It only takes a day like yesterday to realise that when it comes to handing out Christmas presents England are unrivalled in their generosity. It is a fact that the rest of the cricketing world have known for some time, but if South Africa have only just found out they made the most of it, spending the day busily ripping apart some gift-wrapped bowling to make 428, the highest total of the series so far.
On a pitch now settled into a deep slumber, there was little comfort or joy for any of England's bowlers, who were either too short and wide or too full and straight. South Africa were able to bat on until well after tea.
There were six dropped catches, three of them in nine balls off Richard Illingworth. With South Africa well on top and pushing for quick runs, the misses did not prove costly, but they were symptomatic of England's abjectly sloppy day in the field. Apart from Dominic Cork, who took 4 for 113, the rest of England's attack looked as if it had been to the local back-street dentist to have its teeth pulled.
The one thing Raymond Illingworth still does not appear to realise is that, unless the opposition lays down and dies, England have got to get them out. A faint hope when the ball is not swinging and you have picked three swing bowlers of similar pace.
It was clearly a factor that registered with one British bookmaker, who started the day quoting England at a generous 12-1 to win this match. It looked a good bet after Cork sent Daryll Cullinan back with his first- ball loosener. Cork clearly has a touch of Botham about him and Cullinan will still be wondering how he managed to thin edge such a juicy long- hop just nine short of a hundred.
The lack of swing has so far affected England's sole strike bowler, and Cork suffered further when Mark Ilott limped off with a thigh strain soon after lunch, an injury that makes him a doubtful starter for the second innings. With 43.2 overs to his name, Cork had done most of the donkey work as well, a situation England can ill afford unless they want to become known solely a side of mediocre medium-pacers.
Mind you, judging from the 212 runs he has scored in this series, it is something Brian McMillan has known for some time. Coming in at No 6, he once again steered his side past the 300 mark, from where it is hard to lose.
Whereas England's lack of pace just saw him bide his time, it allowed his partner, Dave Richardson, to prosper. Richardson is far from his best when the ball is winging around his ears but, as there was no one able to do this, he was allowed to look several classes above his usual berth at seven or eight, and he and McMillan added 75 for the sixth wicket.
Once McMillan had gone to a sharp catch by Russell, Richardson came into his own. Using his feet to the spinners, he treated his home crowd to some high-class stroke-play.
Before this match started, England had requested that the national anthem be played before the start of play each day to give them, as Ray Illingworth put it: "A little tingle down the back of the neck."
It is difficult to know how long such an effect might have lasted had things gone England's way. But once Richardson had helped add another 50, this time with Shaun Pollock, the only collective feeling England will have felt would have been a sinking one in the pit of the stomach. Both batsmen survived several dropped catches and a run out decision - adjudged in by the third umpire, Rudi Koertzen - when the replay clearly showed the bat to be on the line, which is out.
Only when Richardson fell for 84, to a stunning catch by Jack Russell from a ball Illingworth turned out of the rough, did England deserve genuine applause. It was a remarkable dismissal, with the ball rebounding like a pinball from bat edge to pad and then off both gloves before being scooped up by Russell, who had scuttled round the batsman like a sewer rat on heat.
If that appeared strange, then what followed verged on the slapstick. In the space of nine balls from Illingworth, England dropped three catches but still managed to bowl South Africa out, including the 18-year-old debutant Paul Adams, run out for nought.
Nought or not, his departure was cheered just as enthusiastically as his entrance, a resounding cacophony of cheers from both sets of supporters. This is clearly a popular selection, and a right one too.
His captain clearly thinks so too, and he wisely brought him on in the eighth over. If there were nerves to conquer they were not apparent and his first two overs were maidens with nary a dull ball in them. Only a couple of balls turned enough to warrant Jason Gallian's exaggerated caution as England ended the day on 40 for 1.
As an opening batsman, Gallian was brought to South Africa as a potential solution to England's No 3 problem. Yesterday he may as well have gone in first after Alec Stewart edged his third ball to the keeper playing an appallingly indecisive back foot push at a ball that was begging to be either cut hard or left alone.
This is the 16th successive Test innings in which Stewart has failed to pass 50 as an opener, and apart from the edged four he managed off the previous ball, the only other service he performed was to make sure the sightscreens were in place for when Gallian arrived. England will be hoping Gallian remains anchored for most of today.
(Second day; South Africa won toss)
SOUTH AFRICA - First innings
(Overnight: 230 for 4)
D J Cullinan c Russell b Cork 91
(235 min, 183 balls, 14 fours)
B M McMillan c Russell b Illingworth 49
(172 min, 118 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)
D J Richardson c Russell b Illingworth 84
(225 min, 189 balls, 11 fours)
S M Pollock lbw b Cork 23
(77 min, 44 balls, 3 fours)
C R Matthews st Russell b Illingworth 15
(72 min, 47 balls, 1 four)
A A Donald not out 12
(37 min, 33 balls)
P R Adams run out (Gallian-Russell) 0
(3 min, 2 balls)
Extras (lb11, nb8) 19
Total (652 min, 159.5 overs) 428
Fall (cont): 5-251 (Cullinan), 6-326 (McMillan), 7-379 (Pollock), 8-408 (Richardson), 9-426 (Matthews), 10-428 (Adams).
Bowling: Cork 43.2-12-113-4 (nb10) (5-1-14-0, 7-4-7-1, 6-1-10-0, 5-0- 26-1, 6-0-26-1, 5-3-9-0, 5.2-1-14-1, 4-2-7-0); Ilott 29.4-7-82-1 (7-3- 10-0, 4-0-17-0, 5-2-16-1, 4-1-11-0, 8-1-26-0, 1.4-0-2-0); Martin 33-9- 79-1 (7-2-20-0, 5-1-11-1, 5-1-9-0, 5-2-6-0, 3-1-8-0, 3-1-4-0, 3-1-9-0, 2-0-12-0); Illingworth 39.5-8-105-3 (4-2-5-0, 10-3-25-0, 4-0-21-0, 12- 3-29-1, 2-0-7-0, 7.5-0-18-2); Hick 12-2-32-0 (1-0-3-0, 3-0-8-0, 8-2-21- 0); Gallian 2-0-6-0 (one spell).
Progress: 250: 388 min, 95.5 overs. 300: 469 min, 113.2 overs. Lunch: 316-5 (McMillan 45, Richardson 34) 117 overs. 350: 534 min, 130.4 overs. Tea: 395-7 (Richardson 79, Matthews 3) 148 overs. 400: 609 min, 149.4 overs. Innings closed: 4.19pm.
Richardson's 50: 144 min, 118 balls, 7 fours.
ENGLAND - First innings
*M A Atherton not out 15
(74 min, 67 balls, 1 four)
A J Stewart c Richardson b Pollock 4
(6 min, 2 balls, 1 four)
J E R Gallian not out 14
(67 min, 54 balls, 2 fours)
Extras (lb3, w1, nb3) 7
Total (for 1, 74 min, 20 overs) 40
Fall: 1-7 (Stewart).
To bat: G P Thorpe, G A Hick, R A Smith, R C Russell, D G Cork, P J Martin, R K Illingworth, M C Ilott.
Bowling: Donald 4-0-9-0 (nb3) (one spell); Pollock 5-3-6-1 (w1) (3-2- 5-1, 2-1-1-0); Adams 7-2-16-0 (one spell); Matthews 4-2-6-0 (one spell).
Umpires: S A Bucknor and C J Mitchley.
TV replay umpire: R E Koertzen.
Match referee: C H Lloyd.Reuse content