Graeme Swann inspires England fightback at Centurion
First Test, Centurion (day three, close): South Africa 418 & 9-1 v England 356 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. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Also on Sky Sports Match scorecard
By Jamie Lillywhite
Swann instigated England's revival with some superb strokeplay
Graeme Swann's magnificent Test-best 85 rescued England on day three of the first Test against South Africa.
Despite Paul Collingwood's gritty 50, England slipped to 242-8 in reply to 418, largely thanks to slow left-armer Paul Harris who finished with 5-123.
But Swann, who took 5-110 with the ball, hit 10 fours and two sixes and shared 106 with James Anderson (29).
England mustered 356, conceding a lead of 62, but ousted Ashwell Prince and South Africa closed 71 ahead at 9-1.
Swann's captivating innings was the highest score by an England number nine since Peter Lever's unbeaten 88 against India at Old Trafford in 1971, and the thrilling stand with Anderson evoked memories of the 108 he shared with Stuart Broad in last summer's Ashes.
It was a ninth-wicket record for England against South Africa and made rather a mockery of the top order's batting.
A sizeable crack had developed in the centre of the Centurion pitch and when captain Andrew Strauss was the victim of a shooter from Makhaya Ntini that shot along at ankle height it perhaps clouded the minds of the batsmen.
Swann happy to get England 'back in the game'
Harris, with a low, almost non-existent front arm delivery style, bowled nine overs unchanged through to lunch and surprised the batsmen with changes of pace, and the very occasional turning delivery.
His first victim was Jonathan Trott who added only 10 from 19 overs to his overnight 18 and tried to hit down the ground, but what transpired was an ungainly heave and a rattling of the timbers.
The situation was tailor-made for the chalk and cheese combination of Kevin Pietersen and Collingwood, but such was the situation that both had to play in gritty mode.
Pietersen, in his first Test innings since the Lord's Test in the Ashes in July, had opened his account with an effortless drive through the covers that also brought up England's 100, but it was to be his only four of the session.
There was one moment of respite when a full toss from Harris was beautifully picked up over mid-wicket for six, but England scored only 55 runs for the loss of those two wickets in the 27-over morning session.
If the first session was tough the second was torturous as four wickets fell, Harris bowling through and collecting three of them.
It was paceman Morne Morkel who made the key breakthrough though, in the fifth over of the afternoon session.
Pietersen, having battled his way to 40 primarily looking to work the ball into the leg-side, tried to force one on the up through the covers and got an inside edge on to off-stump, although replays showed Morkel should have been called for a no-ball.
Collingwood played with customary resilience, but, unlike many of his colleagues, was able to keep the scoreboard ticking, even in the face of calamity at the other end.
Many questioned the inclusion of Ian Bell at number six, and many more were doing so after a particularly soft dismissal at the hands of Harris.
Bell had seen the previous ball turn a fraction and miss the off-stump, but when the next one pitched in line he inexplicably left it alone and to his horror saw it cannon into the middle pole.
Matt Prior did not fare much better, lofting a sweep straight to the only fielder within 50 yards on the leg-side.
Collingwood swept the first ball after a drinks break for six to bring up the 200 in style and swept his fifth four to record his 17th Test fifty.
When he edged to slip to bring in Swann, England were still 197 behind, and after two fours from Broad, he too was on his way.
Broad could be disciplined after he questioned his dismissal by TV
The South Africans were unsure whether to use their one remaining referral when the ball thudded into Broad's pads and was given not out, but after a lengthy delay during which, England argued, the South African balcony had time to see how close it was, a replay was requested and the decision was overturned by TV umpire Amiesh Saheba.
Broad voiced his displeasure to on-field official Aleem Dar and was later seen taking his protestations to the match referee's room, but the only outcome of the complaint is likely to be him returning there to part with a chunk of his match fee.
England confirmed after the match they will take up their concerns over the delay with match referee Roshan Mahanama.
Graeme Smith took the new ball as soon as it became available, ending a spell of 24 consecutive overs from Harris, but 40 were scored off Ntini and Morkel in seven overs and the slow bowler was soon called back.
He was unable to stem the runs either as Anderson, who got off the mark with a drive off the backfoot for four that the great David Gower or Brian Lara would have approved of, also swept his first six in Test cricket, while Swann played the reverse sweep and even the Pietersen switch-hit for four in a scintillating rearguard effort.
The highest ninth-wicket stand for England since 1968 ended when Anderson mistimed one low to mid-off, and Swann was the last to fall when he hooked to deep mid-wicket.
South Africa were left with a potentially awkward 20 minutes to bat, and Anderson continued the momentum for England by inducing Prince to edge onto his stumps.
Thanks to Swann's swashbuckling innings, his third fifty in his last four Test innings, the home side will have to spend a lot longer at the crease than they intended before setting England a target.
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