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  • England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day

Bairstow proves there's life without KP

The Report by David Hopps
August 17, 2012
England 208 for 5 (Bairstow 72*, Prior 22*) trail South Africa 309 (Philander 61, Duminy 61, Finn 4-75) by 101 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Jonny Bairstow dealt admirably with a barrage of short balls © Getty Images
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South Africa must have sensed for much of an engrossing day at Lord's that their ambition to displace England as the No. 1 Test side in the world was slowly edging closer. Their fast-bowling attack has impressed throughout the series and once again they treated England's batsmen to an unflagging examination.

Jonny Bairstow begged to differ. He was the replacement for Kevin Pietersen, the character in a KP-produced soap opera who would be set up for a fall, and he knew that Pietersen's supporters would regard him as a pale imitation of the real thing. His Test experience was only three matches old and it they had not gone awfully well. But against a formidable South Africa attack and with the series in a critical phase, he steeled himself to make an unbeaten 72 from 137 balls that kept England in contention.

England's fourth wicket fell at 56, just as South Africa's had on the first day, but two identical scores had a different feel: South Africa had the sense merely of a troubled Test first morning; England's smacked of a side labouring to turn the tide of a series that South Africa have dominated and produce a win in the final Test to claw it back to 1-1.

Bairstow then added 124 in 38 overs with Ian Bell, who pored for 158 balls over 58 before Vernon Philander, whose consistent hammering of a good length has been ill-rewarded in this series, finally put together a successful sequence that ended with Bell squirting a low catch to third slip.

Bell was intent upon the long haul; Bairstow was initially more concerned with the next short ball after a shaky Test baptism against the West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach. This time he had donned a chest guard and met all thrown at him with reasonable equilibrium. South Africa never quite directed the ball at Bairstow's body with the same intent as Roach, but gone was the jerky self-preservation that had characterised those anxious early steps in Test cricket.

He played within himself until tea and then from the moment he pulled Morkel to the square leg boundary - a favourite area - he sensibly tried to steal the initiative. It would be quite a heist because South Africa have guarded it throughout. The new ball is nine overs away.

It was a sweltering day, that rarest of things in a crabby summer. The skies turned a supportive shade of blue as England began to bat at Lord's with Andrew Strauss in his 100th Test. More than eight years ago, he made a century on debut on his home ground. With the Test series in the balance, a capacity crowd hummed with respectable debate about whether he could possibly make another one.

But by tea, Strauss' day was also turning blue. South Africa were defending only a moderate first-innings total, but Strauss, Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and James Taylor were all dispensed with by the 24th over.

South Africa pair up Dale Steyn against Trott as soon as possible and Steyn straightened one a fraction to have him lbw, an excellent use of DRS by Graeme Smith. Cook's footwork had been stilted and he had only 7 from 40 balls when his disorientation was summed up by his chasing of a wide one from Steyn and a catch for Jacques Kallis at second slip. Taylor, after two boundaries in an over against Steyn, a nervous edge followed by one of his specialities, a back-foot boundary through point, edged Morne Morkel to first slip.

As for Strauss, once again it was his old terroriser, his old adversary, Morkel, who did for him. In the last over before lunch, he brought one back down the slope to demolish Strauss' stumps and, in the process, destroying any assumptions in North London that in the wake of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics, history could be so pre-ordained.

In one delivery, Morkel had reminded us that Test cricket was a hard school where statistics had to be earned. Morkel has been Strauss' perpetual nightmare. He began his innings with 112 runs against Morkel at an average of 17. As he walked to the pavilion, he was in no mood to update the statistics; the media will do that for him.

Smith allowed himself a stern smile of satisfaction. South Africa's captain had again preferred Morkel for the new ball ahead of Steyn and even though Morkel was initially inconsistent, he tightened up as the short pre-lunch session, 10.4 overs in all, developed. Strauss played and missed and was struck in the ribs, his unease again evident.

South Africa had been dismissed for 309 on the second morning with Philander taking his best Test score to 61 before he was last out, stumped trying to lift England's offspinner Graeme Swann, into Regent's Park.

The total represented a fine recovery after they had lost half their side for 105 on the opening day. At 262 for 7 overnight they added another 47 runs in 13.4 overs. Philander, 46 not out at the end of the first day, reached his half-century by pulling Stuart Broad through square leg. Broad's pace, again noticeably down in his 50th Test, was causing growing conjecture about his state of health only a month before he is due to lead England in World Twenty20.

The first day had concluded with Steyn struck on the body by Steven Finn and successfully protesting that with two Lord's floodlights inoperative it was too murky to continue. The second morning began with Steyn peppered by James Anderson and flinging a glove up to protect his face.

Steyn became the eighth batsman to fall, pouched by Swann at second slip as he edged a drive at Broad and when Morkel also began to provide useful late-order runs, South Africa's resilience was again beginning to put England's four-strong attack under pressure. But Finn, although not at his best, picked up his fourth wicket with a wide ball delivered from around the wicket as Morkel's edge was expertly intercepted in front of first slip by Matt Prior.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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