The second Test turned ugly as the shadows lengthened at Headingley yesterday evening with controversial umpiring marring a fascinating day's play. Andrew Flintoff, England's returning hero, and Michael Vaughan were in the thick of it as the hosts claimed the wicket of Hashim Amla, South Africa's unbeaten centurion in the drawn first Test at Lord's.
In Flintoff's eighth over Amla chipped a forward prod to mid off and the ball lobbed to the England captain, who swooped low to his right to take what appeared to be a clean low catch. A disappointed Amla accepted that the catch had been taken and began to make his way from the pitch as England celebrated. Amla's journey was interrupted before he left the field by Andre Nel, the South African 12th man, who, having watched a television replay of the decision, had been instructed to tell the batsman to stay on the field and contest the decision.
Amla's refusal to go forced the on-field umpires to refer the decision to the third umpire but television replays failed to confirm the catch had been taken cleanly, even though Vaughan probably had his fingers under the ball. England begrudgingly accepted the decision and Amla remained not out at the close as South Africa, in reply to England's disappointing 203, reached 101 for 3 before the close.
It was not the first time in the day that a batsman had stood his ground – Andrew Strauss did the same when he edged a ball from Morne Morkel to AB de Villiers at third slip. Replays showed that the ball had indeed touched the ground and Strauss continued, albeit briefly, with his innings.
The incidents make a mockery of England's decision not to use the three appeals trial during the series, although the Amla incident also highlighted the shortfalls of using television replays to make decisions. A two dimensional view of a three dimensional act often leads to inconclusive results, and Vaughan almost certainly had his fingers under the ball.
Had Amla been given out South Africa would have been 76 for 4 and England well and truly back in the match. Even so, excellent bowling by James Anderson and Flintoff, who took three wickets between them, leaves the match open. Anderson dismissed Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis, while Flintoff announced his return with the vital wicket of Graeme Smith, the South African captain.
What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago a settled and confident England team had taken South Africa's much vaunted bowling attack for the small matter of 593 runs. Yesterday the South Africans bit back, dismissing a debatable and dispirited England side for 203.
The tourists task of taking control of the Test was made easier by careless batting from Vaughan's side, but Morkel and Dale Steyn showed their class sharing eight England wickets as they made the most of a Headingley pitch that rewarded excellence.
The decision of England's selectors to replace the injured Ryan Sidebottom with an English born Aussie rather than an ambitious home grown player left a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth too. Darren Pattinson appears to be a very pleasant man and a capable bowler, but he has openly admitted that his ambition when tiling roofs in Melbourne was not to wear the three lions and a crown of England.
Bureaucratically there is nothing wrong with Pattinson's selection but it hardly sends the right message through English cricket. At a time when the England and Wales Cricket Board are doing their upmost to make it hard for Kolpak players – cricketers ineligible for England but free to work in Britain because of European law – to play for counties it is rather ironic that the national selectors chose to follow virtually the same path as their subjects. England's young fast bowlers can hardly be encouraged by the decision.
For the second consecutive Test Smith won the toss and opted to bowl, but once again South Africa's bowlers failed to really trouble England's openers with the new ball. The judgement of Alastair Cook and Strauss was exceptional, but the pair were helped by inaccurate bowling from an attack that does not enjoy bowling at left handers.
The nature of the day changed in the 12th over when Cook was wrongly given out caught behind by umpire Billy Bowden. As the Morkel delivery made its way through to the wicketkeeper it made contact with something but the horrified look on Cook's face on seeing Bowden raise his finger suggested all was not right. Television replays showed the ball flicked his trousers.
Vaughan quickly followed without scoring but there was nothing controversial about the dismissal as he edged a beauty from Steyn through to Smith at first slip. With England needing a fillip Pietersen strode purposefully to the crease and began to play a glorious array of shots. Steyn was effortlessly clipped through mid-wicket and then pulled over deep square leg for six.
Pietersen's presence spurred Strauss in to action and he struck a couple of handsome strokes. The opener rightly survived a dubious appeal for a slip catch but had only added four runs to his score when he edged Morkel through to Mark Boucher. Pietersen continued to treat the South African bowlers with disdain, smashing 28 runs of the initial 15 balls he faced after lunch. Ultimately, though, he got carried away and edged a rather wild drive at Steyn to Smith at slip.
Tim Ambrose failed to convince anyone that he is capable of holding down the number six position, edging a Makhaya Ntini delivery through to the keeper. Ambrose's departure brought a huge cheer from the near capacity crowd because it signified the arrival of Flintoff, still English cricket's favourite son.
