How best to warm up for your 50th Test appearance? For most batsmen, time in the middle against the attack you will face on that momentous occasion would be perfect. Unfortunately for Andrew Strauss, who should reach his half century of Tests against South Africa on Thursday, he was dismissed by the fast bowler Morne Morkel for just 29 as Middlesex replied to the tourists' 359 for 5 declared yesterday.
Despite his disappointment, Strauss suggested afterwards that South Africa's pace attack might be to England's liking. "A lot of the England batsmen prefer the ball at pace," he said. "Morkel is [Stephen] Harmison-like in his pace and bounce."
Morkel was the pick of the South African bowlers, who stuck to their task despite taking some punishment. He extracted plenty from a placid pitch and can feel slightly disappointed to have finished with still-impressive figures of 1 for23 from nine overs.
Strauss can take some solace. He started well, looking fluent and positive during the opening exchanges of Middlesex's innings. Dale Steyn's waywardness resulted in three boundaries from the first over, the second after a wild legside bouncer beat both batsman and wicketkeeper. Strauss nudged another four off his legs as Steyn strayed down the legside once more.
Next he pulled Makhaya Ntini for two in front of square; another delivery was flicked to the boundary. At the other end, Billy Godleman was less fluent. Steyn, who had quickly found his range, rapped the 19-year-old on the pads twice in one over. Godleman survived, however, and the Middlesex score ticked along as both batsmen picked up regular boundaries. The younger man drove Ntini down the ground and then, when Jacques Kallis came on from the pavilion end, he was pulled for four.
A bowling change brought an end to the fun. Morkel replaced Steyn and in his second over he had Strauss caught behind with the score on 52. The ball, a shoulder-height bouncer down the legside, appeared to flick the England man's glove on its way through to Mark Boucher, the South African wicketkeeper. As Strauss trudged off, the sound of a public address system drifted across from the school sports day on the athletics track next door. "We need more dads for the parent's race," the announcer implored. "Come on dads!"
South Africa needed no such encouragement. God-leman (29) was soon out after a wild swipe at a ball from Kallis. The resultant edge was taken by AB de Villiers in the slips. Ed Joyce was next to go – bowled by Paul Harris for 20 – bringing another Irishman, Eoin Morgan, to the wicket.
Dawid Malan was leading a charmed life. Morkel had him dropped in the slips before a loud appeal for caught behind was turned down. Finally he had Malan, then on 39, caught – but the umpire's no-ball call stifled his appeals. Having survived that, Malan brought up his half-century by cutting Kallis to the boundary three times in the last over before tea. His innings ended rather feebly on 67, caught by Kallis off the part-time bowling of Ashwell Prince.
Morgan took that as his cue to launch an assault. Having hit three sixes, he reached 100 with a reverse-swept four off Hasim Amla. He was out just before the close of play, which Middlesex reached on 311 for 5.
South Africa had batted on for half an hour in the morning before declaring. The end came after Prince, 104 overnight, was caught at backward point by Morgan off the bowling of Daniel Evans having added 10 runs to his total.Reuse content