICKET:AT 208 for five, England were still in the game as the second day’s play was drawing to a close yesterday evening but this is one they will find difficult to win unless they can convert the green shoots of recovery into a dominant first-innings lead.
In what promises to be the best of the bowling conditions, given the weather forecast for the weekend, they took almost 102 overs to dismiss South Africa for 309, having at one time had them 105 for five.
Then they threatened to implode against some sustained, hostile fast bowling from Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, who inside 24 overs had between them reduced England to 54 for four, precisely the same situation in which the tourists had found themselves following Steve Finn’s burst on the opening morning.
The sun came out in the afternoon, though, and with the cloud cover banished the ball stopped dancing to the tune of the bowlers. Steyn bowled with fire and pace, and Morkel with aggression, thrashing bounce from the pitch, but there was little lateral movement.
Imran Tahir gained some turn with his leg-spin and googlies but one close call with a review was able to make no more impression than had Vernon Philander, until he claimed Ian Bell, and, briefly Jacques Kallis.
And gradually Bell and Jonny Bairstow, the lad who owes his place to the absence of Kevin Pietersen and therefore is seen to carry a burden above even that which might be expected of someone whose international career is still in its infancy, pulled England out of immediate trouble with a 124-run partnership for the fifth wicket before Bell was well taken at third slip for 58.
But there were a lot of people willing Bairstow runs and his eighth boundary had long since taken him past a maiden Test half-century for which he was accorded a standing ovation by the generous Lord’s crowd.
By then the pair had already registered the biggest partnership of the match and shortly afterwards Bairstow took it into three figures, with Bell’s angle to third man bringing up his own half-century three overs later.
It was a spirited response from the pair. Bell may be an old hand now, and has held up South Africa’s progress in the past, not least when he made 199 against them on this ground four years ago. But the novice Bairstow had acquired a reputation that preceded him into this match, one garnered at the hands of the West Indies pace bowler Kemar Roach at Trent Bridge this summer.