South Africa 38-1 CLOSE: South Africa make it through to the close one-down, but it is definitely their day. England have wasted the chance to make a decent total on a very friendly wicket.
South Africa 17-1 (8 overs): FLINTOFF GOES MENTAL! He is brought into the attack, and picks up a wicket with his second ball as Smith nicks behind to Ambrose. By way of celebration, the big all-rounder collapses in a heap as the rest of the team smother him in hugs and kisses.
South Africa 12-0 (6 overs): Former England manager Graham "do I not like that" Taylor is spotted in the crowd. He has a very red face, as if his neck-tie is too tight and is restricting the flow of blood to his head. South Africa earn four leg byes when Sidebottom strikes McKenzie on the pad and the ball runs down to fine-leg.
South Africa 2-0 (2 overs): Some early swing for Anderson and Sidebottom, with Smith and McKenzie wearing a couple in the mid-section for their troubles. England will be desperate for a breakthrough this evening.
South Africa 0-0: The tourists have 11 overs to survive before the close of play...
Sorry effort from England on the most unthreatening of wickets.
England 231 all out: BANG!...BANG!...BANG! BANG! BANG! That's the sound of England shooting themselves in the foot. More than that: machine-gunning themselves in both feet, before taking a machete to their shins and a flame-thrower to the rest of their torso, finally decapitating themselves by driving a motorcycle at full speed towards a length of cheese wire stretched across a road. Monty Panesar is run out first ball, going for a second run to give Flintoff the strike after nudging down to fine leg.
England 230-9 (77 overs): GONE! ANDERSON RUN OUT! England, ever charitable, hand the tourists a ninth wicket on a silver platter, served with a side-salad of red onion and goats cheese, delivered by a busty 19-year-old in a white blouse a size too small for her. Flintoff calls Anderson through for a single as he tries to keep the strike: it proves a silly decision.
England 218-8 (77 overs): Sidebottom is the new batsman. Someone recently told him how to bat, and subsequently he isn't as bad as he used to be. That said, he's still awful, all things considered. Flintoff pulls Ntini for a six over mid-wicket, before pounding a four the very next ball. Sweet Home Alabama: this bathroom is going to be flooded in pee...
England 215-8 (75 overs): SIDEBOTTOM ARRIVES, SIDEBOTTOM DEPARTS. SIDEBOTTOM ARRIVES, SIDEBOTTOM DEPARTS. He makes two, from four balls, before nicking one from Ntini, around the wicket, through to Boucher, who takes a good catch diving forward. Flintoff better start going mental now. He'd better start urinating all over this bathroom, or else England are in trouble.
England 212-7 (74 overs): Ambrose is out. Inside edge onto his own stumps off the bowling of Kallis. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that Cowers didn't bother "bolding up" the text above. That is an indictment of how underwhelming it is that Ambrose has lost his wicket. It just isn't very newsworthy. First rule of journalism: "Dog bites man" isn't worth writing about. Unless the dog actually savages the man to death. And only then, if the "dog" is actually Scooby Do. And the "man" is Tom Cruise.
England 206-6 (73 overs): What has happened to Andrew Flintoff? I remember when he used to be fun. People in the crowd used to stop throwing beer cans at each other and actually watch the cricket when he came out to bat. Not any longer. The old Flintoff used to go on 48-hour benders and take leaks in the back garden of 10 Downing St. These days, I bet he uses the toilet, like every other loser. I bet the new Flintoff even wipes the seat if he sprinkles when he tinkles. Loser. The old Flintoff wouldn't have wiped the seat. The old Flintoff would have peed all over the bathroom.
England 205-6 (71 overs): There are 19 overs of play left today. Nel beats the outside edge of Ambrose's bat with the final ball of his over. It looks as though he is going to launch into a tirade at the little keeper, until Flintoff strolls past him from the non-striker's end. Nel has second thoughts. I wonder what the chances of Andre Nel being struck by lightning are?
England 202-6 (68 overs): You guys need to lighten up down there. It's just a game. Cowers doesn't care who wins or loses, as long as he gets paid at the end of the day so that he can go back to his flat and drink his own bodyweight (11 1/2 stone) in whisky and ginger.
