Onions lauds Strauss contribution
Graham Onions admitted England were indebted to captain Andrew Strauss for helping them avoid an obvious pitfall in an awkward final session at Centurion.
Strauss’ unbeaten 44 leaves him and others with plenty more batting to do heading into the third day as England reached 88 for one by stumps in reply to 418.
But Strauss’ unbroken stand of 63 with Jonathan Trott is a start - a fact not lost on Graham Onions, one of a four-man attack who had laboured long and hard in searing conditions to finally eke out the likes of South Africa centurion Jacques Kallis.
England could perhaps even have been forgiven had their top order shown the strains of five sessions in the field - Strauss especially, having been the man who invited South Africa to bat first.
“I think that could have quite easily been a tricky session,” said Onions, who took three wickets to Graeme Swann’s five.
“With those overs to face, we could have been four down - and then you’re thinking ’which way is the game going to go?’
“But we batted really well - and we’ve got a great opportunity to bat the whole day tomorrow.”
There were two sides to the narrative, of course.
Kallis, who added only eight runs today to his overnight tally to end with 120, insisted a home attack - still minus his services while he recovers from a broken rib - allowed England too much breathing space on a helpful surface.
“I thought we did well to get to [around] 420 - but then we were very disappointing with the way we bowled,” he said.
“We gave away too many freebies, and the guys were very disappointed with that.”
All is far from lost for the hosts, though, and Kallis added: “We know the wicket does a little more in the morning, so we’ll have to come out and put that right - and I know they want to do that.”
Kallis gave due credit to Strauss, and expects plenty more resistance from England.
“We bowled nowhere near how we should have done,” he added.
“But he’s a quality player and had a fantastic tour last time. We had some plans that we didn’t execute, which was disappointing.
“They have a lot of quality players in their side and certainly weren’t going to lie down. We’ve got to be on top of our game if we want to win this series.”
Onions sees a similar balance between bat and ball.
“We knew on that wicket the new ball was going to be key, bounce a bit more and nibble around a bit more,” he said, reflecting again on England’s promising start to their innings.
“Once that goes, you can get on that front foot and maybe intimidate the bowlers a little bit.”
As for his own contribution, Onions is satisfied with his bowling but annoyed to have had to leave the field for attention to a calf strain on the first day.
“I did feel I bowled okay but I also came off the field for a while - and obviously it is not ideal when you pick four bowlers and one of them goes off,” he accepted.
“So it was important for me to get out there and be part of that attack again.
“Now there’s no reason why we can’t bat really well and get ourselves in a really strong position to press for a win.”
Among Onions’ victims was Morne Morkel, a handful of deliveries after the Durham seamer had felled him with a bouncer which hit the left-hander on the neck.
“It did look nasty,” he recalled.
“As a fast bowler, you’ve got to show a lot of intent and aggression - and you do aim for the head when you bowl a bouncer.
“Unfortunately, it did hit him, and you don’t want to hurt anybody. But three or four balls later, I did eventually get him out. That was obviously the plan - a couple of short balls and then ’nick him off’.”