Pugnacious Proteas battle back
Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla built on the work of a rejuvenated South Africa attack to leave the first Investec Test intriguingly poised at the end of day two.
The tourists reached stumps at the Kia Oval on 86 for one in reply to England’s 385, having overcome the early exit of Alviro Petersen at the hands of James Anderson.
Smith and Amla, who contributed unbeaten scores of 37 and 47, were forced to work hard early on, but prospered following a lengthy rain delay at the start of the evening session.
Having appeared in total control as the close approached, Amla was dropped by Andrew Strauss to round off a tough day for England, who had resumed this morning in the driving seat on 267 for three.
The hosts found life much tougher when they resumed their first innings as South Africa’s attack exploited helpful overhead conditions and a surprising amount of variable bounce.
Cook was dismissed for 115, having added just one to his score, and Ravi Bopara fell for a six-ball duck in a second successive wicket-maiden from Dale Steyn.
After Ian Bell and Tim Bresnan had also fallen cheaply, it was left to Matt Prior to ensure England did not fall apart.
The gutsy wicketkeeper-batsman rode his luck early on and made the most of being dropped by Jacques Rudolph in the gully on 17 by striking nine fours in a counter-attacking 60.
Prior was eventually caught behind by Morne Morkel, who finished as the pick of South Africa’s attack with 4-72, and it was not long before the same bowler dismissed Anderson to bring England’s innings to an end.
Petersen soon fell lbw in reply and England were unfortunate not to make another breakthrough before tea as Anderson and Stuart Broad operated with accuracy in an engrossing passage of play.
The heavens then opened, forcing a delay of almost two hours, and it was South Africa who emerged the stronger.
Both Smith and Amla proved strong through the leg side, albeit via vastly different techniques; the captain’s somewhat agricultural approach contrasting sharply with the grace of his partner, for whom timing is everything.
Amla did offer up a chance on 40, but a leaping Strauss was unable to hang on to a sharp chance at first slip in Bopara’s first over.
It remains to be seen how costly the missed chance will prove for England.
Live Text Commentary
7:32pm – STUMPS – SA 86/1; Smith 37, Amla 47 - No further alarms for South Africa and they will be delighted with the way they have bounced back today. They head into day three trailing by 299 and will have their sights set on a first-innings lead. Join us tomorrow to see if they are successful.
7:21pm – DROPPED CATCH - Time for Ravi Bopara to have a dart before stumps, and he almost strikes in his first over! Amla flashes at a wide one but a leaping Strauss cannot hang on to a tough one-handed chance at first slip. How significant might that be?
7:15pm - A fine piece of fielding from Jonathan Trott, running round from fine-leg, prevents Smith from registering another boundary. Swann is back on from the Vauxhall End and almost bowls the Proteas skipper with one that went straight on as the left-hander shouldered arms.
7:09pm - Smith picks up his fourth four with a pull off Bresnan, who has yet to really threaten. A wicket tonight would be massive for England, but time is running out. We have just over 20 minutes remaining before the close.
7:02pm - Another glorious stroke from Amla; he clips a length delivery from Anderson off his hip and the ball races away to the square-leg rope.
6:54pm - Anderson is guided down to third man for four by Amla, who now has 36. Smith, in his 100th Test, is unbeaten on 30.
6:45pm - Amla is a real classy performer, illustrated by a glorious shot through midwicket off Bresnan. Both he and Smith are looking more and more comfortable, and Anderson has opted to come round the wicket to the latter.
6:33pm - Tim Bresnan replaces Broad. There has not been quite the same level of intensity that there had been before the rain break. England could do with a lift and captain Andrew Strauss has turned to Anderson to provide it. He is on for Swann at the Vauxhall End.
6:27pm - I knew that would happen - Broad over-pitches following my praise and is angled through midwicket for four by Smith. Swann then fails to pitch one at all and concedes two more. We now have glorious clear skies overhead.
