Home bowlers finally break down resolute South Africa

In the end, England did it. On the penultimate afternoon of the series, in their 773rd over, they managed to dismiss South Africa twice in the same match. This is usually a requirement to have a sniff of winning a Test.

What a struggle it was to secure those 20 wickets. The thought might have occurred to Kevin Pietersen, England's new captain, that chewing biltong was an easier proposition. South Africa resisted for almost 100 more overs in their second innings, until shortly after 5pm when Paul Collingwood swooped low at third slip to send back Makhaya Ntini.

From the outset a month ago, the tourists had been determined to sell their wickets dearly and after the first innings at Lord's it was an undertaking they never forgot. Unless you count the first innings of the final Test, when they were still so exultant (or something like that) from clinching the series that some of them might not have known what day it was, let alone what guard they were taking.

All that was behind them yesterday. Led by the admirable, indomitable AB de Villiers they dug in ferociously, intent on frustrating Pietersen and England. Considering the new captain was easily at his most animated, waving his arms and clearly living every moment through his facial expressions, they seemed to have succeeded.

It had seemed improbable in the morning, when Stephen Harmison bowled ferociously from the Pavilion End. His eight rapid and intimidating overs comprised perhaps the best pound for pound spell he has assembled since the Ashes series in 2005. This was the Harmison of yore and he accounted for Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis. But he roughed them all up.

Naturally, the other SJ Harmison, also from Ashington and of Durham and England, had to show up later on. This unwanted interloper, some kind of aberrant identical twin, could not quite poop the party but the accuracy, and thus much of the ferocity, had gone.

Four bowlers or five, it has been incessantly tough for England's bowlers in this series. But since they needed five finally to take all 20 wickets and since they all took at least one wicket that may have to be the path the selectors tread from now on, should they work out a route.

To illustrate how tough it has been it is, unfortunately, necessary to recall the triumphant Ashes series once more. In 2005, in five Tests against Australia, England took 89 wickets and bowled the tourists out twice on three occasions, failing by one wicket on the fourth. It took them 755.3 overs to do so.

In this series against South Africa, they have bowled 772.3 overs in four matches and taken 48 wickets. Yet in only one of their first innings have South Africa made over 400. Maybe, without De Villiers yesterday, they would have struggled.

De Villiers seems to bolster the case for playing six batsmen, since he has scored 384 runs from No 6 this summer. He might have revealed a weakness yesterday, however. Approaching his seventh Test century he was out for a fifth time in the 90s, playing recklessly against Monty Panesar. That might be the answer: let him cruise to the 90s. Getting him for a duck seems unlikely, since has yet to make one in 77 Test innings.

England's most successful bowler yesterday was Stuart Broad who took 3 for 44. But at last England had 20 of South Africa's wickets. They must now ensure that South Africa do not reciprocate.

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea