England 231 & 297-6 South Africa 314: Collingwood digs deep to give England glimpse of salvation

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The genius of Kevin Pietersen and the sheer bloodymindedness of Paul Collingwood thrilled the noisy, packed, sun-trapped stands of Edgbaston yesterday afternoon to give England an unexpected chance of winning the third Test and levelling the four-match series. Pietersen's magnificent 94 enthralled a rapturous crowd but it was the sight of Collingwood striking his sixth Test century that provided them with memories to cherish. Pietersen perished six runs short of a 14th Test hundred after adding 115 scintillating runs with Collingwood, but England's doughtiest cricketer found another worthy ally in Tim Ambrose, with whom he added 76 invaluable runs before the close to give their side a lead of 214 runs.

Before yesterday Collingwood was having a wretched summer but as a certain alcoholic beverage advertises – good things come to those who wait. Collingwood will no doubt enjoy a few pints of the black liquid should his efforts take England to a remarkable victory.

There can be very few occasions when Collingwood outshines Pietersen but he did just that moving to three figures. On 94 Pietersen attempted to reach a 14th Test hundred with a six and was caught at long on. On the same score Collingwood outhit his more illustrious partner, striking Paul Harris for six. There were no wild celebrations. Collingwood knows the job is not yet done. The time for celebrating will come when a 10th South African second-innings wicket is taken.

Collingwood and Pietersen added their runs in 100 minutes to take England from a perilous position to one of optimism. When Collingwood walked out to bat England, on 104 for 4, were in a dire position, sitting on a slender lead of just 21 runs. It was not only the Test series that was at stake as Collingwood strode out – his career as a Test cricketer was on the line. But Collingwood responded as a fighter does, lifting himself off the ground and showing everyone why he had reached such an elevated position in the first place.

Collingwood took guard with a total of just 96 first-class runs for the season behind him, but when he walked off to thunderous applause he had more than doubled his tally. The 32-year-old was scratchy and nervous to begin with but confidence quickly grew as Pietersen began to attack the South Africans. Collingwood followed suit and he was soon lightening up the ground with trademark cuts, pulls and punches through the off-side.

Pietersen was initially made to work hard for his runs by Jacques Kallis, who tested the patience of the 28-year-old by consistently bowling outside off-stump. But once he had become accustomed to the pace and bounce of the pitch he proceeded to entertain his adoring fans in spectacular fashion. Fast bowlers were driven gloriously down the ground whenever they overpitched, and pulled disdainfully for four when erring on the short side, which was far too often for Graeme Smith's liking.

The South African captain rotated his bowlers but it made little difference – the ball kept racing away to the boundary. Collingwood was equally aggressive, cutting and pulling with gay abandon. The relief of at last putting a meaningful score together was tangible and as his confidence grew his strokeplay became more adventurous. Collingwood's 11th Test fifty was brought up off the 61st ball he faced through a push into the off side. The ecstatic response of the crowd was in stark contrast to the one which had greeted his bowling 24 hours earlier.

Pietersen saved his best for Harris, whom he switch-hit twice through backward point. Pietersen refused to allow the South Africans to control him, producing his latest showpiece shot. An alteration to the field led to his downfall.

He was hurtling towards a 14th Test hundred and his desire to reach three figures in spectacular style with a straight six resulted in him driving Harris hard and flat to A B de Villiers two-thirds of the way back to the boundary at mid-on. On seeing the catch taken, Pietersen swished his bat angrily, realising his exuberance had caused him to waste a golden chance .

Loud and appreciative applause for Pietersen was replaced by rapturous cheering as Andrew Flintoff walked out. But the all-rounder failed to fulfil their wishes, edging his fourth ball on to his pad and offering a sharp catch that was expertly taken by Hashim Amla at short leg.

There was a time when England batsmen used to place a high price on their wicket but the strokeplay of Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell suggested they should be on sale at a pound shop. Cook was the first to perish, top-edging a weak, unconvincing pull at a Makhaya Ntini long hop straight up in the air. A diving and elated Mark Boucher claimed the catch.

Michael Vaughan avoided bagging a pair by clipping Andre Nel through the leg side for four. The England captain struck three further boundaries before driving a good length ball low and to the left of Hashim Amla at wide mid off. Vaughan failed to get over the attempted drive giving Amla the chance to take a splendid catch. Ian Bell struck the ball pleasantly too, wiping off England's 83-run first innings deficit with Pietersen, before he too played a dreadful shot at Ntini loosener, top edging an attempted pull to Boucher.

