Cricket: Late Excitement Gives England Hope despite Some Dismal Bating; CRICKET: SECOND TESTMATCH HEADINGLEY CARNEGIE (First Day): England 203 V South Africa 101 for Three

Article excerpt

Unless today's forecast showers come to England's rescue, they face nearly the same-sized task to get something out of this Test as did South Africa at Lord's.

Nearly everything that could go wrong did, until the last hour in which they took three wickets and had a second disallowed catch of the day, with the umpires correctly reversing their decision because of the ball hitting the ground.

The dramatic last hour clawed back some of the ground lost when Graeme Smith won another toss and earned much credit for ignoring his howler in the first Test and chose to trust his reading of conditions to bowl first again.

He anticipated an improved performance from his trio of fast bowlers, but could hardly have expected to bowl England out for 203 in 53 overs. Nor would that have happened except for a selection of strokes from the top order that deserves to be described as poor if not awful.

Only Alastair Cook was blameless, suffering from another poor decision from Billy Bowden when he was given out caught legside off his trousers with the bat nowhere near the ball.

There was neither audible sound nor any visual evidence to make the decision anything other than guesswork and, as nothing much had happened in the first 12 overs of the day, it gave an important psychological kick-start to the batting decline that followed.

The day started with a selection shock as England picked Darren Pattinson to make hisa debut in a five-man attack and Paul Collingwood was omitted. Ryan Sidebottom reported unfit, but Chris Tremlett was called up as cover a day before the Grimsby-born 29-year-old who learned all his cricket in Australia.

Maybe captain Michael Vaughan decided he wanted an old-fashioned horses-for-courses bowler rather than someone like Tremlett who bangs it in, but it was still a major gamble to play someone who has played only 11 games in his fleeting first-class career for Victoria and Nottinghamshire.

It was a few days ago that Vaughan said how good it was to see Steve Harmison, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard in good form, but Pattinson leapfrogged the lot. Similar medium-pacers called up in the past include Neil Mallender, David Capel, Robin Jackman, David Smith and Steve Watkin, but Headingley is not so seamer-friendly nowadays.

Cook's misfortune brought in Vaughan and, just as at Lord's, he stranded himself in the crease to Dale Steyn and tried to play half-forward to a good length outside off-stump. An easy catch to his opposite number at slip made the score 27 for two with the England captain's series runs now standing at one run from two innings. …