With England on 564/6 in the final session of the second day it has been the batsman who are in firm control of proceedings thus far.
With everyone concerned suggesting that the pitch would offer a lot to the bowlers early on on the opening day South African captain Graeme Smith had little hesitation in putting England in first. Michael Vaughn said he would have bowled too had he won the toss. It seems everyone read the pitch wrong. On a pitch that has been flat, slow, and has offered nothing to the bowlers the South African bowling attack, much talked up before the match, has toiled away with very little cheer. They weren’t helped by some very erratic bowling early on as they got their line and length wrong for much off the opening session, with a lot of wide bowling, as the bowlers perhaps were looking for swing that just wasn’t there.
No doubt Smith was wishing he had Shaun Pollock to call upon. If there was anything in the pitch for the seamers Polly’s line and length would have found it. That it was Pieterson that made the most of the batting conditions would have rubbed further salt into South Africa’s wounds. Pieterson scored a hundred in his first ODI game against his country of birth and followed that up with one in his first Test knock against South Africa. With Ian Bell closing in on a double hundred, having already gone past his previous Test best, and Broad moving towards what could be his maiden first class ton, the South African attack continues to run in and bowl, but seem to be looking for a bit of luck to go with their graft.
While many would seem disappointed with the bowling thus far, after much was made of this being perhaps the best attack in world cricket right now, it must be remembered that conditions have been very batsman friendly, and nothing as was expected. That said the attack does look like one still getting used to English conditions, as can be seen by the number of byes Boucher has conceded behind the stumps. On average Boucher has conceded about 4,5 byes per Test in his 115 Tests thus far. With this innings not over yet he has already conceded 14. The attack looks under done, suffering from that rained out warm up game prior to the match.
Morne Morkel, who has taken 4 of the 6 wickets to fall so far, has looked the best bowler on show, and has shown as much to suggest that with a little help from the pitch he could be a real destroyer for South Africa.
While the conditions have made batting look easy, the batsman still have to go out there and score the runs. Pieterson and Bell, and now Broad have batted brilliantly in doing just that. Bell in particular, as it was him and Collingwood who were under pressure with Flintoff in contention for the next match.
As I complete this Broad has just been bowled by Harris for a very well played 76. The English tail is now in and Bell may change to a more aggressive stance as he looks for a double hundred and England look to go past 600 for the first time in 5 years.
It becomes more and more unlikely for South Africa to win this match with England heading towards 600, and the chances of play being lost to rain always likely. The South African batsman will have to make sure they take a leaf from Englands book and score heavily themselves. If anything they will have to bat for time to not only take losing out of the equation but to give their bowlers enough rest to come at England in the second innings.