Proteas find true form to gain foothold
After an opening day spent wiping the sleep from their eyes, South Africa got their game face on yesterday with a bowling performance truer to type and a batting effort as resolute as England's had been before their wickets began to tumble.
Under Biblical skies one begat the other until the sun came out during South Africa's riposte to England's 385 and calm prevailed.
Graeme Smith, the visitors' captain, is at the crease on 37 and looking as if he is sponsored by Pritt Stick, ready to resume today with Hashim Amla, on 47, as they aim to cut the 299-run deficit that remains between them and England's first-innings total.
The pair certainly were not troubled much yesterday, once blue skies adorned the late afternoon and drew the sting from England's bowlers.
If it remains unchanged, Andrew Strauss, who dropped Amla off Ravi Bopara when he was on 40, will be desperate for some reverse swing or sharp turn.
The last seven England wickets tumbled for 123 runs and the swing stayed just long enough when South Africa batted for James Anderson to have Alviro Petersen lbw for a duck to an inswinger.
Thereafter, a clearing shower meant blue skies moved in over the Oval and the ball went straight.
Alastair Cook, England's century-maker, had added just a single run to his overnight score of 114 when he tried to drive a wide one from Dale Steyn through the covers only to see the ball to squeeze through off the inside-edge onto the stumps.
An over later, Steyn struck again, Ravi Bopara lured into a hook shot and leaving his bat probing the space above him, the ball flicking it on its way through to AB de Villiers.
It was a nervy six-ball duck and another timid way to go, something Ian Bell was also guilty of when he had his off bail trimmed shouldering arms to Jacques Kallis.
England were 298 for six at the time and Matt Prior, first with Tim Bresnan and then Stuart Broad, managed to add another 87 runs.
Steyn roughed up Broad with a barrage of bouncers that Vernon Philander profited from when Broad was bowled stuck firmly on the back foot. Soon after, Morkel pounced to remove Prior and James Anderson in the same over. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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