Three wickets in the space of 29 balls gave England the advantage before the weather closed in here and shortened the first day of the Second Test by 29 overs at Kingsmead yesterday.
South Africa, seemingly in control while Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis put together a third-wicket stand of 150, finished the day on a shaky 175 for 5.
Graeme Swann's off-spin, or more precisely a ball that Kallis might have thought was an off-spinner, started South Africa's slide. With Swann bowling around the wicket, angling the ball across the right-hander, Kallis pushed at a delivery that went straight on, edging it to Paul Collingwood.
If England thought it was a bonus to capture the wicket of South Africa's premier batsman midway between his half-century and a hundred, there was better to come when Smith followed, also for 75.
The South African captain pushed Graham Onions into the covers and A B de Villiers, with an impetuosity that rivalled Kevin Pietersen's suicidal run-out in Centurion, charged down the pitch.
Logically Smith should have stayed in his crease but he seemed so startled by the sight of his young team-mate bearing down on him that he started to run. By the time good sense took over and he turned for safety, Alastair Cook had hurried in and removed the bails with Smith several inches short.
Onions, who was England's most impressive bowler, won a leg-before verdict against J P Duminy and for the second time in the day a South African batsman realised he was so palpably out that he did not bother to seek a television review, Hashim Amla having fallen lbw to Stuart Broad several hours earlier.
England too were wary of the review system and did not challenge a close not-out decision against Smith despite a frenzied appeal by Swann.
It was a day that started and ended well for England. With the sun beating down on Kingsmead for the first time in days, batting first was the logical choice for Smith but he had to work very hard to justify his decision, batting for more than four hours and facing 186 balls before his dismissal.
It was always going to be difficult for batsmen in the first hour, given the amount of rain that fell on Kingsmead in the days prior to the Test, but there was the promise of plenty of runs once the pitch flattened out.
Smith saw Ashwell Prince and Amla dismissed inside the first 10 overs, played and missed several times, particularly against Onions, and suffered a painful blow when a ball from James Anderson kicked off a length and rapped his left index finger.
Anderson swung the ball sharply away from the left-handed openers and dismissed Prince with a delivery which climbed sharply and moved away from Prince, who could only fend it to third slip.
Prince was a reluctant convert to the opening role at the end of last season and he had plenty of time to contemplate his misgivings, sitting alone and unhappy in the front row of the players' viewing area.
Prince was one of the stars of South Africa's series win in England last year when he batted at No 5 but lost his place to Duminy through injury in Australia a few months later. Duminy enjoyed a wonderful debut series but he has looked less than convincing against England.
Given South Africa's reluctance to change their side unless absolutely necessary, the current batting order will probably remain intact but the selectors might have cause to wonder whether it is the best one.
Anderson showed his ability to swing the ball in both directions, getting Amla to play and miss at one that swung away from the right-hander, but it was Broad who dismissed the Durban resident when Amla played around a full delivery.
The play before lunch was slow but enthralling as Smith and Kallis battled to extricate their team from trouble. A spongy outfield increased the pressure on the batsmen and Smith did not hit a boundary in reaching 10 off 62 balls before Anderson offered him width and he was able to launch into a muscular square cut.
England's tactics after lunch were surprising. It was an uncomfortably hot afternoon but the three fast men, the side's most effective bowlers during the morning, bowled only 11 overs before tea, three each by Anderson and Onions and five by Broad.
The modest medium pace of Jonathan Trott was called upon before Onions was finally brought back shortly before tea. It was Trott, though, who almost made the breakthrough. Kallis, who had scarcely played a false stroke, reached his fifty off 94 balls with an edge for four which would have been eminently catchable if a first slip, rather than Collingwood standing wide, had been in place.
There has long been an argument for Durban to be in a different time zone to the rest of South Africa. The sun rises well before 5am but bad light is frequently a problem despite play starting half an hour earlier than at other grounds.
Yesterday heavy cloud swept in during the tea break and the floodlights were on soon afterwards. Only seven overs were possible after the interval before the umpires took the players off, to Strauss's obvious dismay. Rain followed and more is forecast over the next four days.
Second Test, first day of five (Kingsmead, Durban); South Africa won toss
South Africa – First Innings
*G C Smith run out (Cook) (256 min, 186 balls, 9 fours) 75
A G Prince c Swann b Anderson (8 min, 5 balls)2
H M Amla lbw b Broad (35 min, 22 balls) 2
J H Kallis c Collingwood b Swann (197 min, 132 balls, 7 fours) 75
A B de Villiers not out (8 balls)8
J P Duminy lbw b Onions (9 min, 9 balls)4
†M V Boucher not out (4 balls)1
Extras (lb8) 8
Total (5 wkts, 61 overs) 175
Fall: 1-3 (Prince), 2-10 (Amla), 3-160 (Kallis), 4-166 (Smith), 5-170 (Duminy).
To bat: M Morkel, P L Harris, M Ntini, D W Steyn.
Bowling: Anderson 12-1-32-1; Onions 15-4-40-1; Broad 10-1-28-1; Swann 19-1-44-1; Trott 4-0-19-0; Pietersen 1-0-4-0.
England *A J Strauss, A N Cook, I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, P D Collingwood, I R Bell, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, G Onions.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and A M Saheba (Ind).
TV umpire: S J Davies (Aus). Match referee: R S Mahanama (SL).
First Test (16-20 Dec, Centurion): Match drawn.
Third Test: 3-7 Jan, Cape Town.
Fourth Test: 14-18 Jan, Wanderers.Reuse content