In other news, there has been a lot of chat down there about how often Cowers updates this page; frankly, it hurts. You don't think Cowers wants the page to update more often? You think that I don't get frustrated when a comment takes 25 minutes to appear on the website? You think I don't mutilate my arm with a plastic fork when the system takes five minutes to load the relevent pages? You think I don't want to throw this 25-year-old computer out the window? I'll tell you what; you guys need to cut a guy some slack. This isn't a sweatshop. Cowers isn't chained to a chair, stitching together sportswear of a sub-standard quality under low-wattage light bulbs, whilst a short little man in shiny shoes walks slowly behind him, menacingly tapping a cane against his leg.
England 196-6 (66 overs): Ambrose seems to take his batting very seriously. He barely cracks a smile when he is at the crease. Looks as though he has just had an appalling piece of news through the post. Parking ticket. Tax demand. News of the unfortunate passing of a favoured uncle. Something of that ilk. Nel is back into the attack. I'd like to see him confront Flintoff.
England 181-6 (62 overs): You "messageboarders" want some more interaction from Cowers? Here's a little tip for you: if you press F5 enough on this page and watch the adverts that pop up below the Cow Corner biog blurb, you will eventually get an advert for something called Smorg tee-shirts. The woman in the advert, well, she's very attractive. That's my tip. That's my "interaction".
England have scored eight runs in six overs since tea.
England 176-6 (59 overs): g_hine has the audacity to label "this" Cowers lazy. The cheek of it. Whilst "this" Cowers may make this commentary look easy, you readers don't see the furious work that is going on under the desk to keep things on an even keel, the continuous creative thought, the frantic bashing of keys, the...oh, Sweet Valley High, who am I kidding?
England 174-6 (57 overs): Old "Stiff Leg" Flintoff is at the crease, planting that huge left-boot two yards down the track as if he was about to launch into a comedy Monty Python goose-step. Ambrose has come and joined him following Bell's dismissal.
England 173-6: The evening session begins...
England 173-6 TEA: Another three-wicket session, in favour in South Africa. Cowers loves a knee-jerk reaction, so what about: MOORES AND VAUGHAN OUT!
England 173-6 (56 overs): WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT? BELL LOOKS GOOD, THEN GETS OUT! Hardly a shock. Bell nicks one from Ntini through to Boucher to end a knock of 50 from 98 balls. England are doing a very passable impression of the England of the late 1980s.
England 168-5 (54 overs): Ian Bell reaches his 18th Test half-ton. The crowd applaud. In said crowd is an attractive little pocket-rocket, stood on her Jimmy Choos, clapping happily away, eyes proud and wide behind her ludicrously over-sized sunglasses. She looks like she spends a lot of time on the beach in five-star Caribbean resorts. Cowers can only presume she is Ian Bell's WAG. She looks like she might be annoying to know.
England 160-5 (52 overs): POOP! COLLINGWOOD EDGES! Collingwood's rather embarrassing stay at the crease comes to an end as he attempts some sort of pitching wedge at a full one from Kallis, and edges to Smith at slip. Collingwood has scored 96 runs in 10 first-class innings this season. Cowers wonders whether he might have scored more runs had he been given the chance. After much chin-stroking and brow-furrowing, Cowers decides that he probably would not.
England 154-4 (50 overs): After a torturous 28 minutes or so, Collingwood finally gets off the mark with a punch for four through cover. "Yeah!" the crowd cheer, happy to share in his relief. Nobody likes watching someone being tortured. Do they? Some people probably do, I guess. Some sickos. Probably find that sort of stuff on the internet, if you look hard enough. Maybe you don't even have to look that hard.
England 149-4 (47 overs): Bell, of course, is the local boy here at Edgbaston; he has played for Warwickshire his entire career. I remember Belly as a young lad, barely a whisker on his smooth round face, he was just a wee little thing, barely taller than a long-handle cricket bat...wait, hang on...
England 139-4 (44 overs): Paul Collingwood is into the side. You might say that he is under pressure. Dropped for scoring no runs, he then scores no runs for Durham, and is brought back into the side. The pervading theme is that he has scored no runs.
