Sidebottom shines on testing day

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Ryan Sidebottom

Playing his first match of the tour, Ryan Sidebottom made short work of the Invitational XI’s tail to claim five wickets

James Anderson managed a solitary wicket to Ryan Sidebottom’s five as they sought to prove their fitness in England's final warm-up match ahead of the first Test.

Anderson has been troubled by a mystery knee injury for the past two months, but it has not stopped the tourists' premier fast bowler from leading the attack when required.

With the opening Test of four set to start on Wednesday at Centurion, he needed not only to come through at least two spells today in East London but also remain fit from his exertions over the next three days.

Wickets would be a bonus, and Anderson took one in only his second over as a South African Invitational XI responded to England’s 317 for five declared by faltering to 76 for five.

But Anderson and others took plenty of afternoon punishment as David Wiese (80) and his colleagues launched a counter-attack under cloudless skies to reach 263 all out as this two-day match finished in a draw on a slow pitch at Buffalo Park.

Half-centuries from Yaseen Vallie (56) and then seventh-wicket pair Charl Pietersen (64) and Wiese turned minor frustration to something a little more significant for England.

Vallie began the fightback by staying put either side of lunch, reaching his fifty in early afternoon with a cover-drive off Sidebottom for his eighth four from 59 balls.

He and former Northamptonshire all-rounder Pietersen put on 67 together, but that proved only a taster of a more destructive and unbroken century partnership to come.

Graeme Swann snared Vallie in classic off-spin mode, drawing the batsman into an expansive drive and turning the ball back through him to disturb the top of middle-stump.

Still the boundaries flowed - 41 fours to go with three sixes before tea - as Wiese and Pietersen showed scant respect to an international attack.

James Anderson

James Anderson was not alone in finding wickets hard to come by, but prolonged spells bode well ahead of Centurion

The former reached his fifty from only 45 balls - 48 of his runs to that point had come in boundaries - and England’s tough afternoon was complete when Matt Prior dropped a Pietersen edge off namesake Kevin from the last ball of the session.

That slip cost England nothing, though, and, as Sidebottom returned to york Pietersen and also bowl an attack-minded Wiese with the aid of reverse swing, the last four wickets fell for a single run.

Taking the new ball with Sidebottom - also back after injury and a spell with the England Performance Programme in Pretoria - Anderson had soon seen off Andrea Agathagelou, playing across the line to go lbw.

Sidebottom made Divan van Wyk pay for a loose back-foot force which was diverted on to the stumps via an inside edge.

Stuart Broad ought to have been in the wickets column straightaway, but Swann dropped a head-high chance at second slip from the first change’s third ball as Sammy-Joe Avontuur fenced at a little extra bounce.

The same batsman was gone without addition when he nibbled away from his body to be caught behind off Sidebottom.

As the home batsmen continued to mix flamboyant boundaries with edges and mishits, there was to be a wicket each before lunch for both Broad and Luke Wright.

The Sussex all-rounder struck with only his second delivery, Mangaliso Mosehle edging behind as he tried to thrash a short ball through the off-side, and Broad had Wendell Bossenger mis-pulling to mid-on.

Andy Flower & Bruce French

Cliffhangers: Andy Flower and Bruce French sample events from 200 feet high, on top of a floodlight stanchion at Buffalo Park, before returning to terra firma in time for the lunch break

Earlier in the day, team director Andy Flower and wicketkeeping coach Bruce French, a keen mountaineer, had a new perspective on their team’s progress by climbing to the top of a floodlight stanchion - around 200 feet above ground.

But the novelty appeared to wear off after about five minutes and, following a gesture of conquest from his lofty position, Flower was back on terra firma in time for lunch.

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