South Africa 37-1 (9 overs) CLOSE OF PLAY: England will be delighted to have got the wicket of Smith before the close, but they will be disappointed not to have made more of their promising position with the bat earlier in the day.
South Africa 13-1 (5 overs): McKenzie and Amla are doing a good job of seeing their side through this tricky spell; Harmison is roaring in from the other end, but just hasn't got his line yet.
South Africa 4-1 (2 overs): EDGED! THROUGH THE GAP AT SLIP! McKenzie edges through the gap between third slip and gully. Nervous times for South Africa.
South Africa 0-1 (1 over): Anderson gets Smith! Perfect inswinger from Anderson, traps Smith right in front and England have the perfect start! Great stuff from the England swing bowler!
England lead by 122 runs. Still 40 minutes of play left today, so South Africa will have a bit to bat yet...
England 316ao (95.2 overs): LUDICROUS! Panesar is run-out attempting to sprint through for Harmison to make his 50. Monty is so, so slow. He's a genuine liability with anything other than the ball in his hand. Harmison is left stranded on 49 not out. Overall, a wasted effort from England.
England 316-9 (95 overs): WHAT A PITY! Anderson decides to leave a ball from Harris he thinks is turning down leg-side....it turns out to be an arm-ball, and he is trapped LBW right in front. Monty comes to the crease with Harmison on 49 not out...
England 313-8 (94 overs): Loving this. A fabulous clip over mid-wicket off the bowling of Harris brings Harmison to 49. Anderson then attempts a reverse sweep - and is lucky not to get bowled. More conventionally, he hoiks through square-leg for a couple. The partnership is up to 53...
England 294-8 (92 overs): Smith looks a little lost as to how to break this stand; he just needs to be patient; Harmison and Anderson have been so lucky so far; it has to run out eventually. Doesn't it?
England 283-8 (89 overs): The ball continues to fly everywhere. Both Anderson and Harmison are fortunate to escape with lofted drives that fall in between fielders, before Harmison edges off a huge drive, the ball flying down to third man for another boundary. Excellent runs for the home side as the lead approaches 100.
England 276-8 (87 overs): This is what Test cricket is all about; two tailenders swishing and belting against the new ball; ball flying everywhere, catches going down (Boucher off Harmison), boundaries down to third man and long on. Comedy circus cricket.
England 270-8 (85 overs): Harmison lofts Ntini for two over the top of mid-on, before edging just short of Kallis at slip. Next ball, he crashes a big heave over mid-wicket for four. Entertaining stuff from the returning England bowler.
England 263-8 (83.2 overs): BROAD EDGES TO SLIP! England's best batsman nicks Ntini through to slip as the new ball does for the number eight. Writing on the wall now; let's hope Harmy goes a bit mental for a couple of overs.
England 260-7 (82 overs): South Africa have taken the new ball. Harmison drives Ntini for a lofty drive through extra-cover to move to 10 from 18 balls.
England 254-7 (80 overs): Harmison is usually good for a bit of fun. He takes a while to get off the mark, but then steers Kallis down to third man for four. I'd like to see Broad and Harmy smite a few in an entertaining half-hour or so.
England 248-6 (77.2 overs): COLLINGWOOD OUT! 61, BEFORE KALLIS SNARES HIM C&B! Kallis gets one to rear up off a length, the ball takes the shoulder of Collingwood's bat and the bowler takes a simple return catch. England are doing an excellent job of royally stuffin this up.
England 248-6 (77 overs): Broad is not yet off the mark, but he is playing with a nice confidence, and he is showing great discipline to Harris in particular. The spinner is firing the ball in at Collingwood's legs in a very defensive tactic, but Colly isn't biting at the moment.
England 245-6 (74 overs): Broad comes to the crease. If he could bowl a few Chinamen, he'd be the new Gary Sobers. But he can't, so he's only the new Derek Pringle.
England 241-5 (71.5 overs) AMBROSE GOES! HIS SECOND-LAST DISMISSAL IN INTERNATIONAL CRICKET? Another failure for the hapless England keeper, who edges a decent Kallis delivery through to Smith at slip. A second wicket for all-rounder Kallis. Ambrose shows again his inability at this level.
England 239-5 (71 overs): Some chat down there about the competition prize. Was anyone within one run-per-hundred-balls? If they were, I'll have to think about a prize. How about some Eurosport headed letter paper, with a (very) short story written by Cowers?
England 233-5 (69 overs): Ambrose is the new batsman. Pietersen called him "Timmy" in an interview the other day. Surely an indication of how little respect the rest of the England side have for him. Timmy? It's like calling Strauss "Andy Pandy".
England 233-5 (67.4 overs): KALLIS WINS THE BATTLE OF THE BRUTES! The Saffa all-rounder tempts Flintoff with a little nibbler, Flintoff prods through to Boucher. His struggles continue.
England 232-4 (67 overs): Flintoff and Collingwood have the job of pushing on this evening, really driving England in front. The home side still have their best batsmen waiting to come, Stuey Broad, so 500 is still possible.
