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Friday, January 08, 2010

England hold on once again for draw : T3 D5

South Africa 293 and 7/447d drew with England 273 and 9/296 (141 ov, I Bell 78, A Cook 55): T3 D5 at Cape Town

I turned in at tea time (ie nudging midnight in these parts) when Paul Collingwood 39* and Ian Bell 68* looked well set and, despite some hostile South African bowling from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, England 5/230 looked to be heading for a comfortable draw.

Draw it was but comfortable it wasn't. I woke to watch the highlights and to discover that the South Africans had made a final effort which had almost succeeded. For the second time in three Tests England, in the person of Graham Onions, held on for a draw, and the home side were one good (or lucky) ball away from victory. Not that they didn't bowl many good balls, just not one that was good enough. In the last over Morne Morkel appeared to have Onions caught behind but replays showed that it brushed his sleeve not his bat (and vindicated the decision of the recently much maligned umpire Harper)

A 1-0 series lead is not a fair reflection of the merits of the two sides but that's the way Test cricket works. Australia couldn't force a win at Cardiff in T1 of last year's Ashes, and their failure seemed, just as the get out of jail draw at Centurion in T1 did, to inspire England to regroup and win the next Test.

There's a few days before the last Test begins and it will be very interesting to see if and how the South Africans can restore their self-belief. The team that they fielded at Newlands had no major weaknesses, though there will be some pondering about the value of Ashwell Prince and Paul Harris. England are not infallible either, as the large South African second innings showed, and Kevin Pietersen is overdue for a mid-range let alone a big score.


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