A half-century from Matt Prior prevented a resurgent South Africa from enjoying complete dominance over England on the second day of the first Test at the Kia Oval today.
The wicket-keeper made a counter-attacking 60 as the hosts were bowled out for 385, before the Proteas reached 86-1 in response at the end of a rain-affected final session.
Despite Prior’s knock, England will have been somewhat disappointed to lose seven wickets for 118 runs after starting the day in a commanding position.
South Africa fought back first with the ball and then with the bat, as a late stand of 85 between Graeme Smith (37 not out) and Hashim Amla (47 not out) reduced England’s lead to 299 by stumps.
England resumed in the morning on 267-3 after bossing the opening day, but were soon on the back foot as Dale Steyn bowled Alastair Cook off an inside edge after the opener had added just one run to his overnight total of 114.
Ravi Bopara, playing in his first Test for almost a year, departed for a duck when, confronted by a Steyn bouncer, he tried to bail out of a pull but only succeeded in looping the ball behind to AB de Villiers, who took five catches over the course of the innings.
New batsmen Ian Bell and Prior got through the rest of Steyn’s spell only for the former, who had already survived what would have been a certain run out, to fall in the first over from his replacement Jacques Kallis.
The Warwickshire batsman left a delivery from the all-rounder which just dislodged the off bail to depart for 13, leaving the score in the session at 17-3.
England finally brought up the 300 in the 19th over of the morning courtesy of a four from Tim Bresnan, who then fell for eight when he dragged an Imran Tahir delivery onto his stumps.
Prior’s partner Stuart Broad was bowled for 16 by another one that just clipped the bails, with Vernon Philander this time the bowler.
Morne Morkel mopped up the final two wickets by having both Prior and James Anderson (two) caught behind in the space of five balls to finish as the pick of the bowlers with 4-72. Graeme Swann ended the innings unbeaten on 15.