London: Jonny Bairstow hit an undefeated 72 to keep England in contention on 208 for five wickets at stumps on Day II of the third Test against South Africa at Lord’s.
The Proteas must have sensed for much of an engrossing day at Lord’s that their ambition to displace England as the No. 1 Test side in the world was slowly edging closer. Their fast-bowling attack has impressed throughout the series and once again they treated England’s batsmen to an unflagging examination.
But, Jonny Bairstow begged to differ. He was the replacement for Kevin Pietersen, the character in a KP-produced soap opera who would be set up for a fall, and he knew that Pietersen’s supporters would regard him as a pale imitation of the real thing.
His Test experience was only three matches old and it they had not gone awfully well. But against a formidable South Africa attack with the series in a critical phase he steeled himself to make an unbeaten 72 from 137 balls that kept England in contention.
England’s fourth wicket fell at 56, just as South Africa’s had on the first day, but two identical scores had a different feel: South Africa had the sense merely of a troubled Test first morning; England’s smacked of a side labouring to turn the tide of a series that South Africa have dominated and produce a win in the final Test to claw it back to 1-1.
Bairstow then added 124 in 38 overs with Ian Bell, who pored for 158 balls over 58 before Vernon Philander, whose consistent hammering of a good length has been ill rewarded in this series, finally put together a successful sequence that ended with Bell squirting a low catch to third slip.
Earlier, South Africa had been dismissed for 309 on the second morning with Philander taking his best Test score to 61 before he was last out, stumped trying to lift England’s off-spinner Graeme Swann, into Regent’s Park.
It was a sweltering day, that rarest of things in a crabby summer.
The skies turned a supportive shade of blue as England began to bat at Lord’s with Andrew Strauss in his 100th Test. More than eight years ago, he made a century on debut on his home ground.