South Africa strike back

Jonny Bairstow on the way to his maiden Test half-century.

An unbeaten 72 from Jonny Bairstow has given England a slight edge after the second day of a fascinating third Test against South Africa at Lord’s today.

After wrapping up South Africa’s first innings for 309, England were 208-5 at the close, largely thanks to a stand of 124 between Bairstow and Ian Bell for the fifth wicket.

The hosts were in deep trouble at 54-4 before the middle order pair came together to frustrate the South African attack for much of the afternoon.

With South Africa resuming their first innings on 262-7 in the morning, England’s bowlers had encountered continued resistance in the first hour, courtesy of Vernon Philander (61) in particular.

Stuart Broad saw off Dale Steyn with full-length swing, caught at second slip in the fourth over of the day, and Morne Morkel eventually chased a wide ball from Steven Finn (4-75) and fell to a one-handed diving catch by Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper’s fifth of the innings.

But Philander completed his maiden Test half-century before he ran out of partners. By the time he was stumped off Graeme Swann, the tourists’ last six wickets had realised 255 runs – a statistic England could yet better, if Bairstow stays the course.

The 22-year-old Yorkshireman – called up to replace Kevin Pietersen in a game England must win to share the series – needed courage to survive a barrage of early short balls from Steyn and Morkel, and then produced a range of shots to haul England back into the contest.

They had lost captain Andrew Strauss to the last ball before lunch from Morkel, and soon needed to show all the mettle their opponents did when they lurched to a position of identical vulnerability on day one.

South Africa came up with a significant fightback then, and Bairstow and Bell did likewise as they dug in with determination and concentration – until Bell on 58, batting in Pietersen’s number four position, edged Vernon Philander low to third slip.

Strauss, in his 100th Test and 50th as captain on his home ground, was bowled through the gate by Morkel for 20 just when it seemed he and Alastair Cook had given their team a sound start.

Steyn then accounted for Jonathan Trott (8), lbw – via DRS, after Kumar Dharmasena initially reprieved him and then Alastair Cook (7) ended his increasingly uncomfortable and unconvincing stay when he chased a push-drive and edged to second slip, where Jacques Kallis expertly held on to a sharp chance.

England had lost their top three for just 10 runs either side of lunch – and suddenly, in this match they must win to level the Investec series and hang on to their world number one status, they were in trouble. But it was Bairstow and Bell to the rescue. (SKY)

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