x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Steyn's last stand swings balance of play

South Africa reach 343 all out but England respond through a quick-fire half century through captain Andrew Strauss.

DURBAN // Andrew Strauss almost single-handedly wiped out the damage inflicted by South Africa's last-wicket stand as England reached tea 59 without loss in reply to 343 at Kingsmead. Dale Steyn dominated a partnership of 58 with Makhaya Ntini to push the balance of the second Test in the hosts' favour on the second afternoon in Durban. But Strauss raised the stakes again with an unbeaten 50 at better than a run-a-ball, dispatching eight fours ? including three in one Ntini over ? in less than an hour's batting alongside near silent partner Alastair Cook. Jacques Kallis' wish last night for a first-innings 350, from 175 for five, appeared an optimistic target ? and the hosts seemed destined soon after lunch to fall short of 300. But Steyn had other ideas, taking a particular liking to Graeme Swann (four for 110), on the way to 343 all out by mid-afternoon. That prosperity was an unlikely prospect when play got under way half an hour early, to make up for lost time. this morning, with the floodlights in action under heavy cloud cover. But overnight pair Mark Boucher and AB de Villiers took advantage of a pitch which provided little for the old ball, in a stand of 63.

England's lines and lengths were not quite as reliable as they had been yesterday. There were also a series of half-chances through the morning which they might possibly have taken, but nothing clear-cut and deserving of significant self-reproach. Perhaps the most telling was when De Villiers pushed a single off Swann on 18, just past short-leg Alastair Cook on the full. England finally registered their first Decision Review System (DRS) success of the series, however, when Swann broke the sixth-wicket stand with a delivery which turned enough into Boucher to beat the bat and hit pad. Umpire Amiesh Saheba had to overturn his original not out, after plenty of initial deliberation from England over whether to review and then from the third official too.

The cost to the flow of the game was around two and a half minutes, but England certainly were not complaining. With the new ball unsurprisingly taken immediately, De Villiers comfortably survived another DRS lbw call on 46 off James Anderson and was able to reach his 50 off 96 balls. But he got no further before Stuart Broad struck with only the second delivery of a new spell, finding enough swing to take the edge of an attempted drive for a regulation caught behind. Andrew Strauss took the unusual step of recalling Swann's off-spin with the ball only nine overs old.

The ploy worked too before lunch, Paul Harris instinctively reviewing Saheba's lbw verdict when he was hit in front sweeping but having to go anyway despite a possible video hint that the ball might have hit glove before pad. Swann won his third lbw to shift Morne Morkel in early afternoon but with England's reviews used up, had to accept a not out against Ntini, playing no shot on two. It proved a big moment too, Ntini supporting Steyn as the latter threatened to hit Swann out of the attack until he fenced a catch behind off Anderson just three runs short of his second Test 50.

* PA Sport