SA poised for the final fling

2010-01-07 00:00

IT came late, but South Africa’s three-wicket burst yesterday afternoon sees them in the driving seat as the Newlands Test goes into a decisive final day.

Having set England an improbable 466 to win, Graeme Smith would have been a nervous man as the new ball failed to deliver the early breakthroughs that the Proteas craved.

That was certainly not part of the plan, but Smith will take great heart from the fact that Freidel de Wet and Paul Harris contributed key wickets when Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel had missed out.

Smith will need all his bowlers firing, and Harris looks to have taken a great deal of pleasure from snaring the wicket of England skipper Andrew Strauss. A bubbly Harris is just as important to South Africa as Graeme Swann is to the visitors.

When he is on song, it allows Smith to rotate his fast men while Harris ties up an end. For much of this series, that hasn’t happened and the result has been that the likes of Morkel and Steyn have to play dual roles of containers and strikers all at once.

It’s not realistic, but with England now seemingly in defensive mode, Harris will be central to Smith’s plan for the day.

And with the attack-minded Kevin Pietersen back in the hut, Smith will be eager to load men around the bat all day.

The wicket of Pietersen, the last of the day, was a critical moment in this contest. Had he been in overnight, there would have been a small thought of the improbable occurring if he was still at the crease around tea.

Few men in the world can take game away as briskly as Pietersen, but he has looked uninterested in proceedings in Cape Town thus far. Steyn’s vein-popping celebration when he trapped him in front was an indication of how much respect the Proteas have for the enigmatic KP.

Their task is now a little easier with him out of the way.

The Proteas had begun yesterday eager to press on, and Smith quickly got to 183 before the chase for quick runs saw him gobbled up at fine leg. But he had already changed the course of this match, and his sustained ovation was richly deserved.

Jacques Kallis (46), AB de Villiers (34) and JP Duminy (36) all added cameos to take the lead beyond 450, but all the crowd was waiting for was Smith’s declaration. And so it came midway through the post-lunch session.

Smith almost had Strauss got at slip off Steyn, but the anxiety levels quietly grew as England’s opening stand gradually gathered steam.

There was an amighty sense of relief when Alastair Cook skied De Wet and the first wicket finally fell for 101.

Six runs later, Harris got in on the act as Strauss atempted a rather lazy leg-side flick and only succeeded in getting an inside edge onto his thigh pad and into the gleeful hands of Hashim Amla at short leg.

It was a massive moment, as both these desperately similar sides take a lot of confidence from a strong showing by their skipper, and Strauss’s dismissal was a psychological dent for the tourists.

Pietersen’s demise was the cherry on top for the hardworking Steyn, but the shot will have been received with disbelief in the visiting dressing room.

With the match so tantalisingly placed, and with just 10 minutes to the end of play, his swish across the line was instinctive, but also highly irresponsible.

But that’s what you get with the Brylcreem boy, and Steyn’s roar to the infinitely blue skies said much of South Africa’s mindset going into today’s final fling.

For the sake of the series, Smith’s men will be desperate for the last seven wickets. In their minds, and those of their fans, they simply can’t let this chance slip away.

 

SCOREBOARD

Toss: England

South Africa first innings291 all out

England first innings273 all out

South Africa second innings(o/n 312/2)

A Prince lbw Swann15

G Smith c Collingwood b Onions183

H Amla c Cook b Swann95

J Kallis c Prior b Anderson46

A de Villiers c Broad b Anderson34

J Duminy c Prior b Anderson36

M Boucher c Bell b Swann15

D Steyn not out1

Extras (5 pen, 8b, 7lb, 1nb)21

TOTAL (for 7 wkts decl)447 – 111.2 overs

Fall of wickets: 1-31 (Prince 11.1), 2-261 (Amla 65.4), 3-346 (Smith 89.5), 4-376 (Kallis 99.5), 5-401 (De Villiers 105.1), 6-442 (Boucher 110.3)

Bowling: Anderson 22.2-1-98-3, Onions 22-4-87-1 (2nb), Swann 37-5-127-3, Broad 22-4-79-0, Pietersen 3-0-6-0, Trott 5-0-30-0

England second innings

A Strauss c Amla b Harris45

A Cook c Boucher b De Wet55

J Trott not out24

K Pietersen lbw Steyn6

J Anderson not out0

Extras:(1b, 1lb) 2

TOTAL: (for 3 wkts)132 – 51 overs

Fall of wickets: 1-101 (Cook 36.3), 2-107 (Strauss 39.3), 3-129 (Pietersen 47.2)

Bowling: Morkel 12-2-26-0, Steyn 14-3-30-1 . De Wet 8-4-19-1 Harris 13-2-43-1, Kallis 4-1-12-0

— Sapa.

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