England 136-4 (41 overs) GONE! GUNTER STRIKES! The German mountain boy gets one to jag away from the left-hander from around the wicket...like any cook, he can't resist a little nibble, and Kallis takes a fine low catch at second slip. Gunter goes mental, screaming something at the departing batsman. Cook does well not to wrap his bat around his face, stressed and contorted as the demons tear at his flesh from within.
England 132-3 (40 overs): Spinner Paul Harris is into the attack; not much in the pitch for him at the moment. He has a very strange action; he barely uses his right-hand side at all. In fact, he looks lop-sided in general, as if someone sawed off six inches of his right leg as a baby. Why would they do that? Savages. They should be locked up.
England 118-3 (37 overs): I don't know what happened at lunch, but Nel is growing increasingly frustrated at Cook; he gives him a long, long stare after the batsman plays and misses, before feigning to throw the stumps down after a caught-and-bowled chance just drops shot of him. I wonder if Cook stole one of Andre's sausage rolls at the buffet?
England 105-3 (34 overs): Ntini has a LBW shout correctly rejected, the ball pitching outside Cook's leg-stump. The first runs of the innings down the ground, as Bell and then Cook push firmly past the bowler. The South Africans have tended to bang the ball in a little short so far, trying to get anything they can out of the track.
England 97-3 (31 overs): A good positive start to the afternoon from Bell and Cook, who passes his half-century. What England desperately, desperately need is for the opener to go on and make a big ton; something few England batsmen are doing at the moment.
England 82-3 (28 overs): Cook and Bell have a big rebuilding job to do this afternoon; England need to bat through until tea for the loss of just one wicket, really, if they are to get on top again...
England 82-3: LUNCH: For a long time, England were on top. Then Andrew Strauss stepped on his stumps, Vaughan edged behind, and KP was given out caught when he was LBW. South Africa go into have their soup and bread roll having got themselves on top.
England 74-3: OUT! PIETERSEN THIS TIME! KA-BOOM! THAT'S THE SOUND OF ENGLAND IMPLODING! Kallis ducks one in at KP, who wanders over to off to try and whip it through the leg-side...the ball strikes the pad and balloons up to gully...South Africa appeal, the umpire gives him out caught! KP isn't happy...replays show he didn't actually get an inside edge onto pad...although he looked fairly plumb LBW anyway.
England 73-2: After suffering accusations that he was batting for himself and not the team during the second innings of the last Test, seeing how KP bats here will be interesting. England aren't exactly under the cosh, but this is no time for the number four to think about buckling any swashes.
England 68-2: Vaughan was absolutely dismayed to be given out...he didn't feel as though he nicked it...the television replays certainly aren't conclusive either way. Still, and this might be terribly unpatriotic of Cowers, but there is just something satisfying about seeing Vaughan get out early again. Perhaps it has something to do with his staggeringly arrogant sense of injustice whenever a decision goes against him. Just a hunch. Pietersen is the new batsman.
England 68-2: HA! VAUGHAN GOES FIRST BALL! Nel gets one on a good length just outside off-stump...the England skipper presses forward, the ball flies through to the keeper...Nel appeals, Umpire Dar's finger goes up! Vaughan shakes his head, a common sight this summer, and England have rather screwed up their good start.
England 68-1: UNLUCKY! STRAUSS STEPS ON HIS WICKET! The left-hander flicks one off his legs from Nel...only to step back and just nudge the leg-stump with his boot! Breakthrough for South Africa.
England 63-0: Nel is absolutely disgusted when Strauss gloves another short ball down to fine-leg for four; the bowler looks at the batsman as if Strauss had just defecated in his hand. Later, Cook, who has been right on top of his back-foot game this morning, crunches one through mid-wicket.
England 51-0: Lots of room inside Edgbaston this morning, should you be in the Birmingham area and have nothing to do - which, let's face it, is highly likely if you are in the Birmingham area. Once you've visited the Black Country Museum and Dudley Castle, you've pretty much exhausted the tourists traps. Although I can recommend a trip to The British Queen pub, down there in Sedgley: beware though, they don't serve tonic in the British Queen.
England 46-0: Nel tests Cook with four short balls, perhaps encouraged by a horrible mis-cued attempt at a pull which comes off the very tip of the bat and rolls gently to gully. Nel stares at Cook for a full five seconds, gritting his teeth as though he was grinding peppercorns ready to sprinkle on a pea-and-mint risotto.
