ENGLAND got the big wicket of South African hero Jacques Kallis early on another blisteringly hot day at Centurion this morning.
Jimmy Anderson may have turned the course of this game when he had the big man, who looked like he could bat for ever, caught at second slip by Paul Collingwood.
Then Graeme Swann got rid of JP Duminy off his first over of the day – just as he did yesterday – and Collingwood picked up a record-equalling fourth catch in the innings to leave South Africa 316-6.
That wasn’t a bad effort from England – but it could have been even better if Graeme Onions hadn’t dropped Mark Boucher off Stuart Broad, a dolly which would have left South Africa teetering on 319-7.
And tempers became frayed when the review system saw both Boucher and Morkel reprieved as Swann turned up the heat. By lunch, South Africa were 330-6, but on another day, with a little more luck and without the review system, they might have been skittled this morning.
Kallis, who single-handedly turned the game around when South Africa were wobbling on 93-3, had added only eight to his overnight 112 when his 306-minute innings came to an end. His 120 off 225 balls featured that huge six off Graeme Swann yesterday and 16 fours.
And all this when the world's best all-rounder is, literally, half-fit. The rib injury he picked up during the Champions League thrashabout in October means he will probably not be able to bowl here.
For Collingwood, it was a third outfield catch - that's worth a jug in club cricket - and for Anderson this vital scalp was his first Test victim since Edgbaston during the Ashes clashes. He went wicketless at Headingley and The Oval as the Australians were shot down in flames by Stuart Broad and Co.
The ball that got Kallis was a peach, pitched up with a hint of away swing as Anderson bowled his fourth over of the day. As Allan “White Lightning” Donald said last night, England’s attack needs a little more consistency, a little more patience. And a few more full-pitched deliveries to give the ball air to swing.
But despite that breakthrough, which left South Africa 283-5, there was little relief for England beneath the cloudless African sky. Wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, no slouch with the bat, was next up to join JP Duminy, who had just moved to his fifty at the other end after adding 124 runs off 42 overs with Kallis at a rate of less than three an over.
A nine-hour flight away in Perth this morning, Chris Gayle hit the fifth fastest century in Test cricket for the West Indies against Australia this morning, reaching three figures of 70 balls. Now that's a strike rate.
But England, as Graeme Swann pointed out last night, are stubbornly refusing to let South Africa run away with this Test. Broad is maintaining an economy rate of 1.88 and the rest of the attack can all claim to keep things under 3.5 an over, apart from the part-time dobblers of Jonathan Trott.
Onions, staging a miraculous recovery from yesterday's calf problem, nearly had Duminy in the 16th over of the day with the score rising over 300, but the edge fell two inches short of Collingwood - who else? - at second slip. At the other end Boucher did what he always does, scoring quickly and piling up the pressure on England.
But Collingwood was perfectly positioned for his fourth catch – engineered by the breakthrough specialist Swann in his first over the morning, the 18th of the day.
His second ball got some bite and his fifth ball, perfectly flighted, actually got some turn. Duminy prodded, Collingwood pounced and Duminy goes for 56 off 150 balls, the highlight of which was a clubbed six off Swann yesterday afternoon. Revenge is sweet.
Swann, who issued this bizarre twitter yesterday “have just had a lovely room date with Cookie. We ate steak and watched bear grylls. He'd be my ideal man, if I kicked with the other foot”, continued to find turn.
But the big chance for wicket number seven fell to Onions on the fine leg boundary with South Africa on 319-6. Boucher top-edged a short one from Broad, the ball dropped neatly into the hands, but Onions, spilled it... and Broad had both hands on his head as the ball trickled over the boundary rope.
Boucher survived a big shout on 323 when he appeared to edge the ball onto his boot off Swann to... yes, that man Collingwood. But the review showed the ball touched the ground as it hit the boot, and Collingwood’s hopes of being the first ever England player to take five outfield catches are dashed. For now.
Even more galling for England was the apparent dismissal of Morne Morkel just before lunch. Swann, bowling like a dream, rapped him on the pads right in front... the finger went up, but the South Africans called for a review. Incredibly, the ball was shown by Hawkeye to be going just over the top of the bails. Morkel, like Ashwell Prince yesterday, survived the raising of the finger. It doesn’t feel right, though I guess you can’t argue with the system.
The interesting thing for England is how much turn Swann is getting. After 30 over, he’s got 3-65... it could so easily have been five or six.