London – Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla laid the foundations for a significant score as South Africa recovered from the early loss of Alviro Petersen to reach 86 for one at the close of the second day of the first Test against England at the Oval on Friday.
James Anderson produced a superb delivery in the third over of the innings, swinging the ball in and striking Petersen on the back pad to win a leg before wicket decision from umpire Steve Davis.
Petersen's dismissal continued the trend of a day which saw bowlers dominate for long periods under an overcast sky in south London.
However, South African captain Smith and Amla saw their team through to the close to keep the tourists in contention after England's first innings of 385 all out.
Amla had an escape 10 minutes before the end of an extended day's play when England captain Andrew Strauss dropped him at first slip off Ravi Bopara.
But Amla finished on 47 not out, while Smith, playing in his 100th Test, was unbeaten on 37.
There were signs, though, that the tourists will need to build a big first innings score because of uneven bounce from a dry pitch, while England off-spinner Graeme Swann was able to get some turn.
England lost their last seven wickets for 118 runs despite an aggressive innings of 60 off 90 balls by wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Fast bowler Dale Steyn struck in the third and fifth overs of the day to dismiss Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara as the match underwent a transformation from the first day when the England batsmen were seldom troubled in reaching 267 for three.
In the first eight overs, England added only six runs for the loss of two wickets as Steyn and Vernon Philander bowled an immaculate line, gaining some swing with the second new ball.
South Africa, bidding to replace England as the world's top ranked Test team, made a crucial breakthrough when Steyn dismissed Cook.
Cook added only one run to his overnight 114 before he was bowled off an inside edge by a ball from Steyn which swung in to him.
Bopara made an unhappy return after a year out of the Test team, trying to withdraw his bat after shaping to hook, but getting an edge to be caught behind by AB de Villiers without scoring.
Jacques Kallis bowled Ian Bell for 13 when Bell left a delivery which cut back and clipped his off bail.
Prior and Tim Bresnan added 29 runs before Bresnan chopped a ball from leg-spinner Imran Tahir on to his stumps and Prior also had useful stands of 45 for the eighth wicket with Stuart Broad and 25 for the ninth wicket with Graeme Swann.
Prior, who survived a difficult chance to Jacques Rudolph at gully off Morne Morkel when he was on 17, went on the attack to break the early stranglehold by the South African bowlers.
But Morne Morkel took the last two wickets to finish with four for 72. AB de Villiers, keeping wicket in place of the retired Mark Boucher, held five catches.
Under threatening skies, Smith and Amla saw their team to tea at 25 for one.
Just one over was bowled after the interval before rain stopped play for an hour and 50 minutes.
When the rain relented, the partnership continued in solid fashion and became worth 50 in late afternoon sunshine after 111 balls. – AFP