Steyn unable to make waves as tourists flail in troubled water

Strangely muted, South Africa's much-vaunted attack pays for its lack of zest

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The Independent Online

In the unlikely event that there is room for another sponsor in this Investec Test series, an approach should be made to those delectable old folkies, Simon and Garfunkel. Since they have apparently reunited again for the 173rd time, they may well be available to accompany this tour with the song that started it all for them, The Sound of Silence.

They could perform it in a two-man guard of honour for South Africa each time they take the field in the next five weeks. The opening day of this long-awaited rubber was marked by the tourists' astonishing reticence.

It was fully expected, indeed it was intended to be part of the fun, that they would be in England's face (sometimes literally), cajoling, chattering, staring and generally trying to discomfit their opponents. Instead, nothing. They spent most of the day as though they were operating in the reading room at the British Museum.

There was a strange lack of zest about South Africa's play. They had talked about being ready for this clash of the titans despite their lack of preparation but that was plainly a load of old biltong. Dale Steyn, right, the most fearsome proposition in the world, was oddly tame.

It was not that South Africa were going through the motions but they never looked to be on England's case. Nor was it simply the off-the-ball stuff. They have the second most vaunted attack in the world, which happens to contain the world's best bowler, but they rarely whistled anything past England's noses.

Throughout much of the long second-wicket stand between Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott, which began in the day's first over, they resorted to a favoured strategy of denying scoring opportunities. By and large, they bowled length balls outside off-stump to which England's two most stoic batsmen responded by patiently leaving and waiting for the next ball.

The main reason for this muted approach was undergoing surgery in South Africa on the injured eye that forced his retirement from cricket last week. Mark Boucher's absence behind the stumps was as noticeable as was confidently predicted (though perhaps more importantly the operation performed yesterday on his lacerated eyeball appears to have been successful).

There was the odd irritable word from Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, about Trott's long preparation rites at the crease and towards Kevin Pietersen soon after his entry to the arena. Smith, however, is much mellower at 31 than he was at 22.