Evening session: 39 overs remaining.
England 232-4 (67 overs): TEA: FLINTOFF JOINS THE PARTY! AND HE'S BROUGHT SOME BOOZE! GIN! AND GINGER LIQUEUR! Freddie steps down the wicket to pound Harris for six over long on. Great stage for a Flintoff assault, this. Just play himself in for a while, then BAM!
England 219-4 (63.4 overs): PIETERSEN GOES FOR EXACTLY 100! Two balls after bringing up his ton, the captain fishes well wide outside off and Kallis takes a good catch at second slip. What a shame. Great knock, but he couldn't kick on. That's four wickets for Ntini.
England 219-3 (63 overs): CENTURY FOR PIETERSEN! CAPTAIN MARVELOUS! Pietersen registers his 14th Test ton with a flick through mid-wicket for four; it comes from 135 balls and features 15 boundaries.
England 208-3 (62 overs): Very slow going out there. Pietersen is playing with rare-seen discipline to make sure he gets his century; Collingwood is up to 39not out in a typically gritty knock as England edge their lead up to 15 runs.
England 203-3 (59 overs): The players have had drinks after what has been an arduous first hour in the afternoon session. Pietersen is into the 90s. He won't want to stuff this up, as he did on 94 in the last Test.
England 200-3 (57 overs): OOH! Harris is into the attack...Collingwood comes down the wicket and drives...straight into the chest of Amla at short leg. That had to hurt; it was fairly full-bloodied. Pietersen is just short of the 90s now; he'll be keen to kick on once he has passed his ton, I guess.
England 184-3 (54 overs): Pedestrian stuff, really. Until Pietersen rocks back and pulls Morkel through mid-on for four. He then drives handsomly down the ground for another boundary. I bet he fancies a huge score today. Fifth ball of the over he cuts through cover, before clipping through mid-on for three more. 15 off the over. 85 not out, the England skipper.
England 164-3 (51 overs): DOWN! Ntini puts down a second very difficult chance off Pietersen in the space of half-an-hour; this time, the England skipper mis-times a pull, but Ntini can't hold onto the ball, diving backwards towards the boundary as he ran back from mid-on.
England 161-3 (50 overs): England have become a bit bogged down since lunch, with the interuption and some disciplined bowling from the tourists. KP needs to break free from the shackles.
England 153-3 (48 overs): England are back out. The gloom has passed.
England 151-3: (47 overs): BAD LIGHT! It has got a little gloomy, and the umpires offer the light. KP (a big fan of attacking, offensive cricket, remember...) accepts the light and pegs it.
England 148-3 (46 overs): Oh, I forgot to say, Pietersen has made his half-century. Good knock, too. Nine fours in it. The captaincy, if anything, has made him a better player. If that were possible. Because he is already, basically, the best player ever to pick up a long-handle.
England 144-3 (45 overs): Pietersen has gone to the toilet. I repeat: Pietersen has gone to the toilet.
England 139-3 (43 overs): Kallis does the old hands-on-hips as Collingwood pulls him one-handed through mid-wicket for four. That was one of the ugliest shots Cowers have ever seen. A shot so ugly I'd prevent my sister from marrying it.
England 134-3 (42 overs): South Africa have got a couple of interesting field placings at the moment; one man at a very straight, silly mid-on. Ntini has a nice rhythm going; he is going wide on the crease and darting them in at KP. An edge down to third man brings four off the final ball of the over.
England 124-3 (40 overs): Nice start for England: Collingwood nicks a couple of boundaries down the leg-side. You can't afford to bowl at him there. England are just 70 runs behind South Africa. No sign of Harris, the spinner, yet.
Afternoon session: Off we go. Hold on to your hats.
England 116-3 (38 overs): LUNCH: 67 runs, two wickets. Probably even in the morning session.
England 111-3 (35.4 overs): GONE! YOU NUMPTY! Ntini angles the ball across Cook, who has a completely unneccessary swipe, edging through to Boucher. No need to play at that one; Cook is disgusted with himself. Stoopid wicket to lose, just before lunch. In comes Collingwood.
England 106-2 (35 overs): Cook is just struggling a bit in this final half-hour before tea. He can't quite get the ball away to get KP back on strike. Kallis is bowling well to him, certainly. Ntini is back on for a couple of overs before lunch.
England 103-2 (33 overs): South Africa are trying to bowl wide to Pietersen, trying to tempt him into a rash shot. Kallis is bowling wide of off-stump, but KP isn't playing. When Kallis does bowl a little straighter, the England skipper punches down the ground for four. A wonderful shot. A shot so good I'd let my sister marry it.
England 94-2 (31 overs): Pietersen punches Kallis for three through cover. 26 not out and progressing sweetly. Just half an hour until lunch, if England can get through unscathed, it will have been their session. Incidentally, Cowers doesn't want g_hine kneeling before him. He only wants busty German farm-girls in lederhosen kneeling before him. And then, only to milk his udders.
England 91-2 (29 overs): Pietersen greets Kallis into the attack with a four through the leg side. Nice welcome. Jeez, I wouldn't like to invite KP to my house for a dinner party. Probably throw dog-feces in my face as I opened the door to him.
