England chasing miracles as South Africa take them to the cleaners
CRICKET FIRST TEST:IT WILL take resistance of gargantuan proportions if England are to survive the first Test and go to the next, at Headingley, on level terms.
Set to make 252 even to make South Africa bat a second time, after Graeme Smith had shown a little mercy by declaring his innings closed at tea at on eye-watering 637 for two, England lost Alastair Cook without scoring (the third opener to do so in the match), and then Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss as well, before Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara took them to the close at 102 for four, still 150 adrift.
From an England perspective, it was not pretty: after an indifferent first day, South Africa have taken England to the cleaners. No team have ever made so many runs against England for the loss of so few wickets, with one wicket only coming in 186 overs.
If the demise of the England batting on the second day can be ascribed to some freakish bowling conditions, there can be no such excuse second time around.
England’s bowlers have not lost their pedigree overnight and will come back but they have been mightily and instructively out-bowled.
The batsmen have been out-batted too, in spades. Midway through the afternoon on Friday, Jimmy Anderson took the wicket of Alviro Petersen. Roughly 24 hours later, Tim Bresnan strangled the further wicket of Smith.
And that was as good as it got. By the time Smith pulled the plug on the innings, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis had between them not so much filled their boots as fisherman’s waders, gorging themselves.
For 13 hours and more, Amla had been the epitome of calm elegance and technical brilliance. Strauss had dropped him when at 40, a sharp chance off Bopara.
Half an hour after lunch yesterday, Anderson, armed with the third new ball, beat him outside off-stump.
Once, Bresnan even cleared his dusty throat with an lbw appeal, turned down of course, and later Bopara himself missed another chance off his own bowling. By this time, though, Amla had scored a further 265 runs, becoming only the second person after Len Hutton to score a triple century on this ground and only the sixth in all against England. It was a remorseless assassination of a top-class attack. He finished unbeaten on 311, by 33 runs the highest by a South African batsman.
If Kallis has had a lean time over the years in England, he laid that to rest with unruffled efficiency and inevitability. This is a supreme technician who breaks bowlers’ hearts. If he is clinical by repute, there was more than the mere mechanical in the manner in which he thrice dispatched through the covers Stuart Broad’s first over with the final new ball, as if merely honing the shot against a bowling machine.
His unbeaten 182 was his 43rd Test hundred, and it is a measure of the pragmatism over sentimentality of both Smith and the coach Gary Kirsten that they called a halt when he was within sight of what would have been only his fourth double hundred. It was not always so with South Africa.
Overnight: England 385 (A Cook 115, I Trott 71, M Prior 60; M Morkel 4-72) South Africa 403-2 (H Amla 183 no, G Smith 131, J Kallis 82 no).
South Africa First Innings
H Amla not out 311
J Kallis not out 182
Extrasb5 lb4 w2 nb2 pens 0 13
Total2 wkts dec (189 overs) 637
Fall: 1-1 2-260
Did Not Bat: A de Villiers, J Rudolph, J Duminy, V Philander, D Steyn, M Morkel, Imran Tahir.
Bowling: Anderson 41 7 116 1, Broad 34 6 118 0, Swann 52 10 151 0, Bresnan 37 2 140 1, Bopara 18 1 78 0, Pietersen 3 0 13 0, Trott 4 0 12 0
England Second Innings
A Strauss c Philander b Imran Tahir 27
A Cook c de Villiers b Philander 0
I Trott c de Villiers b Steyn 10
K Pietersen b M Morkel 16
I Bell not out 14
R Bopara not out 15
Extrasb3 lb12 nb5 pens 0 20
Total4 wkts (38 overs) 102
Fall: 1-2 2-32 3-57 4-67
To Bat: M J Prior, T T Bresnan, G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.
Bowling: M Morkel 8 0 24 1 Philander 9 2 13 1 Steyn 9 2 27 1 Imran Tahir 12 3 23 1.