Hard to say who is on top at the moment in Cape Town. At a push I’d say South Africa, just, with England having to bat last on this pitch. A mixed second day saw 11 wickets fall to some bad shot selections, but mixed in with that was some pretty decent bowling.
There was an engrossing battle taking place almost all day today, some gritty determined backs-to-the-wall batting alongside some top class pace bowling.
There seemed to be a constant struggle from almost the moment Strauss and Cook walked out to bat with South Africa’s bowlers giving them nothing.
It was noted at the start of the test that there would be some key battles to be won over the course of the 5 days, and at the moment we would appear to be right in the middle of the main fight.
It’s hard to gauge just how England did with the bat today. On one hand they gifted wickets to South Africa with bad shot selections, but from the opposite point of view South Africa will say that they earned their wickets with good, aggresive bowling.
Alastair Cook and Ian Bell did the hard graft, they battled (yes, battled) through a decent testing spell of fast bowling from Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn before both got out to soft dismissals.
At least they had scores of 65 and 48 respectively before doing so, which is more than can be said for some others as one of England’s old failings came back to haunt them as Strauss, Trott and Pietersen also threw their wickets away.
South Africa will also take some positives out of their performance so far. After the trouble they were in after lunch on day 1 (127/5), to find themselves in with a chance to possibly close out England’s batting and take a 1st innings lead will be regarded as a remarkable fightback.
Jacques Kallis’ innings and the bowling of Steyn and Morkel have shown England just why South Africa made it to the pinnacle of test cricket last year. It would be easy to just slaughter Englands’s batsmen, but the fact is that they were put under some immense pressure today, Friedel de Wet backed them up with some tidy stuff as well.
I do think Graeme Smith made a bit of a mess of things with his slow over rate though. As a result Steyn and Morkel managed less than two overs with the new ball, with a full (think it was) seven overs left unbowled as time ran out. South Africa managed to deprive themselves of two spells with the new ball.
With this test being played on a result wicket the first session tomorrow should go a long way to deciding the outcome of this test match, and maybe even the series.
After two days of test cricket between two evenly matched teams the battle is well and truely on.