England 49-1 (17 overs): CLOSE: FINE DAY FOR ENGLAND. The home side lose Strauss early on, but Cook and Bell combine to see them through to the close with an unbroken 42-run stand.
England 42-1 (15 overs): Good progress from England this evening, eight overs remaining. Bell and Cook haven't given the South Africans a sniff since Strauss' wicket.
England 34-1 (12 overs): Ntini is still slanting the ball across Cook, who is doing well to maintain his discipline. The light is fine at the moment; a beautiful summer's evening.
England 29-1 (9 overs): Good stuff from the England boys at the moment. Bell helps himself to successive fours from the bowling of Ntini, one through square-leg, the other through cover.
England 15-1 (6 overs) Bell has come to the crease, back in his number three position left vacant by Michael Vaughan. These two could do with taking England through to the close...
England 7-1 (3.4 overs): NTINI GETS STRAUSS! The clever Ntini goes wide on the crease to fire one down to Strauss...the England man can't resist a nibble, and edges through to second slip! Breakthrough for the tourists!
England 6-0 (3 overs): Morkel and Nel have got the new ball for South Africa, but the England boys are coping fine, nudging and working away singles on the leg-side. There are 20 overs left today, but it is getting a little gloomy overhead...
England 0-0: Cook and Strauss come out as England attempt to eat into South Africa's lead over the next 24 overs...
South Africa 194 (64.5 overs): MONTY COMES ON. HE BOWLS AT THE STUMPS, AND THEN HITS THEM. INNINGS OVER. Ntini is bowled for nine, and England finish the job. Great effort.
South Africa 190-9 (64 overs): Stumps. Stumps. Stumps. Not one ball at the stumps in the last three overs. Not one ball would have hit the stumps. The wickets. Removed the bails. The timber. Not one. 18 balls, and not one was directed at the stumps, the things the bowlers are supposed to aim for. The three stumps are the key to England finishing this off. Absolute key, the stumps. Flintoff has been brought on by Pietersen, presumably to try and hit the stumps. He can't. He doesn't really get anywhere near.
South Africa 184-9 (61 overs): This is ridiculous. It's not like Ntini and Harris are flaying the ball all over; it's just that England aren't bowling at the stumps. They've got a much better chance of getting one of these two tailenders out if they just bowled at the stumps. It's not rocket-science. The stumps are the key. Bowl at them. The batsmen may miss the ball. Which will then hit the stumps. Bowl the ball so it will hit the stumps. Stumps. Stumps. Stumps. Bowl at the stumps. Try to hit the stumps.
South Africa 175-9 (58 overs): England have done well to get up to this point...all they need to do now is bowl at the stumps. Instead, Harmison and Broad are bowling about two foot outside off, and Ntini and Harris are swinging and missing at everything. Most frustrating.
South Africa 174-9 (54.4 overs): ANOTHER FOR BROAD! Straight and full, and Nel edges through to Ambrose. Rather lacklustre appeal from England, but Nel is on his way, and only Ntini stands between the home side and the close of innings.
South Africa 168-8 (53 overs): What does Cowers know? Broad bangs one in short, Morkel gets a glove on it, trying to fend away down to third man, and Bell takes a diving catch at short-leg. Broad gets the breakthrough after tea, and England are on the brink of a fine first innings effort.
South Africa 164-7 (52 overs): Broad and Monty are doing the bowling at the moment. Can't help but think that Pietersen should turn to Harmison, Anderson and Flintoff to clean up the tail.
South Africa 158-7 (50 overs): The evening session is underway...still 40 overs to bowl, England will be keen to shoot the tourists out and get themselves in bat...
South Africa 158-7 (49.3 overs) TEA: MONTY STRIKES WITH HIS THIRD BALL! SHOCKING LBW DECISION, BUT WHO CARES? I care. Anyway. Monty has AB de Villiers caught LBW as he attempted to force away off his back foot in the final over before tea. Great boost for England just before the interval.
South Africa 147-6 (45 overs): Morkel is the new batsman, coming in with an average of 15 or so. Anderson is still in the attack, partnered by Broad. No sign of Monty yet, Pietersen is making him wait - which is a good decision, with the seamers getting so much joy. It would be a boost to the over-rate, though; which is appalling at present.
