Cook calls on England to show fighting spirit

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The Independent Online

England opener Alastair Cook has called on his team to recapture the fighting spirit from Cardiff to save the third Test against South Africa tomorrow.

Three late wickets on day four ensured England face an uphill battle to avoid defeat at Newlands after the Proteas set the tourists what would be a world-record victory target of 466.



England began encouragingly with a century opening stand between Andrew Strauss and Cook, but both then went for the addition of just six runs.



And, after Kevin Pietersen followed too, the tourists stumbled to a vulnerable 132 for three by the close.



However, England have faced - and won - such battles in the past, including the first Test against South Africa at Centurion and the first Ashes Test against Australia in Cardiff last summer.



Cook told Sky Sports 1: "The scraps continue. We have to fight like we have done in previous games, like in Cardiff, and try and get a draw out of this.



"It's a little bit disappointing, after the start we got, to lose three. One would have been nice but that's the way it goes on this wicket - they seem to go in clumps a bit.



"We've got 90 overs to bat out tomorrow. We know the task ahead of us. We've done it in the past and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow."



Cook, who hit 55 today, added: "The pitch has stayed together very well. Hardly any ball has misbehaved at all. Hopefully that'll stay the same tomorrow.



"Traditionally this pitch has done a bit in the morning. Hopefully we'll get through that and then set our stall out to bat the day.



"We've got to not look too far ahead. We know what we've got to do. You try to break it down into as many segments as you can - five overs here, five overs there. That's what we've got to do tomorrow."



Cook insisted the England team had not been affected by the ball-tampering controversy which came to light last night.



"No, not really," he said. "Obviously we discussed what was said but we put it to bed. We went out today and just concentrated on the cricket."



South Africa this morning declined to lodge an official complaint over their suspicions regarding Stuart Broad and James Anderson's treatment of the ball.

South Africa batsman AB de Villiers does not know why the Proteas opted against lodging a formal complaint and labelled England's treatment of the ball "not on".

"I'm not really sure," he told Sky Sports 1. "I'm not involved with the decision making on that level.



"Obviously, we know the stuff that happened is not on and we don't know what's going to happen after this but we'll see."



De Villiers is confident South Africa will be able to press home their advantage and level the series tomorrow.



"Four hundred and fifty-plus is always a mental advantage," he said.



"But you always like enough time to bowl a side out, so five sessions - or four and three-quarter sessions - is really good for us and more than enough time if we do the basics right and meet our areas with energy and intensity.



"We should come right."



De Villiers struck 34 today as the hosts moved onto 447 for seven before declaring.



"There was no pressure at all," he said. "We had the freedom to go out there and express ourselves today."



JP Duminy, who failed to score in the first innings, contributed 36, much to the delight of De Villiers.



"It's always nice go see a guy score runs, especially when it's your team-mate. It's nice to see him hitting the ball well again. To see him have the mental strength to get out of that slump was great.



"That's exactly the kind of innings he needed - one with a little bit less pressure where he can express his talents."



Captain Graeme Smith was the mainstay of the South Africa innings with a brilliant 183.



"What an unbelievable knock," De Villiers reflected. "There are hardly enough words to describe the powerful innings he played to really get us in a winning position.



"That's exactly what the captain should do and he did that."



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