England trail by 371 runs with 10 first innings wickets in hand
England contrived to fail to bowl their opponents out for most of the day, but again kept themselves in the game with a strong final session.
Was there a stand-out performance on day two? The short answer: No. The long answer: No, not at all.
Next question Alviro Petersen again batted well, as he continued to fill the Mike Hussey role of ‘being the luckiest bastard in the known universe’ for long periods, but the big story of Friday was Australia ‘A’ and their tremendous effort against Durham reserves. Set just 224 to win, they subsided in a whirl of left-arm spin as Ian Blackwell destroyed their international-laden batting line-up to take seven wickets. Blackwell, having made a hugely important 62 in Durham’s second innings, must surely now be on the brink of an England recall; bowling a very weak side to victory over the star-studded Australian second team is a massive plus for his CV.
With Graeme Swann’s position as first-choice spinner in jeopardy, what price Blackwell returning to his rightful place at Lord’s?
Back at the Test, the brightest spark of a fairly grim day came as lunch loomed large on the horizon. Kevin Pietersen, England’s premier tweaker in Leeds, came on and promptly ripped it square to have Jacques Rudolph stumped second ball. The wicket prompted guffaws of laughter all over the cricket world, except for the corner of the dressing room inhabited by one GP Swann, from whence came a roar of fury and the sound of shattering glass. It made clear what everyone already knew: leaving out Swann was a scarcely believable error of judgement. Given the way it turned for a part-time spinner on the second day, it is an error they may well live to regret.
It’s set up to be a tense, critical day but, unless every meteorologist in all the land was completely blitzed on gin when they put together the forecast for this weekend, it’s likely to be seriously curtailed by the weather. The only way England can win this game now is to score big, but quickly enough to give themselves enough time to bowl South Africa out again. The prospect of a collapse to gift their opponents the number one ranking is never far from our minds, but the draw is odds on from here.