Rudolph and Duminy dig in but England on top - 08-16-2012, 12:29 PM
James Anderson had AB de Villiers caught at slip, the only wicket of the afternoon session © Getty Images
England put the brouhaha with Kevin Pietersen firmly behind them as the third Test initially took shape in their favour at Lord's. By tea on the first day, they had five wickets as they fought for the series-levelling victory that they needed to prevent South Africa seizing their position as the No 1-ranked Test side in the world.
South Africa slowed England's progress after lunch with only AB de Villiers falling in the afternoon session. England lost their second umpiring review when de Villiers was 27, James Anderson failing with a marginal lbw decision as the ball did not quite hit in line, but de Villiers had not added to his score when he drove at Anderson and was held by Alastair Cook at third slip.
Two left-handers, Jacques Rudolph and JP Duminy, stood between England and the South Africa tail at tea on a decent Lord's surface, Rudolph the more assured of the two. Rudolph was almost run out as the interval approached when Jonathan Trott's lbw appeal against Duminy left the striker transfixed, requiring Rudolph to retreat almost the length of the pitch to beat James Anderson's wayward return to the bowler.
England's captain, Andrew Strauss, whose statistical achievement in reaching his 100th Test had been largely submerged by the daily Pietersen soap opera, found comfort the moment that he donned his whites and took to the field again in a Lord's milieu which gives him a powerful sense of belonging.
If England did succeed at Lord's, the rush to victory would be accompanied by an even greater rushing to conclusions. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Pietersen rumpus, England's pre-match assertion of the team ethic and the need for unity in his absence had an immediate effect. For the first time in the series, England had purpose in the field.
Anderson, encouraged by a reasonable amount of swing, was the most consistent of an England pace attack in which Stuart Broad was again down on pace. Steven Finn, preferred to Tim Bresnan on the former's home ground, had three South Africa wickets by lunch but he was blessed with good fortune and his dismissal of Jacques Kallis, a not-out decision which was reversed after England made use of the DRS system, understandably left South Africa aghast.
Kallis had made three when Finn's appeal for a catch down the leg side was turned down by umpire Kumar Dharmasena. England referred and their suspicions that the ball had flicked the glove were upheld. But what Rod Tucker, the third umpire, seemed to overlook was that Kallis' bottom hand had been withdrawn from the bat when the ball made contact with his glove.
The fault was not with DRS, which seemed to give Tucker all the evidence he needed to uphold Dharmasena's not-out decision, but with what seemed to be a faulty conclusion based on the clear evidence available. There was no cause to override Dharmasena's decision.
South Africa's frustrations were deepened by the fact that Alviro Petersen had fallen in similar fashion in Finn's previous over. Again the ball strayed down the leg side, again Finn had the good fortune to brush the glove, but again the bottom hand had been withdrawn from the bat by the time contact was made. The only difference on this occasion was that Petersen did not have the presence of mind to review the decision - an oversight he recognised as he saw the big-screen replay as he left the field.
Finn had 3 for 22 in seven overs by lunch. He dismissed Petersen and Amla in the same over, his fifth of the morning, when he brought one back down the slope to bowl Amla between bat and pad. He had also troubled Petersen from the outset, twice sensing lbw possibilities only to strike him too high on the pad, England losing an umpiring review in the process.
As Yohan Blake, Jamaica's silver medallist over 100 and 200m in the London Olympics, rang the five-minute bell, there was cause to expect England to be fast out of the blocks.
It was a good toss for England to lose. They would not have dared to insert South Africa, but the weather was unsettled enough to encourage their fast bowlers.
England had won six their last seven Tests at Lord's but South Africa have not lost here since their readmission to Test cricket and they had dominated England with disciplined, percentage cricket in the first two Tests. Their captain, Graeme Smith, had good cause to hope they could avoid defeat and displace England as the No. 1-ranked Test side in the world, but he fell in the ninth over as James Anderson went round the wicket to force a caught behind.
This decision was also far from straightforward, with England needing to review Dharmasena's not-out decision to prove that the ball had struck Smith's outside edge as well as his bat scratching the ground.
Finn's inclusion was England's most pressing decision - Graeme Swann's return as a specialist spinner in a more balanced attack than Headingley had always been inevitable - and the preference for him above Bresnan had statistics on its side.
Finn had taken 17 wickets at 23 runs apiece on his home ground whereas Bresnan's three Tests had brought five wickets at 66. By lunch, the statistical case was even more apparent, although he still leaked runs at four an over and was off his game compared to his ODI form earlier in the summer.
Swann, left out at Headingley, had bowled 52 overs against South Africa in the first Test at The Oval without reward, hindered by a long-standing elbow complaint. He returned, initially at the Nursery End which did not help his turn, with a Jim Laker hairstyle and an uncharacteristic Jim Laker solemnity, but after a ten-over spell he still remained five wickets adrift of England's most celebrated offspinner.
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