England eked out a six run lead over South Africa on the third day of the third Test between the two countries. The hosts responded to South Africa's first innings score of 309 with a 315 lead by new boy Jonny Bairstow's 95 and Ian Bell's 58. The visitors closed the day's play on 145/3 after Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann took two quick wickets to reduce them to 50/2.
The day's action started with England picking up from a position of 208/5 in response to South Africa's first innings score and with Bairstow and Matt Prior at the crease. They opened well, cautiously, looking to build confidence and rhythm before scoring but it all went wrong after Graeme Smith took the new ball.
Prior played to a loose ball outside off and nicked it straight to Jacques Kallis in the slips, giving Vernon Philander his second wicket of the match. Broad followed soon after, falling to Dale Steyn (4/94) and after Bairstow, stifled and forced into a run drought by some excellent bowling, was bowled by Morne Morkel, England, at 264/8, were staring at a first innings deficit. Fortunately, the tail wagged slightly and a fighting and unbeaten 37 from Swann led them to a narrow lead. However, they will be disappointed at not having a bigger one, given they had the time and personnel to do that.
South Africa came out to bat with a bit of a dilemma. With 50 overs left in the day, should they go for their shots, get some runs and put pressure on their hosts or play the day out and wait for a fresh start? As it turned out, Swann and Broad made up their minds for them, removing Smith and Alviro Petersen in the matter of a couple of overs. With both openings back in the pavilion, it was left to old hands Hashim Amla and Kallis to steady the ship and they did just that, putting on 81 for the third wicket. The Proteas would ideally have preferred the two batted through the day but England struck with only a few overs left to leave the match, once again, on a razor's edge. Steven Finn trapped Kallis in front and the all-rounder left after a strong 31; all three of the South African batsmen left after a good start, which will be good news for England.
South Africa already have a 1-0 lead in this three match series. A draw will be happily taken at this point, since it guarantees a series win and the No 1 ranking. To that end, Amla and Steyn (in as a nightwatchman) will look to keep England on the field for as long as possible, if only to tire them physically and mentally. The visitors still have considerable batting to come, with AB de Villiers, Jacques Rudolph and Jean-Paul Duminy still to bat but Amla will be the key man. His mental fortitude and ability to bat prolonged periods under intense pressure will be the perfect foil for others to build innings of their own.
England, meanwhile, have no choice. They must win this Test in order to retain their top ranking and to do that they have to bowl South Africa out as quickly as possible... this means they have to attack from the very first ball. The key for Andrew Strauss could be how much turn Swann gets from the pitch in these last couple of days. The South Africans are not the greatest players of spin and if Swann, who already has a wicket this innings, can get Amla out quickly, the rest could be easy.
England: A Strauss (c), A Cook, J Trott, I Bell, J Taylor, J Bairstow, M Prior (wk), S Broad, G Swann, J Anderson, S Finn
South Africa: G Smith (c), A Petersen, H Amla, J Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), J Rudolph, JP Duminy, V Philander, D Steyn, M Morkel, I Tahir
Umpires: Kumara Dharmasena (Sri Lanka) and Simon Taufel (Australia)
Where to Watch Live:
You can follow the game live from 10.30 am BST to 7 pm BST on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports HD 1. Special commentary will be available on BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Radio 4 LW and via the BBC Sport Web site.