6:19pm - Broad is maintaining a good length and asking questions of the batsmen. He completes a maiden, the eighth in 18 overs so far. Smith and Amla do a better job of rotating the strike in Swann’s next set of six.
6:11pm - Swann gets one to turn past Smith’s outside edge and on to the pad; unfortunately for England, that one was going over the top. The pressure is building on South Africa’s skipper.
6:03pm - Three from Swann’s first over before Broad is taken for a couple of singles. England’s off-spinner will fancy his chances against Smith, who duly plays out a maiden.
5:53pm - Here we go then. The next hour and a half could well prove hugely significant to the final outcome of this match. Interestingly, England have immediately turned to Graeme Swann from the Vauxhall End.
5:43pm - The inspection has taken place and the news is that play will resume at 5:55pm, with 27 overs to be bowled and 13 lost. I imagine England’s bowlers are licking their lips; that burst of rain may have provided the pitch with a bit of extra spice.
5:22pm - We will have an inspection at 5:40pm.
5:15pm - The drying operation continues, with more covers being removed. The weather is fairly pleasant right now.
5:01pm - Should we get back on this evening, which looks increasingly likely if not certain, play can continue until 7:30pm.
4:54pm - It has now stopped raining and there are clearer skies to my right, where the weather is coming from. Still quite a bit of water to be cleared away, however.
4:42pm - The rain is now easing and it looks as though we may have avoided the worst of the weather sweeping across the capital. The Blotter machine has just been called into action and we may well get back on at some stage.
4:18pm - It has gone very dark here and we are seeing some fairly heavy rainfall. There certainly will not be any play for a while yet, if at all this evening.
4:07pm – RAIN STOPS PLAY; SA 27/1 - That is a pity. After one over from Broad, which yielded two runs to Smith, the players have been forced off due to rain. There are plenty of showers around, so this could be a lengthy stoppage. Let’s hope we get lucky.
4:03pm - Time for the last session of the day, which promises to be a belter. Stuart Broad will continue from the Pavilion End.
3:43pm – TEA – SA 25/1; Smith 14, Amla 10 - Anderson errs in length and is driven through the covers for four by Amla, who had just two from 24 balls prior to that. The classy number three repeats the trick from the next ball before tea is taken. What an engrossing passage of play we have just witnessed.
3:38pm - South Africa’s progress remains slow and Amla survives an lbw appeal from Broad after being rapped on the pad by one that looked a touch high. Smith is then beaten outside off once again, this time by Anderson, and another maiden from Broad ensures only 16 are on the board after 10 overs.
3:26pm - Smith clips Broad off his pads for four, before guiding Anderson down to fine-leg for a second boundary. The Proteas skipper is rarely pretty, but he can certainly be effective.
3:15pm - Another beauty from Broad has Smith in all sorts of trouble. England’s bowlers have been right on the money from the outset here.
3:06pm – WICKET! Petersen lbw Anderson 0; SA 1/1 - Just the start England wanted! Anderson gets one to come back into Petersen, who is struck on the back pad to be plumb as plumb can be.
3:04pm - Just a single from Anderson’s first over and Broad then begins with a probing maiden to South Africa captain Graeme Smith; the fifth ball was a jaffa that beat the outside edge.
2:54pm - Now it is the turn of England’s bowlers, who may not have expected to be called into action quite so quickly today. Anderson will take the new cherry.
2:44pm –WICKET! Anderson c de Villiers b Morkel 2; Eng 385 all out - That will be that! England fall short of 400 as James Anderson is strangled down the leg side off Morkel. A fourth wicket for him; a fifth catch for stand-in wicketkeeper AB de Villiers and South Africa will be delighted with their day’s work so far.
2:39pm – WICKET! Prior c de Villiers b Morkel 60; Eng 383/9 - Imran Tahir returns and is swept fine for four by Swann. There is a key breakthrough for South Africa in the next over, however, as Prior plays loosely outside off to be caught behind off Morne Morkel.
