Status as world No 1 hangs by
thread for England

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“IT is an honour to welcome England as the No 1 Test side in the world. Over the last three years they have developed a very strong and professional team, from a fantastic pool of world-class players.

“I therefore congratulate Andy Flower, Andrew Strauss and Hugh Morris for their achievements in attaining such a position in world cricket.”

Those words, part of the introductory message from Yorkshire’s executive chairman Colin Graves in the matchday programme, may soon be rendered obsolete.

England might have arrived at Headingley as the No 1 side but unless they can transform the complexion of the second Test they will not be leaving it so loftily placed.

Instead, South Africa, who amassed 419 in their first innings after being sent into bat before England reached 48-0 at the end of day two, are better positioned to claim a win that would take their No 1 crown.

Although England have started solidly in reply, with Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook coping well before rain and bad light stole the last 22 overs, you sense there is more to come from the visiting attack.

South Africa will regroup and no doubt rekindle the threat that they carried in the first Test at the Oval.

The matchday programme also features on its front cover a picture of England’s Graeme Swann, grinning from ear-to-ear as he celebrates a wicket.

Accompanied by the headline “Turning the tide’ – England’s Graeme Swann and his team-mates look to fight back in the Second Investec Test against South Africa”, it is as superfluous as Graves’s comments are threatening to become.

It is not Swann trying to turn the tide, of course, with the off-spinner having been omitted for the first time in 44 Tests as England strive to arrest a run of five defeats in nine since becoming No 1, but an all-seam attack that has laboured in Leeds.

Indeed, there was a classic Sod’s Law moment yesterday when Kevin Pietersen claimed a wicket with his occasional off-breaks, Pietersen turning a ball viciously past the outside edge of former Yorkshire batsman Jacques Rudolph, whom television replays confirmed was fractionally out of his ground when wicketkeeper Matt Prior whipped off the bails.

Otherwise, South Africa not only called into question Swann’s omission but Strauss’s tactic of inviting them to bat.

Apart from seven overs from Pietersen and five from Jonathan Trott, England’s four-pronged pace attack bowled no fewer than 127.2 overs for the other nine wickets.

Stuart Broad was the most statistically successful bowler with 3-96 from 35 overs, James Anderson and Steven Finn each claiming two wickets.

Anderson was excellent in the first hour yesterday and was well supported by Broad and the cloud cover.

That first hour was one of the most wonderfully riveting you could wish to see.

When England resumed on 
262-5, with Alviro Petersen on 124 and Rudolph on one, the home side had a window of opportunity to make inroads with the second new-ball still in its infancy.

But just as Anderson and Broad were accurate and hostile, so Petersen and Rudolph were obdurate and composed.

No runs arrived in the first 25 minutes, but you could scarcely take your eyes off the captivating theatre.

It was during this period that Anderson had an lbw appeal against Petersen upheld by umpire Steve Davis only for replays to show that the ball was too high.

Petersen had been similarly reprieved towards the end of day one, Davis again the official when Finn struck the pad.

It took 35 minutes for the first genuinely poor delivery of the morning, Petersen flashing it through the gully for four off Anderson.

With the bowling probing and the batting patient, a capacity crowd watched what Geoffrey Boycott would call “proper Test crick-eet”.

So diligently did England probe that Rudolph did not score in the first 40 minutes.

The left-hander then feathered Broad to the fine-leg boundary, where Trott allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp.

Suddenly runs arrived in a relative rush. Two successive steers through the gully for four off Tim Bresnan saw Petersen to 150 from 330 balls.

Petersen then went beyond his previous Test-best, 156 against New Zealand at Wellington in March, before losing dependable partner Rudolph 20 minutes before lunch.

Strauss’s decision to throw Pietersen the ball had smacked of desperation, but the South African struck with his second delivery, ripping one fiercely past Rudolph’s forward push.

Having advanced to 170 at the interval, following a morning in which South Africa made 74 runs in 28 overs, Petersen fell agonisingly short of a double hundred.

The opener was caught behind off Broad for 182 and earned no plaudits for standing his ground having practically knocked the cover off the ball.

Umpire Rod Tucker earned even less, however, for failing to spot the palpable edge.

It needed replays to send Petersen on his way, a walk he undertook with sorrowful tread.

Towards the end of his marathon performance, which lasted 530 minutes and comprised 365 balls, Petersen suffered an injury to his right hamstring.

He was unable to field and left the ground for a scan on a suspected Grade One tear, an injury that could keep him out for around 10 days.

South Africa’s hunger for runs was not sated by Petersen’s departure.

JP Duminy made an unbeaten 48, Vernon Philander scored 13 before pulling Finn to Bresnan at deep square-leg, while Morne Morkel contributed 19 before spooning Broad to Alastair Cook at mid-off.

Anderson rounded off the innings by having Imran Tahir brilliantly caught low at second slip by Cook, who claimed three catches in the innings but dropped the most crucial one of all – Petersen, on 29, reprieved in the same position on the opening day off Anderson.