Jury out on a par score - Collingwood
England are disappointed but far from despairing after their 180 all out appeared to hand the initiative to South Africa on the first day of the final Test at the Wanderers.
From the moment captain Andrew Strauss was out to the first ball of the match, to an outstanding short-leg catch by Hashim Amla, the suspicion was it would not be the tourists’ day.
So it proved - despite a fifth-wicket stand of 76 between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell - as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel did the damage with eight wickets between them.
Collingwood defended Strauss’ decision to bat first on a pitch which has all the predicted attributes of pace, bounce and seam movement - with swing thrown into the equation too.
“We’re a little bit disappointed with 180,” Collingwood admitted, after South Africa had reached stumps on 29 without loss.
“I don’t quite know yet what a par score is on that wicket. But it certainly has a lot in it, good carry and the ball seems to be swinging all the time - and it’s certainly seaming a bit.”
England, 1-0 up in the series going into the match, found themselves seven for two, and then 39 for four - and never properly recovered from their horrendous start.
“There were some good balls out there that got batsmen out, some good catches - but also some guys who will be disappointed with their shots,” added Collingwood.
“But that’s the kind of thing wickets like this bring around. It can be tough to play on them.
“All of us have got to understand what our strengths are, what our scoring opportunities are on wickets like that - and be committed. Today, we weren’t quite good enough.”
A moment of contention came about when Alastair Cook, fourth out, was adjudged lbw after an appeal to the decision review system - even though Morkel was perilously close to overstepping.
Collingwood reported England had asked to look at the video evidence but have no lingering qualms.
“Probably the reaction at the time was the guys looking a little disappointed, but I don’t think we’re going to make an issue of it,” he said.
“The guys have looked at further footage, and it’s not a major issue.
“At the time, there was a still picture on the television of the foot looking as if it was over. But it’s arguable whether there was a little bit behind (the line), so we’re not making any complaints.
"(We have to) get on with the game.”
Steyn, whose five-wicket haul means he has the full set against all South Africa’s Test-playing opponents, reflected on a day which could hardly have gone better for him and his team.
“We always knew it was going to nip around - and when we were put into bowl Graeme (Smith) came back and had a word with me and the rest of the bowlers," said Steyn.
“He said ‘It’s your day, your turn to lead the side and put pressure on England - you’ve got a great opportunity to put a stamp on the game’."
Steyn needed Amla’s brilliance to see off Strauss with “a loosener”.
But the wicket of Bell, bowled by a perfect inswinger, was all his own work - with a little help from former England off-spinner Jeremy Snape, now part of South Africa’s support staff.
“Jeremy said at lunch I should take the ball away, away - then hold one across the seam and see if it goes straight. He said ‘you should never underestimate the straight ball’.
“So I said ‘what about the inswinger?’ - and he said ‘if you can get it to go, fantastic’ - so when I got the wicket I celebrated towards the dressing room.”