England 41-0: Cook takes advantage of two short deliveries from Ntini to help himself to a couple of boundaries, one through cover and a second ripped through mid-wicket. The players take drinks, after an hour's play that belongs to England.
England 31-0: Andre Nel is into the attack for the first time. He trots down to Strauss with his big toothy grin after jagging one away from the left-hander in his first over. He has the look of a mischievious uncle, offering his 10-year-old nephew a secret taste of his pint.
England 31-0: Morkel appeals optimistically for an lbw that was clearly going down leg-side. A few signs of concern on the face of the South African skipper, who has seen Strauss and Cook progress well after an early scare or two.
England 20-0: eirean2004, had Cowers been caught with his trousers down, you would all have been in for quite a shock; he has been rather tardy with his management of the washing basket recently, meaning he had to call on his emergency pants this morning...
England 19-0: Cook pulls for three through mid-wicket, then Strauss follows suit with a four of his own. No sign of Andre Nel yet, or his alter-ego Gunter. "Gunther is a guy who lives in the mountains and doesn't get enough oxygen to the brain and that makes him crazy," says Nel. "It's a nice German name." Cowers' alter-ego is called Strider: he is a six-foot, two-inch, broad-shouldered country boy, with dyed-blue hair. He likes to eat spare ribs and drink cider.
England 11-0: The first boundary of the morning is a streaky-bacon four through gully from Cook. This wicket looks a little "two-paced" (Cowers feels confident using such specialised cricket terminology, for he is a respected commentator...); in some places it is like batting on a large summer pudding; in others, the ball flies off the surface like a rubber ball in a car-park.
England 5-0: Slightly nervous start for England... Strauss is a little fortunate when he mis-times a pull and the ball smashes into his pads. A couple of balls later, Cook gets an edge off Morkel, the ball landing inches short of Harris in the gully.
England 0-0: OFF WE GO! Cook and Strauss are in the middle; England need a good start on what looks like a very placid batting wicket.
10.37 - Graeme Smith: "I've been struggling for a few days, but I'm okay. Andre Nel is really motivated and looking forward to performing well. A lot has been written and said but I have a lot of respect for England. They play well here...hopefully we can play well here and close out the series, although there is a long way to go before we get to that point."
10.34 - ENGLAND WIN THE TOSS, AND BAT! Vaughan: "We're happy, we've had some good preparation. The lads have a point to prove and get back in theseries. this is a chance to put a big score on the board and put South Africa under pressure."
10.31 - CRISIS AVERTED! Graeme Smith has been passed fit! The skipper's back problem isn't bad enough to keep him from leading his side. Maybe England will be keen to win the toss, bat, and keep him out in the field for a couple of days. That would be the plan...
10.28 - Steve Rouse, the groundsman - and a Warwickshire stalwart for 40 years - predicts that his pitch will favour the swing bowlers rather than the hit-the-deckers, and he also imagines that it will break up as the game goes on, to bring the spinners into play. Both factors, on the face of it, seem to favour England, although it promises to be another crucial toss.
10.19 - paperworkpaul offers some rousing words on the messageboards. Crickey! It's all getting a little serious down there. Remember boys, it's only a game.
10.08 - Still no news on whether Proteas skipper Smith has passed his fitness test...I'll be sure to bring you all the details when I have it.
09.57 - Smith has been very quick to stick the boot in to England following their selection fiasco in the second Test: "What has surprised us more is the indecisiveness around the England leadership. That has surprised a bit more than the actual selection. Just the calling in, and the discussions, and no-one taking responsibility for it. That surprised me a bit. Inside the dressing room I don't see how one guy making his debut can affect a dressing room that has been together for so long."
09.45 - England captain Michael Vaughan believes spinner Monty Panesar will have a more significant role to play at Edgbaston: "You don't want Freddie [Flintoff] to be bowling 40 overs every week because of what he has gone through with his ankle but on this wicket it looks like Monty could play a decent part."
09.36 - Good morning, fans of cricket! Welcome to the third Test from Birmingham! Bit of a humdinger, this one; both sides have made changes - with the possibility of more to come, should South Africa skipper Graeme Smith not be fully recovered from his back injury...Stay here for all the latest news ahead of the start at 11am...
- South Africa