Wednesday, December 30, 2009
England sweep South Africa aside and head towards victory : T2 D4
South Africa 343 & 6/76 (32 ov) trail England 9/575d (170 ov, A Cook 118, I Bell 141, M Prior 60)by 156 runs with 4 second innings wickets in hand: T2 D4 at Durban.
England added 4/189 in sunshine to its overnight 5/386 before reducing South Africa to 6/76 as gloom (both literal and metaphorical) descended over Durban. This is not to let the home team off the hook: Test match days don't come much more one-sided than this, particularly when honours on the preceding ones have been fairly evenly divided.
There were several very good performances from England players, including Graeme Swann's 3/22 from 12 ov and Stuart Broad's 3/18 from 9, but the standout one was Ian Bell's 141/227b (1x6, 10x4).
I've not been alone in thinking that Bell was the weak link in the England batting chain, but this innings has proved me wrong. Sure, he began tentatively on D3 but once he'd found his touch he kept propelling his team into a strong position. And there was more: when South Africa batted again he caught Ashwell Prince at short leg off Swann, which precipitated a collapse from 1/27 to 6/50. Mark Boucher and Morne Morkel held on until the umpires decided that the light was too bad, but at 6/76 with a further 156 runs required to make England bat again surely, despite the surprises of D4, only bad weather can save the Proteas. If it does that will be unfair to England.