Headingley, day two: England 48-0

Today was another slightly mixed day at Headingley, but overall it was a better one for South Africa than England. England actually bowled incredibly in the morning session; Anderson and Broad got a lot of movement with the new ball and Anderson in particular was comprehensively beating the batsmen. It was yet another such spell from him that did not get a wicket, however. It seems like he has had four or five spells like that this year where he has been comfortably the best bowler without any reward. The fact that he conceded just five runs in his eight over spell gives some hint of how well he bowled. But Petersen and Rudolph survived through a combination of skill and luck; it was precisely what they had to do if they were to get South Africa to a good total. The one wicket to fall in the morning session was very surprisingly to Kevin Pietersen who got just his second ball to turn sharply. It did, of course, raise more questions about England’s team selection but I don’t think it is too justified. The conditions still favoured the seamers and they could have cleaned up South Africa before Pietersen even came on to bowl if things had gone their way. There is no reason to think that Swann would have been a more of an asset then the fourth seamer.

South Africa’s ultimate total of 419 all out was certainly a very good one. Duminy batted well with the tail and England had their usual trouble in finishing them off which combined to put South Africa in a pretty commanding position. England will have to bat much better than they did in the first Test and indeed much better than they have done for most of the year. South Africa showed today the benefits of patiently waiting out a tricky spell and England need to follow suit. And to their credit, they have made a start. In the part of the evening session that they managed before bad light and rain stopped play England made it to 48-0 and to do so had to get through some nasty spells. Particularly as the cloud started to come in near the close and Morkel was bowling very well in the dark England showed proper application.

It’s a long way yet for England to go; they still trail by 371 runs and probably have to establish some sort of first innings lead. Tomorrow could be a deciding day in the Test. If England still have a decent number of wickets in hand at stumps then South Africa will face an uphill battle to force victory and England may even get into a position from which to win the Test. But South Africa will fancy their chances of bowling England out before close and from there setting an ungettable target. There is not a lot in the actual wicket, most of the movement is now coming from the conditions so England need to get a few players to dig in and play long innings. The most likely candidates are at the top of the order, so South Africa will really be angling for some early wickets tomorrow. Pietersen is probably going to be a liability and James Taylor is on debut, so one would have to say that South Africa have the better chance.

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