Flintoff's 51-minute innings was far from conclusive. Three streaky fours to the third man boundary surrounded an authentic cut, but on 17 he fell to a flat-footed swat that was edged to the keeper. Ian Bell struck five glorious boundaries but overconfidence brought his downfall too, when he inside-edged a loose drive at Kallis on to his leg stump.
Stuart Broad, Monty Panesar and Pattinson edged catches to the slips as the confidence gained from last week's batting display drained away.
South Africa won the toss
England - First innings
A J Strauss c Boucher b Morkel 27
102 min, 65 balls, 4 fours
A N Cook c Boucher b Morkel 18
49 min, 37 balls, 2 fours
*M P Vaughan c Smith b Steyn 0
8 min, 7 balls
K P Pietersen c Smith b Steyn 45
73 min, 46 balls, 7 fours, 1 six
I R Bell b Kallis 31
81 min, 51 balls, 5 fours
†T R Ambrose c Boucher b Ntini 12
25 min, 17 balls, 1 four
A Flintoff c Boucher b Steyn 17
52 min, 28 balls, 4 fours
S C J Broad c de Villiers b Morkel 17
33 min, 20 balls, 3 fours
J M Anderson not out 11
40 min, 24 balls, 2 fours
M S Panesar c de Villiers b Morkel 0
12 min, 11 balls
D J Pattinson c Boucher b Steyn 8
20 min, 14 balls, 1 four
Extras (b 0, lb 6, w 6, nb 5, pens 0) 17
Total (252 min, 52.3 overs) 203
Fall: 1-26 (Cook), 2-27 (Vaughan), 3-62 (Strauss), 4-106 (Pietersen), 5-123 (Ambrose), 6-150 (Bell), 7-177 (Flintoff), 8-181 (Broad), 9-186 (Panesar), 10-203 (Pattinson).
Bowling: Steyn 18.3-2-76-4 (8-2-24-1 5-0-30-1 5.3-0-22-2), Ntini 11-0-45-1 (4-0-14-0 7-0-31-1), Morkel 15-4-52-4 (nb5,w6) (7-2-22-2 8-2-30-2), Kallis 8-2-24-1 (4-2-5-0 4-0-19-1).
Progress: Rain delayed start until 11.08am. 50: 82 min, 17.3 overs. Lunch: 70-3 (Pietersen 17, Bell 4) 24 overs. 100: 130 min, 27.5 overs. 150: 184 min, 38.4 overs. 200: 248 min, 51.3 overs. Innings closed: 4pm - late tea taken.
South Africa - First innings
N D McKenzie c Flintoff b Anderson 15
69 min, 43 balls, 3 fours
*G C Smith c Strauss b Flintoff 44
96 min, 67 balls, 8 fours
H M Amla not out 18
69 min, 36 balls, 2 fours
J H Kallis b Anderson 4
13 min, 14 balls, 1 four
A G Prince not out 9
28 min, 16 balls, 2 fours
Extras (b 0, lb 8, w 0, nb 3, pens 0) 11
Total (3 wkts, 139 mins, 29 overs) 101
Fall: 1-51 (McKenzie), 2-69 (Smith), 3-76 (Kallis).
To bat: A B de Villiers, †M V Boucher, M Morkel, P L Harris, M Ntini, D W Steyn.
Bowling: Anderson 12-2-39-2 (4-0-11-0 8-2-28-2), Pattinson 3-0-16-0 (one spell), Flintoff 10-1-24-1 (nb3) (3-1-6-0 7-0-18-1), Broad 4-1-14-0 (one spell).
Progress: First day: 50 in 68 mins, 15.3 overs. 100 in 138 mins, 28.5 overs.
Umpires: B F Bowden and D J Harper.
TV replay umpire: R A Kettleborough.
Match referee: J J Crowe.
Shot of the day
Kevin Pietersen was at his majestic best during his 46-ball innings, smashing the ball to all parts of the ground. Dale Steyn was pulled for six, but the best shot was a punched back-foot push through extra cover off the same bowler. It sent the ball racing to the boundary and underlined what wonderful form he is in.
Ball of the day
Michael Vaughan must already be sick and tired of the sight of Dale Steyn. At Lord's, Steyn bowled the England captain with a beauty and here he forced him to edge a ball to first slip. There was little Vaughan could do about the ball; it pitched on off stump, bounced a little and moved away from him off the seam.
Moment of the day
It must have been rather disconcerting for Tim Ambrose to hear cheering from England fans after he was dismissed but the Test reappearance of Andrew Flintoff was always going to be their highlight of the day. Flintoff has been missed and he was afforded a huge reception as he walked out to bat. Sadly, he scored only 17.
Weather: Headingley four-day forecast
Partly cloudy, 5mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain
Partly cloudy, 6mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain
Partly cloudy, 6mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain
Partly cloudy, 8mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain