South Africa ended the fourth day at The Oval just six wickets away from taking a one-nil lead in the three-match Test series against England. They had reduced the home side to 102 for four by the close after Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis had continued their dominant third-wicket partnership earlier in the day.
England’s bowlers had looked resigned to another long spell in the field and barely looked like taking a wicket when South Africa resumed on 403 for two at the start of the day. The run making was relentless and came at increasing pace throughout the day as England’s bowlers tired further and South Africa’s third-wicket pair of Amla and Kallis made the most of it.
On a day of batting milestones and records, Amla was the first to record one, as he brought up his 200 in the first hour. Kallis’ century followed shortly afterwards, taking 227 balls, and the 500 came up shortly before lunch. Throughout the afternoon, milestones continued to be reached: Amla brought up his 150, all four of England’s bowlers reached their century of runs conceded, and South Africa passed 600. Then Amla passed the South African record for highest Test score, previously held by AB de Villiers, and brought up his 300.
He was on 311 at tea, with Kallis on 182 by the time Graeme Smith decided to declare and end England’s epic stint in the field with the tourists on 637 for two. Kallis and Amla had added an unbroken 377 for the third wicket – the highest partnership for any wicket in England since 1957.
This left England needing to score 252 runs in their second innings just to make South Africa bat again and four sessions to survive. Unfortunately for them, Vernon Philander continued the match trend of removing one of the opening batsmen for a duck when he grazed Alastair Cook’s edge with a ball that held its line. Where this England second innings then differed from the two that had gone before was that Dale Steyn removed Jonathan Trott nine overs later with an outswinger that also grazed the edge on that way through to de Villiers behind the stumps.
Kevin Pietersen then strode to the crease to partner his captain Andrew Strauss and was given a severe working over with the short ball by Morne Morkel. Pietersen won the early tussles, pulling Morkel in front of square for four, but Morkel exacted his revenge by inducing an edge over the wicket-keeper, before delivering a fuller straighter one which cleaned Pietersen up.
Strauss perished half an hour later to the leg-spin of Imran Tahir, who gained enough bounce to cause the England captain to top edge to Vernon Philander at square leg. This left England on 67 for four with almost an hour still to play and South Africa would have entertained thoughts of exposing England’s tail before the close. However, Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara played watchfully and guided England to stumps on 102 for four.
Bell finished with 14 and Bopara with 15 and the pair know that they will have to bat at least all of tomorrow’s first session if England are to have any hope of saving this Test match. South Africa, in turn, will be aware that, first day apart, their bowling attack has found much more life in this Oval pitch than England’s so will be confident of wrapping up the win.
© Cricket World 2012
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