x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Smith and McKenzie lead fight back

The South Africa captain Graeme Smith defied his critics with a gritty century in the first test against England at Lord's.

Neil McKenzie (left) congratulates the South Africa captain Graeme Smith on his century.
Neil McKenzie (left) congratulates the South Africa captain Graeme Smith on his century.

LORD'S // The opening batsmen Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie defied England for almost three consecutive sessions on Sunday to boost South Africa's chances of saving the first test. At stumps on day four, the visitors had reached 242 for one wicket in their follow-on innings, requiring another 104 runs to make England bat again.

It was only after the new ball was taken that Smith finally played a loose shot. He flashed wildly outside off stump to top edge James Andersons wide delivery and offer Kevin Pietersen an easy catch. By Smith's standards, his 207-ball innings was pedestrian but it was vital if South Africa was to stave off defeat. On a flat pitch, South Africa scored just 54 runs in the first session and added a further 74 in the afternoon session after starting the day on 13-0. When the field spread in the evening session, the visitors increased the scoring rate slightly. Smith, who made 259 in his first outing at Lords in 2003, tucked Monty Panesar round the corner for three to bring up his 15th test century and his third against England. When McKenzie later scurried through for a single to bring the 200 up on the board, it represented the 10th occasion that South Africa has had a double-century opening stand. Smith has featured in seven of those partnerships. After Smith had departed, McKenzie brought up his fifth test century with a quick single past point. To reach his first hundred against England, McKenzie occupied the crease for 384 minutes and 307 balls. Englands lack of penetration will reinforce calls for the return of Andrew Flintoff.

On such a flat track, the left-arm spin of Monty Panesar shouldered much of the workload. However, having taken 4-74 in South Africa's first innings of 247, Panesar struggled to extract the same turn out of the rough on Sunday. ? AP