England in SA

Proteas come agonisingly close

2009-12-20 20:30
Friedel de Wet (Gallo Images)

Centurion - A four-wicket haul by debutant Friedel de Wet brought South Africa agonisingly close to winning the first Castle Lager Test against England at Supersport Park on Sunday, with Graham Onions sticking it out for 19 minutes and facing 12 deliveries to force a tense draw.

When the match ended, England had 228 for nine, 106 short of the total needed for victory.

England, chasing 364 to win, resumed play on 11 for the loss of Andrew Strauss. South Africa claimed two wickets in the first hour of the day, with night watchman James Anderson caught by Mark Boucher off Friedel de Wet for 10, and opener Alastair Cook, who had never looked comfortable, caught at leg slip by Graeme Smith off Paul Harris for 12.

His departure brought Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen together with the score on 27 for three and the two players, who both received their early cricket education in this country, batted for just over three hours - including the whole of the afternoon session - to keep England in with a chance of a draw.

Pietersen was in sublime form, and he took the attack to the South African bowlers, while Trott, playing in just his second Test, was more circumspect.

Pietersen reached his 16th Test half century off 76 balls, including seven boundaries, while Trott needed 135 deliveries to get to the milestone.

Graeme Smith kept changing the bowlers, but to no avail. He even played his trump card, bringing Jacques Kallis into the attack for three overs just before tea. Kallis, who is recovering from a fractured rib, was selected purely as a batsman and had not been expected to bowl.

Pietersen had only himself to blame for his dismissal in the over after tea, when he tapped the ball into the covers, put his head down and ran. Trott, who yelled an agonised "no," stayed put and grounded his bat, while the bowler, Friedel de Wet, calmly removed the bails at the other end.

Pietersen was out for 81 off 143 balls, having hit 11 boundaries. Their fourth wicket partnership was worth 145 runs, and while they were together, England would have felt they had the tiniest sniff of squeezing out victory on a pitch that had flattened out, but once Pietersen went, it seemed a draw was on the cards.

Trott was joined by Paul Collingwood - a man known for his ability to bat for a long time. South Africa, desperate to get more wickets, sent two leg before decisions for review, but in both cases, the original not out decision was upheld.

South Africa took the new ball as soon as it was available, and De Wet made it count in his first over, when AB de Villiers dived to his left to take a brilliant catch to dismiss Trott for 69. Four overs later, De Wet struck again when Boucher took a diving catch to dismiss Ian Bell for two.

Bell's dismissal precipitated a collapse. Matthew Prior was caught by Boucher off De Wet without scoring, Paul Harris had Stuart Broad caught by Boucher, also without scoring, and Morne Morkel had Graeme Swann leg before wicket for two.

Onions, not known for his batting, joined Collingwood in the middle.

Collingwood tried to protect him, but some expert captaincy by Smith meant that Onions had to face a full over from Morkel and then the final over, bowled by Makhaya Ntini, who was playing his 100th Test. Onions saw the over out, and the England fans were jubilant.

The match was one of wildly fluctuating fortunes, with first one side and then the other, getting the upper hand. South Africa had a slight edge at the end of the first day, thanks to a century from Kallis. Honours were more or less even on the second day, but on the third, a partnership of 105 between Graeme Swann and James Anderson, with Swann making 85 off 82 balls, brought England back into the picture.

When South Africa were reduced to 46 for four an hour before lunch on Saturday, England appeared to have their hosts on the ropes. But Hashim Amla and De Villiers turned things South Africa's way again with a partnership of 119. Amla reached his seventh century, and Boucher contributed a cameo 63 not out, allowing Smith to declare on 301 for seven.

Man of the Match: Graeme Swann

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