Andrew Strauss was the only non-culpable batsman, not that it will be any consolation to him. Strauss was undone by the extra bounce of Morne Morkel, failing to control a ball that bounced more than he expected and edging a catch to Kallis at second slip.

England's batting highlighted a fundamental difference between the two sides. South Africa take their wickets by bowling to a plan, namely a controlled, patient line. It offers temptation that too many batsmen cannot resist. When batting the South Africans abstain when faced with a similar tactic, forcing England to rely on inspiration for their success rather than hand-outs.

An excited crowd sat down expecting Flintoff to repeat his heroics of the previous evening but it was his fellow fast bowlers, Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson, who shared the remaining South African wickets as the tourists were dismissed for 314. Sidebottom claimed Ashwell Prince and Andre Nel, who lost two stumps in spectacular style when he was bowled.

Anderson fortuitously won a lbw appeal against Morkel even though the ball pitched outside leg stump and Vaughan took an excellent catch to dismiss the dangerous Boucher.

Shot of the day

*When Kevin Pietersen is at his best he drives the ball beautifully down the ground. Pietersen performed this act twice in an over against Andre Nel. The first shot, through mid-off, was good, but the second, to the left of mid-on, was stunning. It showed the bowler what he thought of him.

Ball of the day

*Ryan Sidebottom has not been at his best here but a couple of tail-end wickets is always good for a bowler's confidence. The dismissal of Andre Nel was achieved in the most convincing style possible when a full in-swinger pierced his tentative poke and removed both middle and leg stump.

Moment of the day

*Paul Collingwood has had a wretched summer and every England supporter would have taken huge delight in watching him compile his first significant score. Collingwood's confidence pumped through his proud body and the sight of him once again raising his bat to the the crowd's applause thrilled everyone.

Weather forecast

Today: Limited sunshine and frequent heavy showers

Moderate wind. Maximum temperature 20C.

Tomorrow: Some spells of sunshine and occasional showers with moderate winds. Maximum temperature 20C.

Scoreboard from Edgbaston

England won toss

England - second innings

A J Strauss c Kallis b Morkel......... 25

100 min, 65 balls, 2 fours

A N Cook c Boucher b Ntini......... 9

22 min, 12 balls, 2 fours

*M P Vaughan c Amla b Nel......... 17

27 min, 18 balls, 4 fours

K P Pietersen c de Villiers b Harris......... 94

188 min, 136 balls, 13 fours

I R Bell c Boucher b Ntini......... 20

35 min, 27 balls, 4 fours

P D Collingwood not out......... 101

208 min, 140 balls, 14 fours, 1 sixA Flintoff c Amla b Harris......... 2

4 min, 4 balls

+T R Ambrose not out......... 19

100 min, 78 balls, 2 fours

Extras (b4, lb2, w4, nb0)......... 10

Total (for 6, 345 min, 80 overs)......... 297

Fall: 1-15 (Cook), 2-39 (Vaughan), 3-70 (Strauss), 4-104 (Bell), 5-219 (Pietersen), 6-221 (Flintoff).

To bat: R J Sidebottom, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.

Bowling: Morkel 15-1-75-1 (w2) (3-1-5-0 5-0-23-1 3-0-32-0 4-0-15-0), Nel 15-2-67-1 (2-1-6-0 7-1-33-1 4-0-22-0 2-0-6-0), Ntini 13-3-43-2 (w2) (3-0-15-1 4-0-16-1 4-2-5-0 2-1-7-0), Kallis 16-4-46-0 (5-1-10-0 7-2-22-0 2-1-5-0 2-0-9-0), Harris 21-3-60-2 (5-1-12-0 10-2-34-2 6-0-14-0).

Progress: Third day: 50: 75 min, 16.1 overs. 100: 129 min, 28.3 overs. Tea: 126-4 Pietersen 42, Collingwood 9) 37 overs. 150: 188 min, 42.1 overs. 200: 227 min, 50.4 overs. 250: 289 min, 65.1 overs.

Pietersen's 50: 127 min, 90 balls, 6 fours.

Collingwood's 50: 99 min, 61 balls, 8 fours. 100: 193 min, 133 balls, 14 fours, 1 six.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and S J Davis

TV replay umpire: I J Gould

Match referee: R S Madugalle