There are those who still insist that asking the opposition to bat in a Test match is either brave or foolish. Or both. They live and die, but suspect they will live, by the adage that if a captain should think of bowling he should still bat. If he is still in two minds he should quickly signal to a senior lieutenant and if the senior lieutenant responds that it is definitely worth bowling, the captain should bat.
Having no doubt ingested this dictum with his mother's milk, Andrew Strauss, England's captain, won the toss for the second time in the series yesterday and for the second time, with all to play for at Newlands, invited South Africa to bat.
Last time, it almost went horribly wrong when England were left hanging on with one wicket left in Centurion. But the point, as Strauss might stress, is that they hung on. By the early close yesterday, South Africa were 279 for six, the interpretation of which is that they have nosed in front.
South Africa, who were again propped up by their durable old dependable Jacques Kallis, would be quietly satisfied after a start that threatened disaster. Kallis, in characteristic "thou shalt not pass" fashion, ensured it did not.
Towards the end of the day, after four hours, with his 11th four off his 173rd ball, he reached his 50th first-class hundred – his 33rd in Tests, his seventh against England, his sixth at Newlands, his second of the series. It was much like most of those that had preceded it, exuding solidity, neither rushing nor strolling. He is the sort of batsman that clocks can be set by.
Kallis and Mark Boucher shared an important partnership of 89 for the sixth wicket, before Kallis and Dale Steyn put on 63 and counting for the seventh – both partnerships enough to give Strauss pause for thought about old adages.
England would hardly be in despair, thinking that if they can contain their opponents a total south of 400, they have the scope to bat them to distraction on a pitch likely to become flatter for a day or two.
The tourists, however, would acknowledge that they could and should have done better. Their three seamers, especially Jimmy Anderson, bowled their socks off. At times in his first spell in the morning and his second in the afternoon, Anderson made the ball talk, bowling mostly in-swing and making the ball reverse. Anderson can be maddeningly inconsistent for the leader of the attack but this was one of those days on which he deserved better.
Stuart Broad bowled astutely while Graham Onions had his moment early on. There were two wickets in two balls for Graeme Swann, but also a sense that South Africa were coming to terms with him. For once, he was not allowed to dictate terms.
It was cloudy but warm in the morning and a sprinkling of rain delayed the start by an hour. Table Mountain was shrouded in mist and had disappeared from view. The combination was irresistible to Strauss.
The first over was all he could have craved. Anderson had been swinging the ball round corners during practice and he did so again early in the South African innings. His fourth ball lifted and curved away from Ashwell Prince, the last sort of ball that a struggling opening batsman needs.
Perhaps the most crucial moment came in the next over. Onions was the bowler, Graeme Smith the batsman. The ball went across Smith and he pushed hard at it, only to edge to Swann at second slip. The ball went at waist height – the direction of choice for a slip – but Swann failed to grasp it, even on a desperate second attempt.
Had Kallis had to come in then, with his captain gone, things might have been different. As it is, he was not long delayed because Hashim Alma, always an lbw candidate who had already survived a review for a catch behind, was undone by a beauty from Onions which he played across.
To offer a player of Smith's high calibre an escape of the sort Swann permitted is tantamount to an invitation to score a hundred. In the event, Smith declined, dismissed by the first ball he received after lunch – another humdinger from Anderson which swung late, lifted, found the edge and produced a lovely diving catch from Matt Prior.
Strauss looked the smartest man in cricket at this point and when he introduced Swann into the attack his stock increased further. For once, the new star of English cricket did not strike in his first over, but strike he did in his eighth – and twice. AB de Villiers drove rather sloppily towards short mid-wicket.
Next ball, JP Duminy, who a year ago could do no wrong and now can do no right, was done every which way by a turning ball that he feathered behind. He is a rabbit in headlights, a walking wicket.
