The English cricket team may not have managed to register a comeback win in the second Test at Headingley, Leeds. However, they did well enough to ensure that they get a chance to draw the series that has been billed as the battle of the two best sides in Test cricket at present. A result looked possible briefly, but poor weather conditions had a big enough say to ensure that the Test ended in a draw. In between, both the teams played some highly competitive cricket, and neither should be dejected with the result.
Of course, England would have been the happier of the two sides at the end of the Test, for they put up a much improved effortin comparison to their shoddy effort at The Oval. Unlike in the first Test, England fought back from tough situations both during their batting and on the field. The fight back began on day one itself when despite a brilliant ton from Alviro Petersen, England managed to pick up wickets at the other end. The performance on the opening day set the tone for England, and they kept competing on an equal keel with the Proteas right throughout the five days of the Test.
Stuart Broad came up with excellent bowling performances in both the innings, and was chiefly responsible for England making an impression in the Test. In the first innings, he picked up the crucial wickets of Petersen as well as A B de Villiers. However, it was his second innings five-for that gave England some real hope of upsetting the South African applecart. Broad bowled an excellent spell in which he troubled every top South African batsman and was rewarded with the key wickets of de Villiers, Kallis and Duminy in quick succession. It was a performance worthy of winning England the Test, but South Africa showed enough resilience to hang on.
The efforts of Kevin Pietersen in bringing England back in the match were also praiseworthy. It was Pietersen’s high-quality ton in the first innings that played the major role in England overhauling South Africa’s first-innings total by a slender margin. Even though the lead wasn’t substantial, the effort proved that England could match South Africa and gave their bowers the confidence to do even better in Proteas’ second innings. Here again, Pietersen played an important role. The part-time spinner, who picked up a wicket in the first innings as well, sent back big names like Rudolph, Smith and Amla.
Rain killed any chance either team had of pushing for a victory. However, Smith must be applauded for declaring the South African innings late on the final day, and giving both sides and outside chance of trying for a win. If England continue to perform in a similar vein in the final Test too, we should be in for an exciting finish to the series.
--By A Cricket Analyst