There are occasions when a batsman racks up a score he’s probably not capable of repeating. I’m not talking about Tino Best slogging his was to a 90 odd on a flat pitch (was that partnership the first sign of how flat our attack can be?), weird as it was, but something a bit more drastic and game-changing than that. For instance, Mark Butcher once cut his way to a game-winning 173 against an Australia side containing McGrath, Warne, Gillespie and Lee. Anomaly.
I wouldn’t yet suggest that Alviro Petersen’s current knock, currently 170* at lunch on day two, is quite on that level. He’s a decent enough player, with a hundred at Calcutta on debut and a not embarrassing overall average of 37 (sure to increase above 40 with this knock). However, it is a knock without the purity of, say, Hashim Amla’s glorious ceremony of willow at the Oval. Apart from the very expensive drop at slip from Cook when on just 29, he has been adjudged out and saved on referral, played and missed regularly, flashed edges through the slip and gully cordon, and been unconvincing at times on the pull. That might be little unfair, though. Although he has not nailed every pull or hook to the boundary, in a knock of 350 balls you can’t be expected to time everything perfectly. Petersen has been very quick to latch onto anything short (a bit like Michael Vaughan would if something was anything but the full-side of a good length), and more than several pulls have ended up sizzling past the rope. His ability to manage the pace of the innings was again evident this morning, the first hour a serene affair with a much quicker push as he became more set.
At 360-6 at lunch with two batsmen at the crease, South Africa will feel that this game represents a golden chance to seal the series. On the other hand England will need to bowl very well after lunch and then not lose more than 2 wickets today in order to consider themselves in a good position. Andrew Strauss will not be feeling too comfortable that having put the opposition in and played 4 seamers, it is likely that South Africa will reach 400.