England trail by 68 runs with 5 first innings wickets in hand.
With the war a mere eight days old, Kevin Pietersen led England’s belated battle charge.
Inspired by Ian Blackwell’s performance on Friday, Pietersen played the sort of innings only he can to drag England back into the game. As the rest of the top order threw their wickets away when set in an increasingly ridiculous fashion, culminating in Ian Bell’s horrible slash, he saw the tough period through before going absolutely ballistic in the evening session. England have been chasing the series ever since the second morning at the Oval, this innings was the first time they had taken the attack to their opponents and forced them onto the back foot. His thumping straight six over Dale Steyn’s head was as bold a statement of intent as it’s possible to see.
Honourable mention too to James Taylor, on debut, who batted with the sort of calm assurance more suited to a man in his 50th Test. His role in Pietersen’s innings should not be underestimated; Taylor’s occupation of the crease freed him to attack from the other end, and also meant he didn’t even have to think about reigning in his attacking shots as wickets fell around him.
As they came out after tea, South Africa had a golden chance to tear in and force England onto the back foot; they had a debutant alongside Pietersen with the new ball just a few overs away, get the senior man and they would have swung the game hard in their favour. Instead, Morne Morkel came up with the most misguided plan since Australia ordered a whole bunch of gold medal cases as a surprise for when their athletes flew home this month. It was a short ball barrage which turned into a peppering of the mid-wicket boundary as Pietersen went through the gears. From there he never looked back; Steyn felt the pain as well and he scored more than 100 in the final session. Perhaps South Africa felt they should repay England for their own disastrous tactics over the course of the series. Whatever the reasons for it, the plan backfired horribly and suddenly the hosts have a sniff.
Again the weather may hold all the aces, but if it stays fair Sunday may prove to be the critical day of the tour. Both teams can still win it, but somehow England might end up favourites if Pietersen and Prior stay together for any length of time. Hard to believe after the way the two Tests have gone so far.