ENG vs SA: South Africa put England under their control
Friday , July 20 2012 , 06:03 PM
South Africa vs England
1st TEST MATCH: 2nd Day
South Africa emerged on the second morning at The Oval like a different team, surging back into contention with a high-intensity display of skilful pace bowling led by Dale Steyn, as England staggered to lunch on 326 for 7. Steyn removed Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara, while Jacques Kallis and Imran Tahir contributed an important wicket apiece to leave the match fascinatingly poised.
Steyn was curiously subdued on the opening day, sending down 21 wicketless overs and needing treatment off the field on his ankle, but emerged on Friday morning with a performance much more akin to the No. 1 fast bowler in the world. In the third over of the day he removed Cook, England's lynchpin, who added just one to his overnight score when he dragged a drive into his stumps.
That opened the way for his Essex team-mate, Ravi Bopara, to resume his Test career at No. 6 but it was not a happy comeback. The ball after a loud shot for lbw against Steyn (the delivery was just clipping leg stump) Bopara was left in two minds how to play a bouncer. He was caught between hooking and leaving, which resulted in him dangling his bat high in the air and feathering an edge to AB de Villiers. Inevitably, despite it being just the first innings of the series, it sparked the debate about Bopara's possible future but more importantly, in the immediate term, it meant South Africa sensed an opening.
The quality of the bowling - Steyn's pace and Vernon Philander's subtle swing - kept England's batsmen virtually scoreless. The opening eight overs of the day brought six runs for the loss of the two key wickets. Matt Prior picked up the first boundary of the day when offered some rare width by Steyn, but was involved in a horrid mix-up with Ian Bell next ball that could have led to another wicket.
Prior played the ball to point, thought he had found the gap and raced off for a single only for Alviro Petersen to collect the ball with both batsmen stranded mid-pitch. However, no one had managed to reach the stumps and Petersen's throw missed the target to give England a reprieve.
Yet it was only momentary relief for the home side. Kallis was introduced as first change and produced an opening over of the highest class to dislodge Bell. He began with two outswingers, one booming wide of the stumps, before making a delivery hold its line. Then, with the fourth ball of the over, he produced a delivery which nipped back, Bell shouldered arms and the ball grazed the off bail. Kallis initially appealed for lbw before realising the job was already done. England had lost 4 for 33 going back to Kevin Pietersen's gloved pull on Thursday evening and the game looked very different.
Much has been made of England's lower-order strength and this was one of their biggest challenges. Under heavy cloud cover the four-pronged pace attack offered few poor deliveries, although Morkel was the least consistent and Prior took advantage with a pull, a drive and a cut to relieve a little of the pressure. Prior, though, could have gone for 17 when Jacques Rudolph could not hold onto a low chance in the gully off Morkel.
Having started to steady the innings it will have been galling for England that a poor delivery from Tahir broke the seventh-wicket stand. As with Kallis, Tahir struck in his first over when Bresnan dragged a long hop into his stumps. South Africa then used up both their reviews trying to dislodge Stuart Broad - one with Philander and one with Tahir - the latter taking nearly half a minute to ask for, which is stretching the playing conditions beyond their limits.
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