Up and down like Kevin Pietersen’s moods.
After two Test matches where the bat has largely dominated, it has been satisfying to see a regular clatter of wickets and a game which hitherto has lived up to the pre-series hype. England wrapped up the South African tail in a moderately convincing fashion but themselves fell victim to sloppy shots. We’re looking at you here, Alastair Cook. With the home side tottering at 54/4, the pressures of the land were on a doughty little gingerman. It was like being in 2006 again.
Jonny Bairstow entered this game with question marks against his ability to face the short ball. If this theory were to be tested, then it would certainly be against Messrs Steyn, Morkel and Philander. He passed the test with flying colours, seeing off the early barrage before playing a classy, largely untroubled innings which dragged England from nervously looking at the meagre follow-on target to envisaging a lead. He remains there overnight (not literally, we imagine he’s tucking into his Aunt Bessie’s right now, washed down with a good honest pint of Best) and with the new ball eight overs away and limited batting to come, we could do with naming him Player of the Day tomorrow too.
The long hot summer that the Style Council promised is here, for tomorrow at least. England will be aiming to force a lead, however slight, with the prospect of batting last on a track which continues to offer enough encouragement to the seamers. South Africa will be looking to be batting before lunch and then keep the home side in the field all day. Sit back, crack open your Beefeater gin and enjoy, for this is Test cricket as it was intended.