2:34pm - Hashim Amla swoops from the covers in an attempt to run out Prior, but the batsman was safely home despite a direct hit. England have added 53 in nine overs since lunch.
2:30pm - More short stuff from Steyn, but this time Swann pulls convincingly for four. England’s number 10 then unfurls a wonderful cover-drive to move into double figures.
2:22pm - Steyn bounces Graeme Swann, who attempts evasive action and succeeds in nodding the ball away for four leg byes. A nice glancing header there; thank God for helmets. An inside-edge then saves Swann from being adjudged lbw.
2:15pm – WICKET! Broad b Philander 16; Eng 358/8 - A handy partnership of 45 in 56 balls comes to an end as Philander castles Broad with a fine delivery that swung back appreciably. That may encourage England’s attack.
2:11pm – FIFTY! Prior (75b 9x4 0x6) - Prior moves past 50 in glorious fashion with an elegant straight-drive off Philander. How Jacques Rudolph must be rueing his earlier drop...
2:10pm - Prior was involved in a mix-up between the wickets earlier today and he has just featured in another moment of confusion. Broad ended up taking three after a throw to the non-striker’s end was deflected past the fielder backing up. A second off-side four for Broad takes England past 350.
2:04pm - Prior cuts Philander past backward point for his third boundary in as many overs. He looks much more comfortable now and is closing in on a half-century. Broad seems keen to get on with it at the other end, but has yet to connect cleanly.
1:59pm - Four more for an increasingly assured Prior, courtesy of an effortless push through the covers off Dale Steyn. He may have had some good fortune, but this has been yet another valuable innings from England’s wicketkeeper-batsman. Steyn responds by firing two deliveries past Stuart Broad’s gloves.
1:53pm - Vernon Philander bowls the first over after lunch and is driven down the ground for four by Matt Prior. Although there is heavy rain elsewhere in London, we currently have sunshine!
1:47pm - Good news! The covers are being removed and we will be under way again shortly. In fact, here come the players.
1:40pm - I am afraid to say rain has arrived at the Kia Oval and the start of the afternoon session will be delayed. Hopefully it is just a brief shower.
1:03pm - LUNCH – Eng 326/7; Prior 32, Broad 8 - Stand and deliver from Broad, who flays Philander through the off side in dismissive fashion; England would like a few more of those. Tahir then wastes his side’s second review following an unsuccessful lbw appeal against Broad and that will be lunch. The match is intriguingly poised but that was a fine session for South Africa.
12:50pm – REVIEW - Prior, who is now on to 28, sees another edge fall short of the slips before South Africa use up a review. New batsman Stuart Broad was rapped on the front pad, but Philander’s inswinger was doing a little too much.
12:42pm - WICKET! Bresnan b Tahir 8; Eng 313/7 – This has to go down as a huge bonus for South Africa. Imran Tahir is introduced in place of Kallis and strikes with his third ball as Bresnan drags a loose delivery on to his stumps.
12:39pm - That is the shot of the day so far. Morkel hangs one out wide and Prior connects with a crunching cut stroke that beats extra-cover and flies away to the rope. Ten from the over and some much-needed momentum for the batting side.
12:35pm - Bresnan breaks the shackles and ends Kallis’ impressive run of maidens with a thumping cover-driven four. That also brings up England’s 300. Prior then angles one down to the vacant third man region off Morkel to register his fourth boundary, before being beaten again by the next ball.
12:30pm – DROPPED CATCH - A life for Prior, who plays away from his body and edges Morkel to gully, only for Jacques Rudolph to spill a sharp low chance. England’s wicketkeeper has 17 to his name, but has really rode his luck thus far. He’s still there though!
12:25pm - A welcome boost for England as Prior pulls Morkel for four. Kallis is proving economical in the extreme at the other end and has now delivered four consecutive maidens.
12:16pm - Prior and Tim Bresnan are looking to steal singles whenever they can, which seems a sensible policy with runs at a premium. The darkest clouds look to be passing over to my left and the second new ball is now 24 overs old, so batting may get a touch easier in the remainder of the session.
