Strauss leads by example
England consolidated a blistering start in reply to South Africa’s first-innings 343, reaching 103 for one when the Durban light deteriorated sufficiently for the umpires to halt proceedings.
Andrew Strauss was the tourists’ sole casualty, having flayed his fastest Test fifty during an hour’s play before tea, falling to Morne Morkel for 54 after a rain-extended interval.
Alastair Cook began to find his feet en route to 31 along with Jonathan Trott, who was unbeaten on 17, during the 60 minutes possible once rain had relented.
The tourists’ strong reply came after the Proteas had enjoyed the better of day two at Kingsmead, which they resumed at 175 for five following the loss of three quick wickets late yesterday.
Mark Boucher and AB de Villiers shared a half-century alliance first up, a feat matched frustratingly for England by last-wicket pair Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini.
As in the drawn first Test at Centurion, Graeme Swann was England’s best bowler, adding to the wicket of Jacques Kallis yesterday to claim 4-110 under leaden skies which forced the use of floodlights all day.
The off-spinner removed Boucher for a burgeoning 39 and Paul Harris for two either side of Stuart Broad having de Villiers caught behind for 50.
Swann then had Morne Morkel trapped in front for 23 before Steyn was last out for 47, caught behind off James Anderson almost an hour into the afternoon session.
Strauss led England’s pre-tea assault with a flurry of boundaries, including three in Ntini’s third over.
Strauss went to his half-century from 49 deliveries, having struck 42 of his team’s first 50 runs.
South Africa used a review on Harris’ lbw shout against Cook on eight, before the interval taken at 59 without loss.
Following an extra half an hour off the field, Strauss successfully reviewed a leg before appeal off Morkel. Extended television replays hinted at an inside edge.
But the bowler gained revenge four overs and as many Strauss runs later when the left-hander played onto his stumps. His innings occupied 67 balls and featured nine fours.
Cook and Trott saw England to three figures before the gloom, highlighting the effect of the floodlights, forced the players off at 1625 (1425 GMT). They did not return.
Play had begun half an hour early, at 0930, after bad light restricted yesterday’s action to 61 overs, 12.5 fewer than today.
Boucher, resuming on one and de Villiers on eight, set the tone by clipping the first ball of the day, from Anderson, to midwicket for four.
Boucher, who struck the first five boundaries of the day, heralded South Africa’s 200 although wicketkeeper Matt Prior got a glove tip to the right-hander’s inside-edged four.
The half-century alliance arrived from 76 balls, of which Boucher contributed 36, as 50 runs came in the first hour.
However, England successfully appealed Swann’s lbw shout against Boucher who departed for 39 having added 63 with de Villiers.
De Villiers and Morkel survived chances soon after. The former could have been run out for 28 if Swann had gathered cleanly at the non-striker’s end before the latter edged Kevin Pietersen over second slip on two.
The tourists took the second new ball at the earliest opportunity but runs continued to flow, mainly from de Villiers’ bat, despite the slow outfield.
The right-hander survived a review on 46 when a Graham Onions delivery flicked the top of his front pad and flew through to Prior.
He went to a fluent half-century from 96 balls, with six fours, but fell two deliveries later.
Harris was nearly caught and bowled for nought after a diving effort from Broad but was soon trapped in front by Swann, despite a review.
England used their last first-innings review for another Swann lbw appeal against Morkel on 23 shortly before lunch, taken at 284 for eight.
However, Swann trapped Morkel in front in the first over after the interval as the Proteas too used their final review in vain.
Steyn and Ntini eked their way to 300 but Steyn upped the ante by lifting Swann for three sixes.
Their 58-run alliance was the highest Ntini has been involved in during his 101-Test career. He contributed six.