At 12.15 yesterday - just after lunch, here in the City of Bad Light - John Crawley appeared on the England balcony wearing only a shirt, a bandage and an air of resignation. The TV audience was treated to a glimpse of his bare buttocks, which was inelegant but not inappropriate. Crawley may well spend the rest of the tour on his backside.
His pulled hamstring carried a double irony. Selected in order to beat the curse of England's No 3, Crawley succumbed to it before putting on his pads. This was his second recall of the year, after he left Australia with a pair in Perth and a reputation for obesity. Each time he has worked hard to get back, both in the middle and in the gym, he is now a skinny near- skinhead, not unlike Tom Hanks half-way through Philadelphia. The crowning irony is that when Crawley was fat, he stayed fit.
His undoing was just one of those things, although coming 48 runs into a last-wicket stand, it did make the Devon Malcolm fan club wonder whether England would still have been out there if their man had been selected.
The injury forced England to do what they probably should have done all along: play an established batsman at No 3. The dubious honour went to Graham Thorpe who duly got out in single figures. For the final two Tests, Mark Ramprakash must be in with a chance - another last chance. But the management could be forgiven for preferring Nasser Hussain.
England were half-rescued by Stewart and Smith, who put on almost as many as South Africa's last pair. Both men are in the grip of an odd sequence. This was Smith's ninth consecutive Test dismissal between 30 and 90, and Stewart's sixth in seven innings between 34 and 45. There is a fine line between consistency and consistent disappointment, and Smith is one side of it, Stewart the other. Stewart wields a bat with a flourish that no other Englishman can match, but it is now 16 months since he waved it in acknowledgement of a 50.
John Edrich, the England batting coach, keeps stressing the value of the big individual score. But Hansie Cronje knows that Stewart can't resist going for his shots. He set two gullies for him, and Stewart picked out the finer of the two like a South African cameraman homing in on a bikini.
To be fair, no one has reached 50 in this curious encounter. South Africa's innings was a five section roller coaster - three 50 partnerships, separated by two feeble processions. England's reply was the same in miniature. The upshot is that the match, and the series, could be decided by one of those big individual scores.
(Second day of five; South Africa won toss)
SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings
(Overnight; 139 for 5)
J N Rhodes lbw b Ilott 38
(182 min, 132 balls, 4 fours)
B M McMillan c Russell b Martin 28
(97 min, 81 balls, 3 fours)
D J Richardson c Russell b Ilott 7
(32 min, 16 balls, 1 four)
S M Pollock not out 36
(114 min, 67 balls, 5 fours)
C R Matthews lbw b Ilott 0
(6 min, 1 ball)
A A Donald b Illingworth 32
(103 min, 90 balls, 5 fours)
Extras (lb11, nb1) 12
Total (406 min, 100 overs) 225
Fall (cont): 6-141 (McMillan), 7-152 (Rhodes), 8-153 (Richardson), 9- 153 (Matthews).
Bowling: Cork 27-12-64-0 (nb1) (9-5-18-0, 3-2-9-0, 7-3-14-0, 4-1-9-0, 4-1-14-0); Ilott 15-3-48-3 (5-1-15-0, 3-0-9-0, 7-2-24-3); Martin 27-9- 60-4 (2-0-17-0, 4-1-6-1, 7-3-8-2, 7-4-6-1, 7-1-23-0); Illingworth 29-12- 37-3 (22-8-33-2, 7-4-4-1); Hick 2-0-5-0 (one spell).
Progress: 150: 283 min, 71.4 overs. New ball taken after 82 overs at 179-9. 200: 354 min, 86.1 overs. Lunch: 211-9 (Pollock 32, Donald 22) 91 overs. Innings closed: 12.49pm.
ENGLAND - First Innings
*M A Atherton c Hudson b Donald 2
(4 min, 6 balls)
A J Stewart c Hudson b Matthews 41
(130 min, 85 balls, 8 fours)
G P Thorpe c Cullinan b Donald 2
(17 min, 11 balls)
R A Smith c McMillan b Matthews 34
(96 min, 73 balls, 6 fours)
G A Hick not out 16
(68 min, 40 balls, 3 fours)
R C Russell c Rhodes b Matthews 8
(43 min, 29 balls, 1 four)
D G Cork not out 10
(13 min, 7 balls, 2 fours)
Extras (lb4, nb6) 10
Total (for 5, 188 min, 40.3 overs) 123
Fall: 1-2 (Atherton), 2-13 (Thorpe), 3-83 (Smith), 4-93 (Stewart), 5- 109 (Russell).
To bat: J P Crawley, M C Ilott, R K Illingworth, P J Martin.
Bowling: Donald 8.3-1-40-2 (nb1) (4-0-18-2, 4-1-16-0, 0.3-0-6-0); Pollock 11-1-27-0 (nb5) (4-0-10-0, 7-1-17-0); Matthews 12-5-31-3 (5-3-10-0, 7- 2-21-3); McMillan 9-3-21-0 (4-1-14-0, 5-2-7-0).
Progress: 50: 72 mins, 16 overs. Tea: 56-2 (Stewart 23, Smith 22) 17 overs. 100: 159 min, 34.5 overs. Bad light stopped play: 4.30pm.
Umpires: S A Bucknor and D L Orchard.Reuse content