England – and in particular, man of the moment Graeme Swann – let a great chance slip them by on the first day of the 3rd test from Cape Town. Unlike in Sydney, Andrew Strauss put the opposition in after winning the toss, electing to bowl in seam friendly conditions.
A wicket (Ashwell Prince) in the first over of the day and all was going to plan. Then man of the series to date, Graeme Swann dropped Graeme Smith in the next over. It was as easy as slip catches get, two hands and in the midriff.
That would have brought Jacques Kallis to the crease when conditions where best for bowling, as it was he didn’t need to emerge for another crucial hour.
Kallis then went on to give a masterclass in batting, showing that he is still by far the best batsman on show in this series, making 108 not out.
Kallis now has 33 test centuries, 52 half centuries and an average over 54, quite a record. It was a gutsy backs to the wall innings that got South Africa out of a big hole. It was typical Jacques Kallis.
England had South Africa at 127/5 at the fall of Duminy’s wicket. For Kallis and South Africa to get up to 279/6 at the close and within reach of a more than respectable 1st innings total is a great effort, when the series looked to be slipping away they came out fighting. They showed England you don’t get easy test series victories in South Africa.
England for their part will hope to wrap up the tail early in the morning, and then – hopefully – bat sensibly, like in the last test. They know they should only be chasing something around 220-250 after the situation they had the South Africans in.
It is still far from a disaster and England must be looking to go past South Africa’s total and put their fragile looking batting under pressure again. England are ahead in the series and can dictate the pace of the game, so don’t need to be over attacking with stupid rash shots.
Andrew Strauss has emphasized the fact that England can’t get carried away with one victory, lets hope his level headedness has rubbed off on the rest of his team and they can keep their feet on the ground and play sensible cricket.
There will be some key moments yet in this test match and it is up to England to try and make sure they win them. I don’t expect as many easy runs to come as they did last week as Friedel de Wet has replaced the iconic Makhaya Ntini, who looks like he may have played his last test. And they still have to remove Kallis.
Thankfully from an English point of view, Graeme Swann won’t let the drop effect his confidence too much. If it does cost England, it just goes to show how quickly your fortunes can turn in cricket.