England in the driving seat

The sun shone on England on the third day of the second Castle Lager Test against South Africa at Kingsmead, with the visitors ending the day in a strong position on 386 for five, with a first innings lead of 43.

The day did not start well for England—Jonathan Trott added just one run to his overnight score of 17 before edging a Morne Morkel delivery straight to wicketkeeper Mark Boucher in the first full over of the day.

Trott was replaced by Kevin Pietersen, who received as many cheers as jeers as he made his way to the middle. And together with Alistair Cook shared a third—wicket stand of 52, during which Cook battled his way to his 21st Test half-century, which took him 136-balls.

Jacques Kallis, normally the safest pair of hands in the slips, dropped Pietersen on 20, when the ball went between his fingers and through his legs, but the mistake was not too costly, as Pietersen was out soon after for 31, trying to slog-sweep Paul Harris, only to miss and have the ball thud into his pads.

But that was the last time South Africa were able to celebrate until after the tea break, as Cook silenced his critics by battling his way to his 10th Test century. It took him five hours and 24 minutes, and he faced 218-balls.

“I think a felt a sense of relief when I got to a 100,” said Cook.

“It’s also a little milestone, being my tenth, so I really enjoyed that moment.
The fast few games, I haven’t really contributed and have been carried by my teammates, so it was nice to repay that.”

Cook said he was pleased with his disciplined approach, particularly in the first hour of play, when the South African bowlers were trying to tempt him into rash shots.

“I was pleased that I didn’t have a go at one and then it all ends in tears. I didn’t even flirt with one, and that’s good for my confidence—I know I can do it.

Paul Collingwood, who has been one of the stars of the England tour, moved to his second 50 of the series, and 18th of his career, off 106-balls, and England went to tea on 281 for three, just 62 runs behind South Africa.

It was Morkel who broke their 142-run partnership in the fifth over of the afternoon session. Morkel had been bowling a tight line and length to Cook, who eventually got an edge and was caught by
Kallis for 118.

Ian Bell, whose position in the England team was also under threat, joined Collingwood in the middle, and together they took England past South Africa’s first innings total of 343.

Bell and Collingwood shared a fifth-wicket stand of 68, until, with his 10th Test century in his sights, Collingwood edged a JP Duminy delivery and was caught behind for 91.

Bell became the second player of the match to silence his critics when he reached his 22nd Test 50. It came off 65-balls and included five fours and a massive six off Harris.

At close of play, Bell was not out on 55 and Matthew Prior had 11.

Proteas coach Mickey Arthur said it had been a hard day for South Africa, but he was pleased with the way the team had stuck to its task.

“I thought we executed [our game plans] a lot better than we did yesterday. It was very encouraging to see Dale [Steyn] getting better and better, and also very encouraging to see Jacques [Kallis) running in without any ill-effects. I have no complaints about the efforts they [the bowlers] put in on a very hot day.

“It was good old fashioned Test cricket, where we were very disciplined and England didn’t give us an inch.”

He conceded that England were in pole position at present, but said South Africa had not allowed them to get too far ahead.

“If we can restrict them to a lead of 150, we’ll be very happy,” he said.

Cook refused to be drawn on what sort of lead England were looking for. “We’ve got to do what we did in the first hour this morning,” he said.

“Get through that hour and then build on that. We need to be careful of not looking too far ahead.” - Sapa