12:03pm - Drinks are taken, with England having added 19 for the loss of three wickets today. South Africa’s pacemen have gained appreciable movement off the seam and through the air in overcast conditions and some variable bounce has made life even tougher for the batsmen.
11:59am - Morne Morkel replaces Philander and immediately poses problems. Prior continues to lead a charmed life and is fortunate to see the ball land safely after a lifter had struck him on the glove.
11:53am – WICKET! Bell b Kallis 13; Eng 284/6 - Another edge from Prior; this one flies between second slip and gully for four and England will take all the runs they can get right now. Jacques Kallis is on at the Vauxhall End, bringing an end to an exceptional spell of 5-2-8-2 from Steyn. The all-rounder duly strikes in his first over, when he gets one to nip back in to Bell and take the top of off. The hosts are in trouble.
11:44am - That will make Prior feel much better. He punishes a rare loose delivery from Steyn with a back-foot punch to the boundary. Huge confusion from the next ball as the batsmen look to take a single and end up together in the middle of the pitch. A direct hit from Alviro Petersen at gully would have sent Ian Bell packing, but he narrowly misses with his shy to the striker’s end. It is all happening out there!
11:40am - Philander has also been impressive in his opening burst. He beats Prior’s outside edge on three occasions in an over that saw another edge fall short of the slip cordon. South Africa’s seamers are making it talk and things could not be more different to yesterday.
11:33am - Day one certainly belonged to England, but they have added just five for the loss of two wickets in six overs this morning. Bell and Matt Prior have a big task on their hands in weathering this Steyn-inspired fightback. The world’s number-one ranked bowler is steaming in and has just seen another leg before shout turned down. Replays suggested the ball would have clipped the top of Prior’s leg stump.
11:23am – WICKET! Bopara c de Villiers b Steyn 0; Eng 272/5 - Ravi Bopara is the new batsman and this is his first Test appearance since August 2011, when he made 44 not out at this venue against India. He survives a strong lbw appeal from Steyn but then departs for nought next ball, caught behind aiming a half-hearted hook at a delivery he could easily have left alone. That’s two successive wicket-maidens for Steyn and South Africa are right back in this now!
11:14am – WICKET! Cook b Steyn 115; Eng 271/4 - There has been an unexpected lack of bounce in this Kia Oval pitch, illustrated just now by a thick outside edge from Cook that landed well short of Graeme Smith at first slip. Dale Steyn need not worry; three balls later, the opener looks to drive and drags on to his stumps. The end of a wonderful innings and a big breakthrough for South Africa.
11:10am - Philander appeals for lbw against Cook, but that one looked far too high from my position behind the batsman.
11:05am - An uneventful start to the day. Alastair Cook helps himself to a leg bye before Ian Bell advances to 11 with a single. Vernon Philander will open up from the Pavilion End.
10:59am - Here we go then - Dale Steyn has the ball and Cook is on strike.
10:50am - Almost time for proceedings to resume. Cook will be accompanied by Ian Bell, who has 10 to his name, and I would imagine England will be aiming for at least 450. There is still plenty of batting to come.
10:42am - Going back to the weather, I am pleased to tell you that the forecast for the remainder of the game is very encouraging. By Monday, we will apparently be basking in 27 degree heat! - Please note, ecb.co.uk takes no responsibility should this not occur.
10:35am - As you may expect, Alastair Cook was rather happy when he addressed the media yesterday evening. You can read his thoughts, together with those of South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald, here.
10:30am - I was somewhat surprised that we managed to get a full 90 overs in on day one, but I don't think we will be so lucky today unfortunately. It’s dry at the moment, but we can expect showers from around 3pm onwards.
10:20am - Good morning from the Kia Oval where England are hoping to build on an impressive opening day in the first Investec Test against South Africa. Alastair Cook compiled a superb unbeaten 114 to guide the hosts to 267 for three yesterday. How many can he and England get today? We shall soon see...