The second Test match between England and South Africa went down to the final session of the final day, which in modern Test cricket is not hugely common. It clearly began with a questionable team and toss selection from England but rapidly became a match heading towards all 3 result being possible. Most cricket fans and writers i read on Twitter and in the media were saying it would end up a dead rubber, as tt ended up, but come the last session with wickets tumbling i wasn’t so sure.
South Africa and England were able to match each other more or less with England picking up a lead of just 6 in the first innings. Alviro Petersen’s 182 and Kevin Pietersen’s exhillerating 149 set up the possibility of a hard fought finale. The pitch being flat yet giving a little bit of seam movement and with clouds a permenant fixture for most the Test meant there was hope for bowlers, reinforced by the fact England went with an all seam attack therefore someone having an inkling that pace could be the key. Rain however effected playing time, the game seemed to be heading towards a draw.
The game meandered along on the fifth day but the tide turned before lunch as Pietersen got a wicket; that of South Africa’s skipper who fell on 123 with fifty two to his name. As a result of a few minor injuries, the slightly disrupted order proved to be something that limited fluency and acceleration.The Proteas never got going really. They fell from 123-1 to 182-3 after Kevin Pietersen followed up a thrilling first innings 149 with the bat, with 3 wickets with the ball.
Graeme Swann must have been bashing his head on the table watching the ball rip around Rudolph, Smith and Amla’s bats, wondering why he wasn’t playing. By the 51’st over Pietersen had bowled his way to 3-41 off eight overs. A fine display from a part time bowler.
Stuart Broad ripped the heart out of South Africa as he removed De Villiers LBW followed by Duminy the very next ball. Shortly after Kallis was bounced out with a brutal short ball and Phillander also LBW. This single spell left South Africa reeling, from 182-3 in the 51st over to 230-7 in the 61st over. He ended the innings getting Morkel caught which gifted him figures of 16.4 overs 2 Maidens 5- 69. A return to form indeed.
Smith pulled the plug and set England 253 runs to win in 39 possible overs. This target of 253 in 39 may seem do-able in a CB40 game, but with Test matches these so called ‘dead rubbers’, are so, because unlike limited overs cricket fielding restrictions do not exist and therefore there are more boundary riders. South Africa have a high quality pace attack which is difficult to hit anyway so If England went all out guns blazing, like South Africa tried near the end of their innings i think the only possible result would be lots of wickets. With the exception of Pietersen the England players are aggressive by Test match standard but not much else, so i doubt they could have attacked for as long.
Strauss is a defensive captain arguably but I was pleasantly surprised despite being partially really unsure about how his next move would pay off. Pietersen was promoted to open in a Test innings , which is not an everyday occurrence. However this was a sign England were going to ‘have a go’ at chasing over 6 an over even if only for a small period.
Initially KP was double the rate smashing 12 off a wayward Morkel over. Once KP selflessly gave it away in the interests of the team, It became a bit of an self fulfilling prophecy for most England fans that this game would be a draw. The faint hopes Pietersen laid were short lived. England would not be going to hard at this total with Alistair Cook, Strauss, Trott and a debutant in the top 6. For the second match in a row Cook hit a six ( i hope this is not a sign of the apocalypse) in the process of hitting a lovely 46 off 70. Bell and Trott were both solid and Prior incredibly unlucky to be run out.
It was a good debut for James Taylor, who helped to maintain a solid partnership with Pietersen in a difficult period. He occupied the crease for nearly two hours and spent invaluable time with KP.