Drama as England cling on to draw third Test
Whichever cricketing God Andrew Strauss prays to, they are incredibly receptive.
For the second time in this series England clung on with just one wicket to spare, with the no. 11 Graham Onions courageously batting out the final over. This side might yet lack the consistency to become world beaters but they certainly don’t lack substance.
For much of the final day it seemed as if England would pull off the draw largely untroubled.
After the nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson was unluckily dismissed, sweeping a ball from Paul Harris straight onto his boot which was well taken by Prince at leg-gully, Jonathan Trott was cleaned bowled by a beauty from Dale Steyn just seven runs later.
The early wickets put the hosts firmly in command but Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell soon began to re-establish some control. Collingwood is a master of these situations and displays of steadfast resilience have become his trademark. ‘Brigadier Block,’ was in top form, collecting just 40 runs in 188 balls as he effectively scrapped any pretence of a back-lift and played his part in a miraculous escape for the third time in six months.
If we expected it from Collingwood then Ian Bell’s contribution, 78 from 213 balls, was far more significant. It was by far his best innings in an England shirt and though he was the 9th man out with just three overs left in the day, England’s survival will ensure he receives the plaudits he deserved.
Following the successful negotiation of the second new ball, which included a mesmerising tussle between the explosive Steyn and the obdurate Collingwood, South Africa seemed suddenly devoid of ideas. Harris lacked control or penetration and with de Vet struggling because of a buttock injury, the atmosphere grew increasingly flat.
Indeed, as the final hour began talk was turning to the point at which the captains would shake hands and call it a day, not of a collapse. But we should have known better.
Duminy’s part time off breaks threatened far more than Harris’ left arm spin and it was he who finally dismissed Collingwood with an arm ball which was edged to slip from around the wicket. Suddenly the match was alive and Smith’s decision to stick with Duminy paid off a couple of overs later when de Villiers took a stunning catch at short-leg to dismiss Prior.
England were wobbling and when Broad went, caught at short leg off Harris after a 22 ball, scoreless innings, the momentum had swung well and truly to the hosts. Smith, who was spot on with so many of his bowling changes, brought back the somewhat erratic Morne Morkel and Bell, who had barely put a foot wrong all day, edged his first ball to Smith at first slip when he should have shouldered arms.
He walked off to a standing ovation and once again it was Graham Onions who joined England’s man of the series Graeme Swann at the wicket. It was nerve-destroying stuff but Onions fought through the rest of Morkel’s over and Swann comfortably saw off Dale Steyn. He was unable however, to pinch a single and once again Onions was left to secure the draw.
Morkel had troubled him with a couple of short deliveries in the previous over but despite a desperate referral for a caught behind from the penultimate ball, Onions once again survived with aplomb, turning to the dressing room with a clenched fist as he left the final ball well alone.