Undulating Test keeps cricket on the map
Posted in England
The London 2012 Olympics are understandably attracting huge attention at the moment, yet that is not to say events at Headingley Carnegie should have been ignored.
While Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Ben Ainslie, Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and many more were capturing the imagination of the British public over the past five days, there was plenty of intriguing action in the second Investec Test.
One down to South Africa in the three-match series following a painful innings defeat at the Kia Oval, Andrew Strauss' side knew they could not afford to lose in Leeds if they were to keep hold of top spot in the International Cricket Council rankings.
So when the Proteas racked up 419 in their first innings, after they had been invited to bat, it is fair to say the pressure was well and truly on.
England's response - a total of 425 underpinned by Kevin Pietersen's majestic 149 - represented an impressive show of defiance and character.
Pietersen's counter-attacking masterpiece changed the course of the game and the flamboyant number four went on to describe the innings as one of his finest.
Yet the contributions of James Taylor, who marked his Test debut with a composed innings of 34, and half-centurion Matt Prior (surely the most reliable cog in England's machine?) were also significant as South Africa's bowlers were made to work hard for their gains.
The hosts were ultimately unable to build pressure for much of the final day, with part-time off-spinner Pietersen the only bowler to enjoy success until Stuart Broad put the cat among the pigeons shortly before tea.
Broad's late burst of wickets not only brought new life to an encounter that had looked to be meandering towards a tame conclusion, but must also have lifted the spirits of a bowling attack that had previously struggled to make an impression in this series.
England's strong finish with the ball, together with the manner in which they initially approached a target of 253 in 39 overs, illustrated the level of belief they retain heading into the series finale in Lord's.
One thing is certain - regardless of which 11 players take the field on Thursday week, Strauss' men will not be going down without a fight.
Perhaps their own moment of glory in the capital awaits?