x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

South Africa on course to level series

Graeme Smith's decision to set England a record fourth-innings target of 466 to win a Test match off a potential 146 overs looks set to pay off.

CAPE TOWN // Graeme Smith is fast becoming a very bold captain. The South African's brave decision to set England a record fourth-innings target of 466 to win a Test match off a potential 146 overs looks set to pay off after earlier fears that he had made a huge miscalculation. After Smith had declared with South Africa 447 for seven, just 40 minutes after lunch, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook's positive opening stand of 101 had switched talk from whether the visitors could save the game to whether they could re-write the record books instead. But Cook (55) and Strauss (45) both fell late in the day along with Kevin Pietersen (six) to leave England staring defeat in the face going into today's final day. They are 132 for three, still a massive 334 runs short of their target. Smith had earlier added 21 more runs to his overnight 162 before hooking Graham Onions to Paul Collingwood in the deep, although TV replays suggested that it may have been a no-ball.

At the other end Jacques Kallis struggled to dominate and tamely fell with a thin nick to Matt Prior off the bowling of James Anderson for 46. After South Africa managed just 85 runs in the first session, they shifted the tempo afterwards but AB De Villiers (34) fell caught in the deep off Anderson. JP Duminy played himself back into form, launching a ferocious first six of the match over Anderson's head, while Mark Boucher also hit a maximum off Graeme Swann before departing two balls later for 15, top edging to Ian Bell. Duminy made 36 before gloving down the leg side to Prior to give Anderson an eighth wicket in the match and that was the cue for a South Africa declaration. Strauss and Cook defended for their lives early on, with the England captain under particular pressure from Dale Steyn.

But Strauss soon got on the front foot, with three straight off-side boundaries in the tenth over. England reached tea at 38 without loss but started the final session in an ultra-positive mood. Strauss pulled Morne Morkel to the fence before Cook slog-swept Harris for two boundaries in an over, the second of which only marginally evading de Wet in the deep. Harris came in for some flak from Strauss and Cook as they seized every possible boundary chance. Strauss nearly ran out his partner with the score on 82, Duminy agonisingly missing the stumps with Cook out of his ground.

Things slowed down somewhat after that with Cook nudging his way past fifty for the third consecutive time before luckily edging the miserly Jacques Kallis through the slips. Cook and Strauss had done the hard part but they both fell within three overs each other. Cook was the first to go, top-edging a hook off the under-used de Wet with Boucher taking an easy catch in the air. And Strauss fell not long after, Hashim Amla claiming a bat-pad catch off the bowling of Harris.

Kevin Pietersen was given out lbw by Daryl Harper off the on-fire de Wet's bowling but the decision was successfully overturned on review, as he clearly hit it. He fell soon after, lbw to Dale Steyn to leave little hope for England. Strauss' men have saved matches from similar positions recently; Cardiff in July against Austrakua where they batted for 105 overs and at Centurion where they held out for 96. But with the visitors needing to bat for a further 90 overs on top of the 51 they have already faced, South Africa look nailed on to level the series.

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South Africa 291 & (second innings, overnight 312-2): Ashwell Prince lbw b Swann 15 Graeme Smith c Collingwood b Onions 183 Hashim Amla c Cook b Swann 95 Jacques Kallis c Prior b Anderson 46 AB de Villiers c Broad b Anderson 34 JP Duminy c Prior b Anderson 36 Mark Boucher c Bell b Swann 15 Dale Steyn not out 1 Extras: (7lb, 8b, 2nb, 5pen) 22 Total (for 7 wickets declared, 111.2 overs) 447 Fall of wickets: 1-31, 2-261, 3-346, 4-376, 5-401, 6-442, 7-447 Bowling: Anderson 22.2-1-98-3 Onions 22-4-87-1 (2nb) Swann 37-5-127-3 Broad 22-4-79-0 Pietersen 3-0-6-0 Trott 5-0-30-0. England 273 & (second innings): Andrew Strauss c Amla b Harris 45 Alastair Cook c Boucher b de Wet 55 Jonathan Trott not out 24 Kevin Pietersen lbw b Steyn 6 James Anderson not out 0 Extras (1b, 1lb) 2 Total (three wickets, 51 overs) 132 Fall of wickets: 1-101, 2-107, 3-129 Bowling: Morkel 12-3-26-0 Steyn 14-3-30-1 De Wet 8-4-19-1 Harris 13-2-43-1 Kallis 4-1-12-0