England reached 208-5 after bowling out South Africa for 309 on day two of the third and final cricket Test at Lord’s in London.
Jonny Bairstow was 72 not out, with Matt Prior on 22, at stumps for England, which must win to avoid losing the top spot in the world rankings to South Africa.
South Africa started the day 262-7 and added eight more runs before Stuart Broad had Dale Steyn caught behind for 26. Steven Finn, who finished 4-75, got Morne Morkel, and Graeme Swann ended Vernon Philander’s career-high innings at 61.
England’s poor start with the bat matched the visitors’ effort yesterday with both teams slumping to 54-4 before staging recoveries.
Morkel bowled captain Andrew Strauss, playing in his 100th career Test, for 20. Then Steyn got two successive wickets, claiming Jonathan Trott and Alistair Cook, and James Taylor fell for 10 off Morkel.
Ian Bell and Bairstow steadied the hosts by putting on 124 for the fifth wicket before Philander dismissed Bell for 58. Bairstow and Prior then added 30 runs to see the day through.
Bairstow’s innings is a boost for the England management after he was selected to replace Kevin Pietersen, who was omitted from the team following a controversy over text messages the South African-born batsmen sent to opposing players. The texts contained “less than flattering” comments about Strauss and his teammates, the Daily Mail reported.
Bairstow brought up his 50 with a cut behind square off the wicket for four off Morkel. The landmark had Strauss up on his feet and applauding from the England balcony.
England needs a victory to remain No. 1 in the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings, while a draw is enough for South Africa to leapfrog the hosts. The Proteas won the first Test by an innings and 12 runs with the second rain-affected game drawn.