In a routinely dramatic rearguard action, England secured a draw in the third Test yesterday. For the second time in this series and the third in six months they had one wicket left when a pulsating final session of the match concluded. Perhaps familiarity does after all breed content.
The man who had to keep out the final over, as it was in the opening match of this series against South Africa, was Graham Onions, the No 11. He played it nervelessly as he had at Centurion, keeping out all that Morne Morkel, the tall, menacing South Africa fast bowler could hurl down at him, which was a considerable amount.
England were entitled to their jubilation as Graeme Swann, the batsman at the other end, sprinted down the pitch to embrace his colleague. Equally, South Africa could be excused for feelings of dejection. How England almost mucked it up, how South Africa almost prised a win from highly unpromising circumstances.
For most of the day it had seemed that the tourists would comfortably gain the result they needed to retain their 1-0 lead in the series. Although they had lost two wickets in the morning, the damage was repaired in a long sixth-wicket stand between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell. For over after over they played nothing which did not need to be played.
Together they wore down South Africa's attack by refusing to become engaged in any fancy business. They observed the age-old verities, they played plumb-line straight. Collingwood had been there before many times, of course, from his Test debut six years ago when he played for three hours while scoring 36 to help repel Sri Lanka at Galle. It has become the sort of position in a Test match for which Collingwood was not only made but probably goes to bed to dream about.
Bell was a less welcome sight as he came to the wicket at the fall of Jonathan Trott to a whizz bang ball from Dale Steyn which ripped out his off stump. There is no doubting Bell's rich talent, but he has been out many times when he should not have been. Not this time. Bell went about his innings exactly. Each shot was tailor-made for the ball in question; there was no off-the-peg stuff in sight.
There were astonishingly few alarms until the second new ball was taken an over after lunch. Then Steyn, bowling like the wind, produced one of the great unrewarded bursts. It lasted six overs and 29 of the balls it contained were bowled at Collingwood.
Time and again Steyn made the ball move away sharply and late, just occasionally he made it hold its own. Collingwood played and missed maybe four times but he left resolutely as well. At the other end, Morkel was not testing Bell quite so specifically or regularly but it was still of the torrid variety.
That safely negotiated it seemed that England must survive the last hour easily. But in the second over of the final 15, Collingwood pushed forward at the occasional spin of JP Duminy and edged a regulation chance to slip. One of the epic rearguard partnerships had lasted 57 overs in which 112 runs were accrued. Collingwood had faced 188 balls for his 40, 162 from which he did not score.
Collingwood had played crucial roles in the draws at Cardiff against Australia (74 from 245 balls) and at Centurion in the first Test of this series (26no from 99) but even by his standards this was self-denial to last for a thousand Lents.
Poor Matt Prior lasted only nine balls before pushing one to one of the myriad close fielders. AB de Villiers, staying low, took the catch inches from the ground. Stuart Broad hung around for 35 minutes, survived a review of a catch at silly point, faced 22 scoreless balls and then gloved to short leg. The review did not save him this time. Swann came in and dealt with the pressure by immediately square-driving his first ball for four. Only Swann.
All the time Bell was there England were safe. Suddenly he was not. Morkel, brought back one last time, got one to lift from a length and it took Bell's edge and flew to first slip where Graeme Smith pouched the chance. It was Bell's greatest innings for England, perhaps his only great one so far and it lasted for nearly five hours.
But South Africa knew then that their chances of drawing level had increased sharply. They had one wicket to get, 17 balls left. As Onions came to the wicket, visions of Centurion must have flashed through Smith's mind. It could not happen again he must have thought. Surely not?
Throughout the day, Smith kept attacking fields. Six men round the bat grew into seven and now there were eight: slips, silly points, forward short-legs, positions as yet given no name.
Onions played the rest of the over with deceptive ease. Steyn was put on at the other end to bowl at Swann. He played with eminent good sense. Morkel had six balls at the No 11, six balls to make it 1-1. The first was a lifter which Onions avoided, the second was short and he played it like Geoffrey Boycott, the third and fourth were yorkers which he dug out, the fifth roared past his glove, South Africa appealed then referred, but to no avail.
And so at last to the sixth and final ball of the 141st over of the fourth innings in the third Test. It flew harmlessly by off stump. England had their draw. They were 170 runs short of the 447 they had needed to win. But that was purely academic.
Turning points: How the final day unfolded
11.16: Anderson falls
Nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson, having survived 46 minutes on the final morning, an hour in all, is out. He sweeps on to his foot and is well held by Ashwell Prince diving low at short leg.
11.24: Quick thinking by Colly
Paul Collingwood is given out caught at slip but immediately asks for a review which upholds his contention that he did not hit the ball, which went to slip via thigh pad rather than bat. Reviews rule.
11.55: Trott back to the pavilion
Dale Steyn uproots Jonathan Trott's off-stump with a snorter which rips its way between bat and pad.
1.14: Steyn in vain
The second new ball is taken immediately after 80 overs. It is a crucial period of the match as Steyn bowls six fast, menacing overs, 29 of whose balls are faced by Collingwood, who relishes the contest.
1.58: Smiles all round
An outswinger whizzes past Collingwood's outside edge. He might have left it, he might have played it. Steyn pats him on the shoulder as he passes, a smile of mutual respect is exchanged, Collingwood's perhaps more rueful than Steyn's.
2.30: Fifty comes up
The fifty partnership for the sixth wicket is reached in 159 balls. All is going well.
2.59: Close call for Bell
Ian Bell edges Morne Morkel towards slips but it falls short.
3.56: Bell shows grit
Bell reaches a wonderfully-resilient fifty.
4.18: Ton up
The 100 partnership for the sixth wicket is brought up by Bell.
4.52: Duminy breaks through
Collingwood's outside edge, which has been passed many times by Steyn, is at last found by JP Duminy and he is caught at slip after a partnership lasting 344 balls.
5.01: Another one gone...
Matt Prior jabs off the face of the bat to forward short-leg.
5.36: ...and another one
Stuart Broad, with eight men round the bat, is held at square short-leg and his request for a review, made more in hope than expectation, is quickly turned down.
5.40: Another one bites the dust
Crucially, it seems, Bell edges to first slip with 17 balls left. A dismal end to a mighty innings and England are on the brink of an agonising defeat.
5.54: Onions tastes success
The final over begins with Graham Onions to face. He negotiates it in splendid style and England have escaped, once again. Now on to Johannesburg.
Cape Town scoreboard
Third Test Cape Town (Final day of five); South Africa drew with England; England won toss
South Africa: First Innings 291 (Kallis 108, Boucher 51; Anderson 5-63)
England: First Innings 273 (Prior 76, Cook 65; Morkel 5-75, Steyn 4-74).
South Africa: Second Innings 447-7 dec (Smith 193, Amla 95)
England: Second Innings Overnight: 132-3 (Cook 55, Strauss 45)
I J L Trott b Steyn 42, 99 balls 4 fours
J M Anderson c Prince b Harris 9, 52 balls 1 four
P D Collingwood c Kallis b Duminy 40, 188 balls 4 fours
I R Bell c Smith b Morkel 78, 213 balls 10 fours
†M J Prior c de Villiers b Duminy 4, 9 balls 1 four
S C J Broad c de Villiers b Harris 0, 22 balls
G P Swann not out 10, 8 balls 2 fours
G Onions not out 0, 11 balls
Extras (b 1, lb 4, w 1, nb 1) 7
Total (9 wkts, 141 overs) 296
Fall: 1-101 (Cook), 2-107 (Strauss), 3-129 (Pietersen), 4-153 (Anderson), 5-160 (Trott), 6-272 (Collingwood), 7-278 (Prior), 8-286 (Broad), 9-290 (Bell).
Bowling: Morkel 28-9-51-1 (w1, nb1) (5-1-9-0, 4-0-16-0, 7-3-9-0, 5-2-10-0, 2-1-4-0, 3-0-3-0, 2-2-0-1), Steyn 35-11-74-2 (6-1-18-0, 6-2-9-0, 5-1-6-1, 3-0-7-1, 6-4-13-0, 2-1-4-0, 4-1-7-0, 2-1-4-0, 1-0-6-0), De Wet 12-5-23-1 (3-2-5-0, 5-2-14-1, 2-0-3-0, 2-1-1-0), Harris 40-14-85-3 (8-2-30-0, 5-0-14-1, 12-5-16-1, 4-2-9-0, 3-2-1-0, 2-1-4-0, 4-1-7-0, 2-1-4-1), Kallis 14-4-28-0 (4-1-12-0, 4-2-6-0, 5-1-7-0, 1-0-3-0), Duminy 12-3-30-2 (1-0-4-0, 6-0-20-0, 5-3-6-2).
Final day progress 150: 61.3 overs, Lunch: 179-5 (Collingwood 8, Bell 12) 79.0 overs, 200: 88.1 overs, Tea: 230-5 (Collingwood 31, Bell 38) 107.0 overs, 250: 115.5 overs. Bell 50: 134 balls, 6 fours.
Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) & A L Hill (NZ).
TV replay umpire: Aleem Dar (Pak)
Match referee: M Erasmus.
England lead four-match series 1-0.Reuse content