Super ‘Biff’ takes control

2010-01-06 00:00

THEY call him “Biff”, but yesterday South Africa’s skipper turned basher as he brutally led a fightback at Newlands.

Frustrated by a series of good starts but no big scores, Graeme Smith feasted greedily on a wilting England attack to assume total control of the third Test.

In sweltering conditions, Smith struck a majestic 162 not out, his 19th Test century, and one of his most important to date.

The Proteas, on a dominant 312 for 2, are now in the pound seats for the first time in the series since the final, frenetic afternoon at Centurion all those days ago.

So inspiring is Smith that South Africa have never tasted defeat when the burly left-hander has reached three figures in a match.

After yesterday’s efforts, we can almost certainly add this knock to that list of match-winning efforts.

It was not so much that Smith made a ton, it was the manner that he sought to get on top of England and then twist the screw as he accelarated on to 162 in little time.

The tourists are under real pressure now, and they will have to bat out of their skins to stop the Proteas rattling up a fifth consecutive victory at the picturesque Newlands.

The day had begun just as furiously as the second day, as Morné Morkel helped himself to two wickets in as many balls, both as a result of searing pace that Graeme Swann and James Anderson could not handle.

At that stage, the Proteas looked set to secure a handy lead of 50 or so, but they hadn’t reckoned with Matt Prior’s ball striking.

The England keeper whittled the deficit down to a mere 18 before he chopped a Dale Steyn delivery on to his stumps to end on a fine, fighting 76.

At that stage, this excellent contest had become a single innings dogfight, and South Africa had to do all the snarling.

Smith, busying himself with a relentless piece of gum like a bulldog chomping on a wasp, was in no mood to let this critical match slip away.

It was pretty simple: if South Africa had lost their talisman early, the series would have been in serious jeopardy and England would have been mightily bouyed by the sight of his back.

Instead, they were confronted with his broad willow, which seemed to grow larger as the afternoon wore on and the ball stopped swinging.

Ashwell Prince, desperate for runs, was briefly indebted to the technology in use these days.

A diabolical decision by Daryl Harper saw Prince given out when Anderson flicked his pad innocuously, and Prince’s hasty referral restored order.

Whoever is against referrals need only see that “dismissal” again to realise that the ICC may have method to their time-consuming madness.

Sadly for Prince, that episode only delayed the inevitable.

As soon as Swann came on, one sensed trouble and so it was as Prince’s leaden front foot met twirling leather and he was on his way for 15 painful runs.

Smith found a willing ally in Hashim Amla, who was due a score himself.

The two of them turned the entire series with a partnership that belied the delicacy of the match situation.

Smith swiped and slugged Swann away — with a bit of luck — while Amla rediscovered his elastic wrists to wear the visitors down.

Amla’s efforts deserved a hundred, but he fell for 95 as Swann found an inside edge to halt a brilliant, match-altering stand of 220 in 55 overs.

South Africa’s brisk run-rate has given them more than enough time to seal this contest.

Smith’s turbo-charge late in the day, which included a disdainful four boundaries in a single Jonathan Trott over, suggested a man on a mission.

The South African captain will walk out this morning intent on pushing his lead beyond the reach of even the wildest Kevin Pietersen day-dream, and then turn to his bowlers to seal a much-needed victory.

It is there for the taking and, if Smith has his wicked way, it will be as emphatic as possible.


South Africa first innings291 all out

England first innings(o/n 241/7)

A Strauss c Boucher b Morkel2

A Cook c Prince b Morkel65

J Trott b Steyn20

K Pietersen c and b Steyn0

P Collingwood lbw Morkel19

I Bell c Duminy b Kallis48

M Prior b Steyn76

S Broad b Steyn25

G Swann c Smith b Morkel5

J Anderson c Smith b Morkel0

G Onion not out4

Extras (6lb,1nb, 2w)9

TOTAL (all out, 88 overs)273

Fall of wickets: 1-2, 2-36, 3-36, 4-73, 5-133, 6-174, 7-227, 8-241, 9-241, 10-273

Bowling: Morkel 22-4-75-5 (1w), De Wet 16-3-36-0 (1nb), Steyn 22-5-74-4, Kallis 14-2-27-1 (1w), Harris 9-0-39-0, Duminy 5-0-16-0

South Africa second innings

A Prince lbw Swann15

G Smith not out162

H Amla c Cook b Swann95

J Kallis not out20

Extras (5pen, 8b, 6lb, 1nb)20

Total (for 2 wkts, 80 overs)312

Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-251.

Bowling: Anderson 11-0-50-0, Onions 13-3-51-0 (1nb), Swann 33-5-104-2, Broad 15-3-52-0, Pietersen 3-0-6-0, Trott 5-0-30-0.

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