Proteas’ nail-biter woes continue

2010-01-08 00:00

FOR the third time in this series, England ended the match in a heap of hugs and celebration, while the Proteas were left to reflect on yet another missed opportunity.

If Centurion was annoying for Graeme Smith, this latest inability to kill off England will hurt him far more than the bang he received from Paul Harris in a frantic finish at Newlands.

The scorecards will say that England saved the match by the skin of their teeth, but it should never really have got to that.

South Africa’s glaring weakness is the lack of a world-class spinner, something that has become even more obvious as this series has worn on.

Harris, for all his efforts, should have bowled South Africa to victory yesterday. Final day heroics ought to be left to the slower bowlers, because that is when they should earn their crust.

Tellingly for the Proteas, JP Duminy’s part-time pies offered more of a threat to England’s defiant duo of Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood.

Duminy at least landed the ball in an area that asked the batsmen some questions, while Harris delivered a flurry of full-tosses that ensured that the Proteas could never build any sort of pressure.

In this match, after all that has gone before, South Africa had done everything to set up a final day that really should have seen them square the series.

Smith’s man of the match award will mean nothing to him, because the match was not won. South Africa needed this win, not only to level the series, but also to prove to themselves that they can be as clinical with the ball as they are with the bat.

Almost all of South Africa’s most memorable wins have seen heroes emerge with willow in hand. Save for Fanie de Villiers’s famous fling in Sydney, the Proteas have simply not killed off enough teams.

Yesterday was a great chance to put that right. Instead, England will go to the Wanderers knowing full well that they can block the life out of the Test, and secure the series.

Because when England shut up shop, South Africa seem to have few alternatives.

Credit must go to Bell (78) and the resolute Collingwood (40) for their nerveless vigil, but this was not so much a matter of England saving it as much as the Proteas chucking it away.

There are those who are suggesting that Smith waited too long to declare.

That is pure poppycock.

This was a fine pitch, and had he dangled a carrot any larger, the tourists may just have plotted a late charge with wickets in hand.

And besides, the drama only unfolded late in the piece, perhaps when Collingwood and the rest thought they had already done enough.

This was not a matter of time, it was a matter of skill. And South Africa are in urgent need of a trumpcard spinner to put a gloss on the hard yards put in by the excellent Dale Steyn and the ever improving Morné Morkel.

Steyn was incredible after lunch yesterday. In fact, he was immense. So good was his spell that he made Collingwood look more of a bunny than even Graham Onions is.

But luck deserted him at the worst possible time — from a Proteas perspective, anyway.

On any other day, he could have had a bagful of bunnies, but yesterday he simply beat the bat at will.

South Africa will find it incredibly hard to lift themselves for next week’s final assignment in Johannesburg.

It is not so much the fact that they can’t win the series anymore. What will really irk the home side is that they just can’t seem to find the tools to finish off this England side.

South Africa first innings291 all out

England first innings273 all out

South Africa second innings447/7 decl

England second innings(o/n 132/3)

A Strauss c Amla b Harris45

A Cook c Boucher b De Wet55

J Trott b Steyn42

K Pietersen lbw Steyn6

J Anderson c Prince b Harris9

P Collingwood c Kallis b Duminy40

I Bell c Smith b Morkel78

M Prior c De Villiers b Duminy4

S Broad c De Villiers b Harris0

G Swann not out10

G Onions not out0

Extras: (1b, 4lb, 1w, 1nb)7

TOTAL: (for 9 wkts)296 – 141 overs

Fall of wickets: 1-101, 2-107, 3-129, 4-153, 5-160, 6-272, 7-278, 8-286, 9-290.

Bowling: Morkel 28-9-51-1 (1w, 1nb).Steyn 35-11-74-2, De Wet 12-5-23-1, Harris 40-14-85-3, Kallis 14-4-28-0, Duminy 12-3-30-2

Result: Match drawn.

Man-of-the-match: Graeme Smith.

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