It is for positions like 127 for five that Boucher was made. He scampered and harried while Kallis merely plugged away at his own pace. England needed a wicket when Broad, in an intelligent spell, got one to nip back. Boucher reviewed his leg-before dismissal to no avail. Steyn justified his promotion to number eight and when the sides went off shortly after the second new ball arrived, England had achieved the bare minimum of what their decision to bowl first demanded.
Cape Town (First day of five) South Africa have scored 279 runs for 6 wickets
England won toss
SOUTH AFRICA First Innings
*G Smith c Prior b Anderson......... 30
50 balls 3 fours
A Prince c Prior b Anderson......... 0
H Amla lbw b Onions......... 14
56 balls 2 fours
J Kallis not out......... 108
188 balls 11 fours
A de Villiers c Strauss b Swann......... 36
60 balls 4 fours
J Duminy c Prior b Swann......... 0
†M Boucher lbw b Broad......... 51
86 balls 7 fours
D Steyn not out......... 26
57 balls 3 fours
Extras (lb 12, w 1, nb 1)......... 14
Total (6 wkts, 83.2 overs)......... 279
Fall: 1-1 (Prince), 2-46 (Amla), 3-51 (Smith), 4-127 (de Villiers), 5-127 (Duminy), 6-216 (Boucher).
To Bat: M Morkel, P L Harris, F L de Wet.
Bowling: J Anderson 20-1-62-2 (w1nb1) (6-1-11-1, 5-0-20-1, 4-0-10-0, 3-0-11-0, 2-0-10-0), G Onions 18.2-3-60-1 (4-1-13-0, 4-1-10-1, 5-1-12-0, 4-0-23-0, 1.2-0-2-0), S Broad 19-5-54-1 (9-3-29-0, 5-2-10-0, 5-1-15-1), G Swann 22-1-74-2 (14-1-55-2, 3-0-7-0, 5-0-12-0), K Pietersen 4-0-17-0 (1-0-4-0, 3-0-13-0).
Progress First day: 50 in 18.5 overs, Lunch 51-2 (Smith 30, Kallis 1) 19.0 overs, 100 in 31.4 overs, 150 in 48.5 overs, Tea 183-5 (Kallis 55, Boucher 37) 57.0 overs, 200 in 60.3 overs, 250 in 76.1 overs. Kallis 50: 106 balls, 6 fours. Kallis 100: 173 balls, 11 fours. Boucher 50: 79 balls, 7 fours.
England: *A J Strauss, A N Cook, I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, I R Bell, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, G Onions.
Umpires: D J Harper & A L Hill
TV replay umpire : Aleem Dar
Match referee: R S Mahanama
Turning points How the action unfolded on day one
11.02am Prince goes out with swinger
Ashwell Prince out to the fourth ball of the match, a brutal, late swinging lifter from Jimmy Anderson.
11.04am Name dropper
Graeme Smith dropped by Graeme Swann off Graham Onions – never can so many men of the same(ish) name been involved in one dismissal. As second slip catches go it was straightforward. Has the magic touch deserted Swann with the new year?
11.15am Naïve review
England ask for a review of an appeal for a catch behind. Replays are inconclusive and the not out verdict stands.
1.16pm Prior engages
Smith is out to his first ball after lunch, an excellent catch at the wicket by Matt Prior, diving in front of slip, another snorter from Anderson.
2.22pm Walking on air
An appeal for a catch behind against AB de Villiers, on 24, is rejected. After catching the ball Matt Prior had whipped off the bails and replays show de Villiers was actually out stumped, his back foot in the air. The square leg umpire should have seen.
2.43pm De Villiers' clipped out
De Villiers clips to short mid-wicket.
2.44pm Duminy dummy
JP Duminy is out first ball for the second successive innings, edging a turning delivery.3.23pm
Ominous for England as Jacques Kallis pushes a single for his 53rd Test fifty.
4.35pm Boucher stakes his claim
Boucher completes his 31st Test fifty, his fifth against England, for whom he perpetually reserves his best.
5.45pm Shot to Trott
Kallis edges Anderson wide of Trott at third slip. This is the nearest he gets to a chance.Reuse content