Bad light comes to South Africa's aid
England landed three crucial blows in the half hour after tea to fight back on a topsy-turvy Boxing Day in Durban.
The tourists concluded a 150-run alliance between Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, who both perished for 75, and JP Duminy followed to turn the opening day’s play on its head.
South Africa gratefully accepted an offer of bad light soon after, despite the use of floodlights at Kingsmead, at 175 for five from 61 overs, after which no further play was possible today.
Smith had appeared to justify his decision to bat first in seamer-friendly conditions this morning as he and Kallis rescued the Proteas from 10 for two.
The pair saw off the threat of the new ball and progressed steadily throughout the afternoon session to earn their side the initiative.
However, Graeme Swann had Kallis caught at slip, Smith was farcically run out and Duminy was trapped in front by the impressive Graham Onions to leave the game in the balance.
Onions, whose 15 overs cost 40, was the standout member of a frontline attack that each claimed a wicket and boasted an economy rate of less than three an over on a slow pitch.
England, backed by a large following of travelling supporters, were unchanged from the drawn first Test at Centurion. South Africa made one alteration, recalling fit-again Dale Steyn in place of Friedel de Wet.
Andrew Strauss’ side, asked to bowl in stifling heat, took advantage of significant early movement to remove Ashwell Prince and Hashim Amla in the first hour.
James Anderson broke through in the third over with a lifting delivery that took left-handed Prince’s outside edge and presented a straightforward take for Swann at third slip.
Anderson and Onions, whose eight overs prior to lunch cost just 10 runs, continued their stranglehold.
However, it was Stuart Broad, replacing Onions, who claimed the second wicket with a full delivery that had Amla plumb in front for a 22-ball two.
Smith stood firm, receiving treatment after Anderson struck him on the left glove as England limited the Proteas to 18 from the first 15 overs.
And it was Kallis who hit the game’s opening boundary with a cut off Broad and immediately followed up with a pulled four.
From then on South Africa’s premier batsmen scored more freely as the hosts’ 50 came up in the 21st over.
Their fifty partnership followed soon after when Smith hit Swann for the first of two swept fours in the off-spinner’s second over.
Swann continued after lunch, taken at 67 for two from 25 overs, as the hosts, hampered by a slow outfield, continued their sedate progress.
Smith edged Swann just short of Paul Collingwood at slip on 45, highlighting the pedestrian pace of the pitch.
Landmarks came in a hurry as Kallis brought up South Africa’s hundred and Smith registered a hard-fought half-century either side of drinks.
The century partnership followed before Kallis’ fifty came in streaky fashion, the veteran right-hander edging the part-time medium pace of Jonathan Trott for four between wicketkeeper and a solitary wide slip.
Onions made an overdue return to the attack with tea approaching but Smith and Kallis brought up South Africa’s 150 shortly before the interval, off Kevin Pietersen’s only over.
Smith began the final session, marked by increasing cloud cover, with two driven fours off Onions - the second heralding his 150-alliance with Kallis.
But Kallis was on his way in the next over, having edged Swann to Collingwood at slip. His innings occupied 132 balls and included seven fours.
AB de Villiers drove Swann for four down the ground next ball but played a part in his captain's downfall, ending an innings spanning 186 deliveries and containing nine fours.
Smith pushed Onions into the off side and got halfway down the pitch before turning back, only to be beaten by Alastair Cook, who had the presence of mind to keep the ball in hand.
Onions latterly picked up a much-deserved wicket when he swung one back into Duminy with the light closing in.
De Villiers and Mark Boucher left the field moments later on eight and one respectively and play was abandoned for the day an hour later, with an early 9.30am (7.30am GMT) start scheduled tomorrow.