ENGLAND’S unexpected resurgence at the end of day three became a real fightback at the start of day four today at the first Test in Centurion, where the sun always shines.
Out of the game at lunch-time yesterday, the visitors fought back in the heat with a record 106-run partnership between Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson plus the wicket of Ashwell Prince last night, leaving the hosts with a lead of 71.
By lunch-time, they had South Africa 80-4, a lead of just 142 with six wickets in hand. If England are left to chase around 250 on the final day, anything could happen.
This morning they needed just two overs to make their first strike when nightwatchman Paul Harris was caught with his knickers in a twist. Well, not literally.
Jimmy Anderson’s delivery was shaping just wide of his leg stump when the ball caught in his trousers and was dragged back onto the wicket. Bowled for 11, South Africa 20-2.
What was it Swannie (above) said last night: “We’ll get the non-batsman out in the morning and go from there!” And that was with his arch-rival Harris standing at the back of the room, waiting to talk to the media!
South Africa lost their second of the morning, third of the innings, when Graeme Onions produced a corker which might have bent back a bit and captain Graeme Smith was gone for 12, a rare double failure for the man who ducked out so early in the first innings. South Africa 34-3.
But it was the wicket of Kallis which England really wanted and it came in unexpected fashion. The veteran South African all-rounder, who scored a magnificent 120 in the first innings, lost patience with the grinding defence and sweltering heat.
He had scored just four off 32 balls when he rocked back in an attempt to smack Stuart Broad high over the fence. He didn’t quite get hold of it and there was Alastair Cook to pouch a well-judged catch on the mid-wicket boundary and silence the roar of a growing crowd at Centurion. That left South Africa 4-64 and it was game on.
These vital early wickets may have something to do with the garb worn by yesterday’s batting hero Swann, who scored a Test-best 85 to keep England in the game.
He issued this Twitter before play: “I am wearing my lucky pants again today, despite them being a trifle crusty. Let's hope for wickets this morning."
Swann, who took 5-110 in the first innings, was unlucky not to join the wicket-takers when he had a good LBW appeal against Hashim Amla turned down on review. It was out, apparently, but no out enough. Outside the zone of certainty is the term they seem to be using.
Stuart Broad has defended his behaviour after being given LBW on review despite a not out decision from umpire Aleem Dar, a decision which may just have inspired Swann. Broad was unhappy about the 34-second delay between the ball hitting his pads and the South Africans asking for a review.
He said: "I did not see any signal from the South Africa management. I was merely saying to the umpires that the amount of time the whole process took was wrong and would provide an opportunity for the system to be manipulated. There was no suggestion that I was querying the decision. Replays showed that I was absolutely dead in front - it was just the time it took to get there."
On his meeting with match referee Roshan Mahanama in the television room, which looked a bit lively from where I was sitting, Broad said: "It was completely calm and civilised and the referee was very understanding. He said the whole process was trial and error and that hopefully any teething problems would be sorted out.
"There was no suggestion from the referee that I am facing any disciplinary action and I don't see any reason why there should be. I wasn't rude and I haven't done anything wrong."