Jacques Kallis, the world's best all-rounder, confirmed last night that he would not bowl in the first Test. With the match having turned into a contest of attrition on the second day this must have been heartening for England.
As the tourists responded to South Africa's total of 418 all out, showing an ambitious spirit that had been absent earlier, it was clear that the home side without Kallis as a bowler are severely depleted. But he insisted that his broken rib would preclude his delivering a ball.
"It's too much of a risk," he said. "If something went wrong that could put me out for much longer. As it is, it's going along nicely and I should be ready by the Boxing Day Test."
That cannot come soon enough for South Africa on the evidence of last night and must be heartening for England. The home side, who have won 11 of the 14 Tests at Centurion and lost only one, bowled aberrantly and allowed England to rattle along at almost four an over, led from the front by the captain, Andrew Strauss.
But England had to spend more than two sessions in the field on the second day as South Africa adopted a policy of lengthening their innings to keep the opposition in the field, no matter how slow the run-rate.
"It was quite tough," Kallis said. "It was one of those wickets where you really had to graft. We put in a lot of practise coming in to the Test so I was confident. England did bowl well. Only 2.8 [runs an over] in the modern game shows just how tough things were and how well England bowled."
"It was a lot of hard work," said Graham Onions, who took three wickets and was always the most dangerous of England's three fast bowlers. "We bowled a lot of overs, but South Africa weren't actually going anywhere. They were going at 2.8 an over and we're going at 3.9 an over. I think we have stuck together as a team and done the hard yards now."
Reviews of umpiring decisions apart, Onions was involved in the most dramatic moment of the day when he felled Morne Morkel with a well-directed bouncer. It struck Morkel in the neck as it burst through hapless defence and for a moment it looked serious.
"It did look nasty," said Onions. "As a fast bowler you have to show a lot of intent and aggression. You do aim for the head when you bowl a bouncer but you don't want to hurt anybody. I think that's important. I did get him out, which was the plan, a couple of short balls and then hopefully nick him off." Onions is clearly a fast bowler of the gentle sort.