Flower sticks with policy to hold balance of power

Tactic of playing extra batsman may have been made up on hoof but it saved tourists in Cape Town and will be crucial at Wanderers

England's high-risk strategy has worked. It has not been faultless, and in two of the three matches so far in this splendid series it might have been derailed. But it has survived, like England, by the skin of its teeth.

To field six batsmen and four bowlers was never at the forefront of the selectors' minds when these tourists came to South Africa. That much was evident from the composition of the squad, which was light on batsmen with no reserve specialist openers. It was pretty obvious that a policy had been conjured up for a bits-and-pieces, belt-and-braces side.

In the days leading up to the First Test, barely before, there was a change of heart. It occurred more forcefully then than before that, on the sort of pitches they were likely to encounter, England might well need six batsmen and that four bowlers might just do the job of taking 20 wickets.

There will be no going back now. If four bowlers can work anywhere it is at the Wanderers, where the Fourth Test begins on Thursday. The nine previous matches have all produced victory for one side or the other, only four times for South Africa. Rain – and there is some about, there always is in Johannesburg – is all that can induce the third draw of the series.

England cannot now lose the rubber and they may once have settled for a tied state of affairs. Having hung on courageously twice, they would be deeply disappointed to be denied now. Six batsmen will be required at the Wanderers, as they were at Newlands last week.

Had there not been a sextet, the match would have been done by tea. It might have been over in any case, it is worth remembering, were it not for the Decision Review System, which has come into its own in the past few weeks. To the first ball of his innings, before an hour of the fifth day had elapsed, Paul Collingwood was given out caught at slip.

Without recourse to a review he would have had no choice but to walk and England, make no mistake, would have had it. But Collingwood immediately made the now-familiar sign to the umpire of a horizontal arm across the bat. The replay was conclusive. The ball had missed Collingwood's bat and brushed his thigh pad. He was spared, England were spared.

In the old days of just before the end of last year, everybody would have grinned and borne it after South Africa's victory in those circumstances. It was the way the cookie crumbled, it would have been said. But England would still have lost a match they went on to save. Cookies do not have to crumble that way any more.

Both teams have benefited. Before Graeme Smith's magnificent second innings had taken real shape he was given out lbw. He referred it to higher authority and went on to make 132 more runs.

"We all know it would be nice to have a fifth bowler but at the moment this is the balance that we think is best for the team," said England's coach, Andy Flower. "That might change in six months' time or even in the next Test. But we will try to make honest decisions with good intent, and that intent is to win the Test match."

England will almost certainly pick an unchanged team for the fourth successive match. It could be the time when Jimmy Anderson swings himself into the series, though he must have horrid memories of the Wanderers. While Matthew Hoggard was taking 12 wickets in a memorable last-day England win five years ago, Anderson, in his only match of the series, was all over the shop in taking 2 for 117 and 0 for 32.

South Africa will have to make changes, but not as many as they might have wished. They suffered the embarrassment yesterday of having to withdraw the 30-year-old Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir from their squad because it turned out that he is not eligible. Although no full explanation was given, it seems that Tahir has not served enough qualifying time in South Africa under international regulations.

The 20-year-old left-arm fast bowler Wayne Parnell, who is out of form, may play as part of a pace blitz led by the hugely impressive Dale Steyn, which England can resist one last time.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific