x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lord's Test hanging in the balance

Jonny Bairstow happy to play part in England's first-innings revival but Hashim Amla's unbeaten fifty gives South Africa 139-run advantage with seven wickets in hand.

Hashim Amla sweeps on his way to an unbeaten half-century against England yesterday. Tom Hevezi / AP Photo
Hashim Amla sweeps on his way to an unbeaten half-century against England yesterday. Tom Hevezi / AP Photo

LONDON // Jonny Bairstow was upbeat despite missing out on a maiden Test century against South Africa at Lord's.

The England batsman, who was recalled to the side as a result of Kevin Pietersen's controversial omission, made 95 before being bowled by Morne Morkel as England scored 315.

That gave them a negligible first-innings lead of six and South Africa responded by reaching 145 for three by stumps to set up a fascinating final two days.

Fast bowlers Morkel (4-80) and Dale Steyn (4-94) did most of the damage for the tourists, but the attention remained centred on Bairstow's knock, though, as the 22 year old, dropped after a disappointing debut series against the West Indies earlier this summer, bounced back in courageous style. He told Sky Sports 1: "It's the big innings I wanted, I'm pretty pleased with the way it's gone. It didn't go as well as I'd have liked against the West Indies and to come back here with 95 is fantastic."

Particularly impressive was the way Bairstow dealt with short-pitched bowling, a weakness identified by the Windies which Morkel and Dale Steyn were keen to exploit.

And Bairstow credited his work with former England batsman Graham Thorpe with helping to improve that aspect of his game.

"It was just about going back to Yorkshire and to the Lions and working on all aspects, the strengths, the weaknesses, and come back hopefully a stronger package," he said. "I worked on a few things with Thorpey, looked at a couple of aspects to quicken things up and tweak a few little things."

Bairstow was marooned in the 90s for a prolonged period, scoring just one run in his last 40 minutes at the crease. "I'm pleased with 95, I'm desperately disappointed to miss out on the maiden hundred but hopefully there'll be many more opportunities."

Looking ahead to the remainder of the match, Bairstow added: "There's two days to go, it's a heck of a lot of cricket. There's already been 24 wickets in three days, I don't see why we can't get the last seven and then chase down a total.

"It was hard work and at the end we've come out with a bit of a reward with the wicket of [Jacques] Kallis."

Indeed, the tourists played out a difficult session after England claimed the wickets of captain Graeme Smith (23) and fellow opener Alviro Petersen (24) after tea, and the key scalp of Kallis (31) late on.

Kallis showed dissent at his reviewed dismissal for the second time in the match.

Hashim Amla was 57 not out and nightwatchman Dale Steyn had yet to score. Amla was dropped on two when he gloved Stuart Broad down the leg side, but although wicketkeeper Matt Prior managed to get a full glove on the ball, he could not hold on. The wicket of Kallis, though, buoyed England late on.

England, who must win the match to square the series and prevent South Africa leapfrogging them at the top of the world rankings, were dismissed for 315 shortly after lunch.

South Africa started their second innings cautiously, reaching 33 without loss at tea off 15 overs. But Swann struck not long after, when Smith attempted to sweep the off-spinner and was adjudged leg before after failing to make contact.

That was 46 for one, and it was soon to be 50 for two. Petersen fell two balls after Amla was dropped, when Broad trapped him lbw. Kallis and Amla put on 81 and looked solid, ominously so for England, who would have well remembered their third-wicket partnership of 377 at The Oval in the first Test, when South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs.

But the duo was separated when Kallis was lbw to Steven Finn. Kallis instantly called for a review, giving the impression he had hit it, but hotspot and regular replays did not show evidence to support the batsman's protest. He walked off visibly annoyed and shaking his head.

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