South Africa 132-6 (42.1 overs) AND ANOTHER! GREAT BOWLING FROM ANDERSON! Jimmy fires one in towards off-stump, allowing the swing just to move it away a couple of inches...Boucher flicks his bat, gets an outside edge, and Ambrose takes a simple low catch! The wickets continue to tumble, and all is going well for Pietersen!
South Africa 127-5 (40 overs): de Villiers and Boucher are doing a good job in trying to see off a fired-up England at present. Anderson is still getting a bit of movement, but his line has gone a little. Flintoff has a word with Pietersen, who in turn has a word in the ear of the bowler; Freddie must have spotted something.
South Africa 119-5 (38 overs): And thank you to those messageboarders who recognise that the ludicrously pedestrian nature of the updates to this blog are nothing to do with Cowers and rather more to do with the lumbering techical machine that powers it.
South Africa 118-5 (37 overs): YES! ANDERSON STRIKES AGAIN! Prince rather lazily drives at one that moves slightly away from him, and Bell takes a comfortable catch at gully! England's golden spell continues!
South Africa 113-4 (35 overs): AB de Villiers and Ashwell Prince are the batsmen charged with trying to lead South Africa out of their rather tricky little spot. Anderson is getting just enough movement still to cause some problems, though.
South Africa 105-4 (32.5 overs): WHAT A SPELL FOR ENGLAND! ANDERSON TRAPS KALLIS! Beautiful inswinger from Anderson, dips back in and strikes Kallis on his front leg, in front of off-stump! No hesitation from the umpire! England are on fire here!
South Africa 103-3 (31.5 overs) BOWLED HIM! TWO IN TWO FOR HARMISON! The batsmen had crossed so Amla was taking strike...Harmison yorks him with a full one which beats Amla's jab, taking out middle stump! Harmy is back, and delighted!
South Africa 103-2 (31.4 overs) SMITH GOES! TOP-EDGED PULL, ANDERSON TAKES THE CATCH AT FINE-LEG! Harmison has his first wicket on his return to the Test side, digging one in, which Smith hoiks down to Anderson.
South Africa 100-1 (31 overs): Anderson is back into the attack; Smith really doesn't look in great nick, but he is gritting it out. He survives a strong LBW shout from Harmison, before getting an inside edge on to his pads from Anderson.
South Africa 87-1 (29 overs): Flintoff's painful toe forces him off the field for some treatment, ending his post-lunch spell. Broad is trundling in at the other end, although Amla has crashed the youngster for four boundaries in his last two overs, and has reached 30 from just 27 balls.
South Africa 70-1 (26 overs): DROPPED! COOK AGAIN! Tough chance for Cook; Amla flashes at a Flintoff delivery...the ball flies high to Cook at second slip, but he can't cling on above his head, the ball running away for four. Flintoff shakes his head in mock disbelief.
South Africa 65-1 (24 overs): Smith is approaching a half-century, on 40 not out. Flintoff calls for a pain killer; he seems in some discomfort in his bowling action, thanks to a painful toe. Still, he snorts one past Smith final ball of the over.
South Africa 64-1 AFTERNOON SESSION: The clouds have cleared and the rain has stopped. The afternoon begins under bright skies at the Oval; can England snatch an early breakthrough.
South Africa 64-1 (22 overs): RAIN STOPS PLAY: The drizzle becomes a little heavier and the umpires call on the covers. The players will take an early lunch, with South Africa having made 64-1 in the morning...England will be a little disappointed they couldn't add to their one break through.
South Africa 56-1 (20 overs): More frustration for England as an outside edge from Smith falls just short of Strauss at second slip. Smith also plays and misses at a couple of widers ones, which raises a wry smile from Flintoff. AND THEN THE BREAKTHROUGH COMES! COOK MAKES AMMENDS FOR HIS EARLY DROP BY SNARING A GOOD ONE AT SLIP AS MCKENZIE EDGES!