England 81-2 (27 overs): KA-POW! THWACK! Pietersen hammers two successive short balls from Morkel for four through square-leg. The skipper is up to 19 from 31 balls, that's a strike-rate of...ooh, just a minute...31 divided by 19, times 100, divided by the square-root of pi...61.29.
England 70-2 (26 overs): Gunther has made an appearance. Pietersen takes a couple of steps down the wicket to Nel, defending back to the bowler. Nel fields the ball and hurls it at the stumps, although KP has got his bat down in plenty of time. Next ball, as Nel is in his run-up, KP pulls out and prods the wicket down, infuriating Nel. He looks like an angry 12-year-old who is going skitz on e-numbers after eating four bags of Skittles.
England 69-2 (24 overs): Cowers is not "in a mood". The next person that says that is going to get charged at. "A coward you are, Withnail; an expert on bulls you are not..." Greatest line in film history? It's up there. Along with: "We want the finest wines known to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now." Cook ruins a Nel maiden with a single down to third man.
England 67-2 (22 overs): Nel is into the attack. Pietersen is adopting a very wide stance; he looks like he is attempting a rather complex yoga position. Nel grunts and gurns his way through a maiden, attempting to engage Pietersen in some hostilities. Like a grubby street urchin prodding a stray dog with a big stick.
England 66-2 (20 overs): Pietersen looks in the mood, my friends. Boom! He flicks from outside off-stump through mid-wicket for four. Boom! He drives down the ground three balls later for another boundary. Huzzah! Pietersen is going to be the greatest England captain ever. England are going to win every single match they play with Pietersen as captain. I can feel it in my water. I can feel the Pietersen-love in my water. Either that, or an effervescent vitamin C tablet.
England 58-2 (19 overs): Pietersen is immediately off the mark, and already looks keen to impose himself on the match. Cook flicks a four off his legs last ball of Morkel's over. He meets his skipper in the middle at the end of the over; they chat, calmly, resting on their bats. Seems a serious discussion. Perhaps Cook has left the gas on at home.
England 51-2 (17.4 overs): GONE! BELL NICKS TO SMITH! Bell makes a couple with a nice shot through cover, before pushing forward and nicking through to Smith, who takes a low catch at slip. Bell departs the field on the brink of tears...to make way for the entrance of the England captain. "YAY! YAY! YAY! WOO! WOO!" the crowd cheer.
England 49-1 (17 overs): The overhead conditions are perfect for swing bowling, and the pitch may have been spruced up a little by the rain, so there might be a spot of movement early this morning. Ntini sends down the first over...
11.28 - Here we go. The South Africans are out there, Cook and Bell follow. Bell really is very short, isn't he?
11.11 - Covers starting to come off, and we are due to start at 11.30, with the lost time made up at the end of the day. Great news, eh? Great news that Cowers has to stick around an extra half-hour at the end of the day, possibly longer if the shocking over-rates continue. But it's fine, it's fine. No problem. It's only Friday night. It's not like Cowers will miss anything by sticking around for an extra hour.
11.02 - Shaun Pollock looks odd in a suit. There is something about his shoulders that looks peculiar in a suit. Also, he looks lobsided. His left shoulder and neck is much bigger than his right. Perhaps the left shoulder is the one he carries the chip on. Anyway, he is in the Sky Sports studio, banging on about South Africa only playing at 80% against England in this series; he reckons the Proteas can beat the Aussies in their upcoming tour. Good gag, Shaun.
10.54 - Poop! Some rain, and the covers are coming on at the Oval. Richard Illingworth, that crappy left-arm spinner of the 1990s, is spotted under an Npower umbrella, mooching around the square. He looks serious, but that is of a direct consequence of his wearing of a moustache. Moustache = serious countenance.
10.48 - Hey, don't feel sorry for Cowers. Cowers don't need no-one. There's only one person Cowers looks out for...Cowers. I'll give you a competition. How about strike rate of Kevin Pietersen over the course of his innings. You have to be within 1 run-per-hundred-balls to qualify for the prize, which I shall reveal when the entries close - at the start of KP's innings, whenever that may be.
10.36 - g_hine accuses Cowers of going through the motions a little yesterday. Interesting. An interesting accusation. Don't we all have off-days, g? Days when things just don't feel right? A strange, empty feeling in your soul? Days when The Absurd strikes, unexpectedly, as it always does? Or are you always on top of your game? Is every day a good day for g_hine?
10.14 - Confidence isn't usually a characteristic you could associate with Steve "I wanna go home" Harmison, so how about this for a quote, from yesterday's post-match chat: "Hopefully this is a long road to a more successful 12 months forward than the 12 months I've just had." Go Stevie. Who da man?
10.05 - Hi there; welcome to the second day from the Oval; the first day of Kevin Pietersen's captaincy went jolly well - can the second day be as good? The weather forecast is a bit mixed; it is very gloomy at the moment, although the boffins at Met Office say things should brighten up later...