It was not an entirely pleasant day, the first day of the third Test between England and South Africa at Newlands, Cape Town. But that was set right by Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn on the second day even as South Africa seem to be sounding out Makhaya Ntini.
South Africa struggled through the better part of the first day, perhaps a hangover from that loss in the second Test in Durban, and had it not been for Jacques Kallis’ century, South Africa could have been danger of surrendering the Test on day one itself. And it appeared that way the manner in which the South African captain, Graeme Smith, trudged heavily off the pitch after James Anderson ended his reign on thirty. Anderson incidentally struck with five wickets, all lost in the mayhem.
In that the efforts of AB de Villiers (whose dismissal left South Africa at five down for 127) and Mark Boucher, whose fighting half century helped Kallis continue on his mission, must be singled out. It gave South Africa a fighting chance at 279 for six at the end of the first day’s play.
But all that changed on day two. Seventeen balls into the second day, South Africa did not even have time to catch their breath as they were bowled out for 291, to all their disastrous misadventures since Durban.
But Morne Morkel showed unbelievable restraint and Dale Steyn class as the duo went about bringing South Africa back into the picture.
First came the wicket of the England captain, Andrew Strauss, as Morkel bowled in the corridor of uncertainty to induce an edge. Tottering Jonathan Trott was cleaned by Steyn who struck immediately to take Kevin Pietersen off a caught and bowled for duck.
Reduced to three down for thirty-six, the hosts sensed trouble for the visitors but a brief resistance was to follow in the form of a sixty run partnership between Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, the two men left standing at Durban.
But it was South Africa’s day with the ball and Morkel and Steyn were back in the thick of things to finish with three wickets apiece, even as Bell fell to a teaser from Jacques Kallis for forty-eight while Cook was dismissed for sixty-five.
Matt Prior tried to hang tough with a half century but the day barring the seventeen balls belonged to South Africa. As England finished the day on 241 for seven, fifty runs behind South Africa’s first innings total, the match is not hanging even and unless something dramatic happens, a clear winner cannot emerge.
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