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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

Graeme Swann keeps England in touch with South Africa

First Test, Centurion (day two, close):
South Africa 418 v England 88-1
Dates: 16-20 December Start: 0830 GMT
Coverage: Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 4 LW, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Red Button and online. Text commentary on BBC Sport website. Also live on Sky Sports
Match scorecard

By Oliver Brett

Graeme Swann
Graeme Swann's well-deserved fifth wicket came in his 46th and final over

Spinner Graeme Swann picked up the third five-wicket haul of his fledgling Test career before England reached 88-1 in reply to South Africa's 418.

Resuming on 262-4 on day two of the first Test in Centurion, South Africa built patiently all the way down on a tough day for England's bowlers.

Mark Boucher survived a drop on 25 to hit 49 while Graham Onions supported Swann's 5-110 with figures of 3-86.

Alastair Cook (15) fell to Friedel de Wet but Andrew Strauss was 44 not out.

On a wicket that had quickened up considerably since the opening day, Makhaya Ntini caused Cook, Strauss and Jonathan Trott a few early problems. But with the skipper ending the day in good shape and Trott adding an unflustered 18, England will still be reasonably confident they can get close to South Africa's score on the third day.

Factoring in possible weekend showers, the draw appears the likeliest result, though South Africa will be confident they can still do enough to force a victory.

Much could depend on how South Africa's four-man bowling attack copes without its spearhead Dale Steyn - a late injury withdrawal from this match.

South Africa had spent most of the day building their score intelligently, although at times very slowly, to post the second best first innings total in all Tests at Centurion.


England celebrated an early breakthrough when Jacques Kallis added just eight runs to his overnight 112 before poking with limited footwork at a James Anderson delivery and edging to Paul Collingwood.

That ended a 124-run stand with JP Duminy, by some distance South Africa's best of the innings, and came soon after Duminy had driven Anderson sweetly through the off-side to reach his half-century.

However the left-hander then went into his shell, leaving Boucher to play the role of aggressor against Anderson and the out-of-sorts Stuart Broad.

Inevitably, Strauss found himself turning again to Swann, whose first over in any spell is always his most dangerous. It proved to be the case once again, as a lovely off-break spun away from Duminy and was edged to Collingwood, and South Africa's number six had gone for 56.

Morne Morkel became the second South African to be given out lbw by the umpire only to win the referral, and at lunch was unbeaten on eight in a total of 330-6, with Boucher - dropped at fine-leg by Onions off the bowling of Broad - on 29.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss held together England's reply with an unbeaten 44 at Centurion

Onions, apparently fully fit after managing only 14 overs either side of a calf strain on Wednesday, worked over Morkel impressively early in the second session. After striking him on the side of a neck with a sharp bouncer he had him nicking a catch to Matt Prior in his following over.

Continuing a regular theme, the wicket adversely affected the South African run-rate with no sustained urgency from the lower order.

Boucher ground out 49 before departing to a catch at short-leg to give Swann another breakthrough, before England dropped their second catch of the day, Harris missed on 24 at slip. The error meant Swann had to wait for a fifth wicket, but it also prevented Collingwood becoming the first England outfielder to take five catches in a Test innings.

A tired England side eventually limped back to the dressing room with the score 401-8, and after tea it was Onions who finally persuaded Harris (38) to drag one onto his stumps. Swann finally ended the innings by trapping debutant De Wet lbw for 20.

Playing in his 100th Test match, Ntini should have had a wicket with the fourth ball of England's reply. Cook's flashing edge flew at a rate of knots to AB de Villiers' throat at third slip but he barely got his hands to the ball in time.

Every bit as sharp as Ntini, De Wet, a 29-year-old from Durban with an energetic action, began his Test career with a horrid slow bouncer down the leg-side which was also a no-ball.

But he put that swiftly behind him to angle a delivery across Cook which the Essex opener could only get a feathered edge to - Boucher joyfully tossing the ball skywards to acclaim the wicket.

Strauss moved to 20 with confident consecutive boundaries off Ntini - one pulled, one cut - and Trott's first boundary was a cover-drive for four off De Wet.

Morkel sent down some seriously fast deliveries before Trott survived an lbw appeal against Harris - but only after South Africa had asked for the TV umpire to review it.

Strauss hit De Wet for two late boundaries as the fifty partnership came up in good time and in the final over leant back to cut Harris through the off-side for another four, England's captain cruising past an impressive 1,100 Test runs this calendar year.

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see also
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England in South Africa 2009-10
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