Rain pain for rampant SA

2010-01-16 00:00

SOUTH Africa are battling more than just the English, as yesterday’s mid-afternoon mini monsoon proved.

Rattling along at 215 for two by the end of the day, Graeme Smith’s men will still rue the amount of time lost to bad weather already.

And, rather ominously, the predictors suggest that more grey clouds will visit the Bullring throughout the weekend.

It would be a most unwelcome conclusion if this already spell-binding series ends with a damp squib, but it does not look promising.

The day had begun in bright sunshine, and much of the Proteas’ batting was just as serene in the morning session.

The now obligatory loss of Ashwell Prince did little to derail Smith and the classy Hashim Amla, as they compiled a fluent second-wicket stand of 165.

Smith seems obsessed with slaying England every opportunity, and his 105 was that of a man intent on not letting this last chance slip by.

It certainly was not Smith’s most polished century, with a host of slashes that were intended for the covers scurrying to the third man boundary.

Not that Smith or his team will care one bit. It was almost a surprise when he nicked birthday boy Ryan Sidebottom to a grateful Andrew Strauss at slip.

South Africa’s leader may not always be everyone’s cup of rooibos, but he certainly thrives on the big occasion.

His last two scores have been 183 and 105, contrasting in style, but no less different in importance to the cause.

The sustained applause that ushered him off the ground was fitting, and he will be looking to the skies for a hint of blue today.

The storm that arrived suddenly midway through the afternoon session was certainly not what the doctor ordered, but boy did it leave a mark.

It looked as if it might be a brief shower, but when the Wanderers suddenly resembled Cape Town in May, there were worried brows in the stands.

The weather is South Africa’s biggest threat to a series-levelling win here, and it shows little sign of letting up.

The England bowlers did not find quite the same life as the Proteas had in the wicket, and the Proteas will come out this morning fully intent on piling up a lead big enough not to warrant a second visit to the crease.

England, meanwhile, will hedge their bets on another Highveld storm coming along to flood the outfield.

That there was any play after the deluge yesterday was surprising enough, but the fact that it lasted only 23 balls meant that they may as well not have bothered.

It is still early days yet, but Smith may feel pushed to ask his batters to treat today as a bit of a slugfest.

The Proteas have to gamble to win, and the time is ripe for their talented middle order to loosen the shackles and impose themselves on a tiring England attack. They will not get another chance.

England first innings 180 (Steyn 5-51)

South Africa first innings

G. Smith c Strauss b Sidebottom105

A. Prince c Swann b Broad19

H. Amla not out73

J. Kallis not out7

Extras (b-1 lb-4 w-5 nb-1)11

TOTAL (two wickets; 63.2 overs) 215

Fall of wickets: 1-36 2-201

Still to bat: A. de Villiers, J-P. Duminy, M. Boucher, R. McLaren, M. Morkel, D. Steyn, W. Parnell.

Bowling: Anderson 17-3-65-0 (nb-1), Sidebottom 17.2-4-49-1, Broad 16-2-52-1 (w-5), Swann 9-0-35-0, Collingwood 4-1-9-0

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