South Africa 47-0 (17 overs): Broad is into the attack for the first time, and his first over is a good one, beating McKenzie three times in a maiden. Pietersen is bounding around like a puppy in a new home at the moment...unfortunately, a puppy would perhaps have more clue as to how to break this partnership.
South Africa 44-0 (15 overs): Not for the first time, Cowers was wrong; Harmison is continuing...although perhaps Pietersen will wish he had taken him off an over previous as Smith pulls him for two fours through the leg-side.
South Africa 32-0 (13 overs): Harmison has Smith in a spot of bother in what will probably be his final over of the spell, a bouncer causing him a moment of panic. Pietersen looks rueful as he searches for his first wicket. The first hour is negotiated well by South Africa.
South Africa 31-0 (12 overs): Bit of a run-spurt; McKenzie helps himself to two fours off Harmison, the first a remarkable short-arm jab through mid-wicket, before Smith welcomes Flintoff to the attack with a pull through mid-on. Freddie is steaming in at 87mph in his first over.
South Africa 19-0 (10 overs): Smith clips a four through the leg side...Monty escorts it to the boundary like a middle-aged gentleman chaperone escorting home a lady of equally mature years after an awkward first date at an Italian restaurant.
South Africa 14-0 (8 overs): Few spots of rain about, a few brollies going up. Harmison gets one to jag back...raps McKenzie on the pad...big appeal...going over the top. Next ball a similar delivery squirts off the outside edge, bouncing once before third slip.
South Africa 10-0 (7 overs): Harmison is bowling well, that's for sure. He is firing down with plenty of pace and bounce. Anderson is getting a little swing and has troubled Smith now and again, but nothing too alarming. There are some fairly ominous clouds in the distance, though.
South Africa 7-0 (5 overs): The over-rate clearly doesn't fall into Pietersen's category of "aggressive" cricket; it is quite embarrassingly slow at the moment. There appears to a problem with movement behind the bowler's arm; restless members. Or just some ignorant divs.
South Africa 6-0 (3 overs): Another good over from Harmison; McKenzie gets an inside-edge that misses his off-stump by a foot or so. Ambrose is still feeling his nose after that blow a couple of overs ago. The first positive stroke of the match, a push through covers from McKenzie, brings a couple.
South Africa 1-0 (1 over): Ambrose needs some treatment on a bloody mouth after the final ball of Harmison's first over got a little big on him, went through his gloves and struck him in the face. Very eventful first ten minutes of the Pietersen captaincy.
South Africa 1-0 (1 over): DROPPED! Harmison almost gives Pietersen the perfect start! He bangs one in, Smith cuts...but Cook puts down a relatively simple chance at gully! Later on, he gets one to nip back and strike Smith in the unmentionables. Good first over from Harmison, who is already up into the high 80mphs.
11.00: OFF WE GO! Pietersen leads out England for the first time in a Test match; lots of manly hugs and little shoulder-barges from the home side as they come out on to the pitch. No huddle, though.
10.51: "Starting to feel muggy, might well swing here," says Botham at his pitch report. "Rock-solid hard, it will have that tennis ball bounce. But will it swing? Maybe in the first hour." Great stuff. That's why he's an "expert".
10.42: That close-up photo of KP does demonstrate he has good skin, doesn't it? Must use a lot of Jessica's cleansing products.
10.34: Graeme Smith wins the toss and bats..."It's a pretty good wicket," says Pietersen. "I've played here for eight years and it has always been a good wicket at the Oval. We're going to have to give it a real good go this morning."
10.28 - Cowers has indeed chosen a particularly menacing photo of Pietersen to use on the blog...perhaps an indication of his style of captaincy. IN....YOUR....FACE!
10.19 - All-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who will bat at six in this match, is keen to end a run of eight England Test defeats in his last eight appearances: "Two defeats is not the way I envisaged coming back with England. I didn't wait 18 months to get beaten."
10.08 - Hello, fans of cricketing endeavours; welcome to our coverage of the fourth and final Test between England and South Africa from The Oval, in south London. It is a warm, muggy day here...but crucially dry. We should be able to get off on time, and that is a blessing to all.
- South Africa