SOMEHOW, amid the frantic fall-out from last night’s desperate draw in Centurion, South Africa captain Graeme Smith still found time for a quick poke at his old sparring partner, Kevin Pietersen and his fellow South African-born Englishman Jonathan Trott.
After seeing his side fail by just one wicket to snatch the first Test, Smith went through the usual routine of pretending his side were “taking the positives” from what could so easily have been an unexpected victory - but then launched into Pietersen, who ran himself out just after tea for 81.
Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen and Cape Town-born Jonathan Trott, 69, had taken England to what appeared to be the verge of safety with a fourth wicket partnership worth nearly 145 from 43 overs. It was only later, when 29-year-old debutant Friedel De Wet took the new ball and knocked over Trott, Ian Bell and Matt Prior in four scintillating overs, that England really started to quake.
But Smith savoured Pietersen’s suicidal dismissal grinning: “Ya, look, it wasn’t a single was it? I’m glad KP took it though! That might have been what started England’s collapse.”
And then he rounded on Trott, snarling: “He’s been warned in the one-dayers and he’s been warned here today. He takes too long to set himself up. I’m not that quick myself but when your bowlers have to continually stop and wait, it gets frustrating. We won’t lose sleep over it, but something has to be done.”
Clearly, had the South African-reared pair not stuck to their guns, England would have lost the first Test yesterday. And their captain Andrew Strauss admitted as much. While complimenting Man of the Match Graeme Swann for his 5-110 with the ball and his Test-best 85 with the bat, Strauss added: “Trott and Pietersen made it look easy. Their partnership was the crucial factor.”
Paul Collingwood, who scored an over-looked 50 in the first innings and followed it with an obdurate 26 off 99 balls yesterday, was also the immovable object for most of the final day when England snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat against Australia at the first Ashes Test in Cardiff last summer.
He said: “It’s fair to say Cardiff was in the back of my mind. I got out there before the end and it’s not easy to watch the last few overs from the changing room. This time I was determined to stick it out. It was so satisfying to be there at the end.
“Right from the start today, with a wicket down, we set out to bat through the day. But when Bunny (apparently short for Bunions, Graham Onions) had to face the last six balls, I was sweating a bit. I know he’s got a good technique, but this was the first time he’d faced this sort of pressure situation.
“And he handled it incredibly well. He always says he’s got the best bat in the dressing room. I was just shouting at him to keep using it!”
In the end, with Makhaya Ntini controversially replacing the heroic De Wet to bowl the final over, England ended 228-9 with Onions showing a clenched fist to the ever-growing Barmy Army here. Smith insisted: “De Wet was tired. I was thinking of a romantic finish for Ntini with him winning his 100th cap here. But it wasn’t to be.”