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England escape with a draw once more – 3rd Test, Day 5

January 7, 2010

Another superb game of test cricket was decided with the final ball as a rearguard action from England’s middle order – in particular Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell – secured the second battling draw of the three matches so far and ensured that England, outplayed for parts, keep a grip on the series as the sides left Cape Town. It was, though, closer than it should have been – by the end only Graham Onions stood between South Africa and a win for the second time in as many months.

South Africa had set England a whopping 466 to win, something that would always unlikely (achieving it would have smashed the record set by West Indies, who made 418 against Australia in 2003). The hosts had a lower-order collapse on the morning of day 2 and finished on 291, thanks to a Jacques Kallis century. England responded with 273 – Prior made 76, Cook 65, and Ian Bell continued to answer his critics falling two shy of a half-century. His moment would come later.

Kallis salutes the crowd after his first-innings century - BBC

A Graeme Smith-inspired South Africa promptly set about playing England out of the game: he made 183 before Graham Onions claimed his wicket, and number three Hashim Amla made 95. It was during this passage of play that South Africa accused England of ball-tampering, highlighting Stuart Broad stopping the ball with his foot and James Anderson lightly picking away at the leather in front of several TV cameras. England coach Andy Flower dismissed the complaints – only Anderson and Broad know whether they were trying to cheat.

In any case the alleged ploy failed; the hosts declared on 447/7 and England went into day 5 with seven wickets left and 132 runs on the board after Kevin Pietersen failed again following a good opening partnership between Cook and captain Andrew Strauss.

Paul Collingwood acknowledges the fans after being dismissed - BBC

Night-watchman Anderson was removed for 9, and Jonathan Trott made a good 42. Collingwood and Bell then set about grinding out a draw, and both batted well, Collingwood in particular a paragon of patience, taking 188 balls and more than four-and-a-half hours to accrue 40.

Once Duminy removed him, thanks to a great catch from Kallis, Prior came and went and scallywag Broad was brought to the crease. He survived a couple of scares and looked content to bat out the remaining overs. Bell was moving into the 70s, though with five overs left the century was unlikely. Broad was dismissed by Harris for a half-hour, 22-ball duck with 20 balls left.

Paul Harris and Dale Steyn beavered away but nothing was dislodging Bell – until Graham Smith threw the ball to Morne Morkel with three overs left. Bell edged the first Morkel ball to Graham Smith and South Africa were one wicket away from victory. It was without question one of Bell’s finest test innings and, coming on the back of a century in Durban, this 78 has done much to repair his bruised reputation.

Collingwood and Bell both batted magnificently- BBC

Yet England now had 17 balls to see out as Graham Onions came to the crease, to attempt a second heroic stand after the drama in Centurion last month. He survived an lbw appeal and two Morkel bouncers before Swann returned to face Steyn at the start of the penultimate scheduled over.

Steyn then had an injury worry but recovered after a short break: 10 balls remained. The rest of his over passed without concern and Morne Morkel returned for the final 6 balls, facing Graham Onions.

England’s number 11 confidently played the second ball into the offside and dug the yorker-length third and fourth out to survive. The hosts then unsuccessfully took their final review on the match’s penultimate ball as an ugly bouncer brushed pass the Durham bowler’s face. It left Morkel v Onions for one more ball, but Onions survived – his reputation as a reliable blocker has been achieved in the past month under the most extreme cricketing circumstances imaginable.

Only time will tell if the match will be remembered for the ball-tampering spat. According to AB De Villiers Broad was ‘a bit naughty’; according to Michael Atherton in today’s Times, South Africa behaved ‘cravenly’. Either way, an official complaint will not be made and the sides travel to the Wanderers for the final test with England 1-0 up: after yet another last-wicket stand.

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