Ntini at the double for South Africa
Makhaya Ntini struck twice as South Africa followed up their dominance with the bat to take two early wickets and leave England in trouble after day three of the second npower Test.
AB de Villiers’ fine 174 had put South Africa in the driving seat but Ntini motored through the England top order to snatch two quick wickets and leave England struggling at Headingley Carnegie.
De Villiers and Ashwell Prince, who converted his overnight 134 into a Test-best 149, saw South Africa through to 522 all out as the tourists racked up a first-innings lead of 319.
In reply, England had looked like overcoming the early departure of Andrew Strauss for nought until Michael Vaughan nicked Ntini to Mark Boucher in the penultimate over of the day to leave them struggling on 50 for two, still trailing by 269.
The home side began the day looking refreshed as both James Anderson and Darren Pattinson found the movement off the pitch and in the air that was sorely lacking on day two.
Prince, who played a marvellous innings throughout the whole of yesterday, had displayed more of the sumptuous stokes that brought him a deserved hundred before nibbling at Pattinson and feathering an edge through to Tim Ambrose. He had faced 284 balls and stroked 17 fours along with two sixes.
His 212-run partnership with de Villiers, who himself registered his sixth Test hundred in the morning session, was a record for the fifth wicket against England, having surpassed the 192 put on by Mark Boucher and Gary Kirsten at Durban in 1999.
De Villiers reached three figures with a dab into the off side and a scampered single after an agonising morning session in which England’s bowlers closely examined his technique outside off stump
The 24-year-old had faced 264 balls and hit 11 fours, though he survived a desperate appeal for caught behind off Andrew Flintoff on 99, and also could have fell shortly beforehand when he flayed just over the slips.
Boucher, who looked similarly out of touch when he arrived at the crease, managed to survive until lunch despite having also been fortunate a number of times not to fall a persevering attack.
However, Boucher and de Villiers dug in after the break to frustrate a tiring attack and further turn the screw on England, although the former could well have departed had Pattinson clung on to a difficult chance off his own bowling in the first over after the break.
The chance, complimented by Alastair Cook’s spurned opportunity at second slip in the morning session, gave an out-of-sorts Boucher valuable time at the crease before he was eventually bowled via a bottom edge off Anderson for eight.
Anderson, like much of England’s attack, beat the bat with frustrating regularity throughout both sessions today, having sent down a multitude of excellent deliveries in a series of luckless spells.
Monty Panesar then quickly did for incoming batsman Morne Morkel for the second time this series, comprehensively bowling the left-hander through the gate for nought.
Anderson and Pattinson had a burst with the third new ball shortly before session’s close but de Villiers continued to torment and reached 150 with a typical stroke through the covers for four.
He then dismissed Pattinson to the rope with a powerful short-arm jab to underline his dominance and, having emerged after the interval, continued merrily to within sight of a second double hundred.
Any thoughts of adding to his 217 not out against India were soon snuffed out when Stuart Broad swung a delivery away to finally find an outside edge that Flintoff did supremely well to snaffle one-handed at first slip.
Paul Harris (24) sacrificed his wicket just two balls later when he carved Panesar to Anderson at mid-on.
Harris had earlier swung his opposite number high over long-on for a towering maximum but perished in ugly fashion after facing 76 balls.
The South African innings finally closed after 176 overs when Makhaya Ntini lazily sliced Panesar to Pietersen at cover, leaving the spinner with figures of 3-65.
Anderson’s harsh figures of 3-136 from a mammoth 44 overs far from reflected his robust display, whilst Pattinson picked up 2-95 from his effort on debut.
It left England with a tricky period of 24 overs left to bat, and the resurgent and energised Proteas made early inroads with the wicket of Strauss for a duck.
Having switched to round the wicket, Ntini got one to rise and flick the glove on the way through to a jubilant Boucher and leave England three for one.
Cook and Vaughan, who watchfully put behind him his first innings duck, set about salvaging England’s match as they saw off the new ball.
Cook looked in good order and authoritatively pulled Ntini to the rope for one of three boundaries in reaching 23 not out by the close.
It had looked comfortable for the pair but England’s hopes were dealt a hammer blow late in the day when Vaughan fiddled at a ball on off stump and was caught at the wicket for 21 with just two overs to go.
The England captain had faced 53 balls and struck three boundaries but could do little as he was sent back by a resurgent Ntini, who ended the day with 2-16.
It could have been worse for England had Anderson not survived a close leg-before shout two balls later, but he and Cook hung on to the close and will start the day tomorrow with plenty still to do.