South Africa 256-6 (75 overs) It's all got a bit Ken Loach - too dark - and the players have gone off for the day. That was an exciting hour, some wickets for Flintoff and England have a sniff of getting back in this game. In sniff terms - it's a Michael sized nose rather than a Pete Townshend's sized jumbo conk - but a sniff nonetheless. Join us at 10am tomorrow when we will adapt our nose analogy throughout the day.
South Africa 255-6 (75 overs) Mark Boucher could have an argument in an empty room. This time he's got some England fielders to join in his favourite pasttime...he don't like the sightscreen, he don't like the light....Vaughan tells him to shut his pie hole and bat. So he does and clips an attempted Flintoff yorker to Cow Corner for an all-run four.
South Africa 239-6 (73 overs) FOUR FOR FREDALO: A few too many adrelaline pills for AB de Villiers who only gets to five before attempting to pull Flintoff into Handsworth but it's quick and well directed and Sidebottom takes a "oh no, if I drop this I will look like a right goon" catch at fine leg. Flintoff is a national treasur, like The Queen and Myleene Klass.
South Africa 226-5 (69 overs) REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED YORKED!!: No need for Aleem Dar this time as a superb late swinging yorker sends the off-stump flying out of the ground. A superb delivery from a fired-up Flintoff.
South Africa 217-4 (67 overs) SHOCKER!!!!: Freddie bamboozles Kallis for four balls in a row, before trapping him on the toe with a ripsnorting yorker that was absolutely, definitely, positively, heading for middle stump. That was more OUT than Graham Norton. How on earth did he not give that one? Freddie is understandbly flabaghasted. Kallis survives. Lucky, lucky boy.
South Africa 207-4 (65 overs) IT'S ON, KALLIS GETS HIS 50: The players are back on, and no sooner do they get at it, than Kallis eases to a confident half-century. England need some inspiration here. Oh, if only Darren Pattinson were out there. He'd know what to do.
South Africa 205-4 (63 overs) STILL RAIN STOPPED PLAY: The promised resumption of play has not been forthcoming. Instead, the duffers in the press box are offering their considered opinion on the Rolling Stones. "I saw them once, thought they made a din," says an Oxbridge graduate who used to captain England. Poor boy, it must have been frightful!! Cowers hears the corporate hospitality these days is simply not up to scratch.
South Africa 205-4 (63 overs) RAIN STOPPED PLAY: The curse of the English summer has struck at Edgbaston, but the good news is we'll be back into the entertainment at 4.50pm. If the cockles of your heart need further warming it appears Cowers regulars kobus001 and g_hine have grown rather fond of each other. "I can invite you for a proper bbq we can grill some some sausages and burgers in the flames like you used to," writes kobus001. Ah, what Cowers would do to be a fly on the wall at that festival of meat.
South Africa 205-4 (63 overs) TEA: If temporary cryogenic freezing were an affordable option, the latter part of that session would have been a perfect time to utilise it. To tea they go, with South Africa in a commanding position and only Fredalo looking mildly threatening for England. Back to the performance-related food debate - ianpetermills: "An Ostrich kebab for Anderson...and maybe a glass of Stellenbosch claret."
South Africa 199-4 (60 overs): If the last six overs were a band they'd be The Feeling - dour, predictable and bereft of excitement. The Kallis-Prince partnership has now reached 64, and looks fairly comfortable. Freddie is chucking down the odd jaffer, but predominantly pushing it wide of off stump to both players. Monty has a wildly optomistic LBW shout turned down. Meanwhile, the rain is gently falling and spectators are reaching for their umbrellas...ellas...ellas...eh...eh...eh.
South Africa 187-4 (54 overs): Monty rips a few into the dangerzone, the mention of which takes Cowers back to Tom Cruise's seminal performance in Top Gun. sikka316 suggests England should have performance-related lunches. "Vaughan just a glass of water for you, Colly gets three peanuts and a glass of water, and Flintoff can have a ham sandwich, ready salted crisps, a bag of pre-cut fruit and some weak cordial of his choice..." It's a lovely idea, and one Cowers would very much like expanded. Suggestions for teas please. I'll start the bidding with a Shandy Bass and packet of Skips for Ambrose.
South Africa 178-4 (50 overs): Prince edges through a vacant third slip off the bowling of Anderson. Much hands-on-hips and ruminating in the press box about gaps and field placings, as if people know what they're talking about. Next over, with Ambrose stood up to the stumps, Kallis gets an inside edge to a Collingwood delivery...the ball ricochets off the keeper's gloves before he has time to react.
South Africa 162-4 (47 overs): happy_camp3r asks whether Cowers is being "a little one-sided". Cowers takes that as an insult. That would imply that Cowers cares one way or the other who wins this match, when the truth is that he couldn't give a hoot. In fact, Cowers cares so little, he just fell asleep in the middle of typing this unnecessarily long-winded and rather obtuse comment.
The truth is, of course, that England batted like a team of Scotsmen; South Africa bowled with discipline. This morning, England bowled like second-rate circus-performers; South Africa have batted sensibly and with restraint. But if Cowers wrote merely that...well, it wouldn't be very interesting, would it?
South Africa 158-4 (46 overs): The players are taking drinks after an hour or so of the afternoon session. Another couple of wickets before tea, and England will feel reasonably content. Not happy, but content.
South Africa 147-4 (44 overs): A woman in the crowd is holding up a sign saying: BRING BROAD BACK. She has a wide face and big lips. Looks a bit like the Joker in the new Batman film.
South Africa 137-4 (41 overs): Flintoff is still roaring in. Vaughan must be tempted to keep him going, to let him pound himself in to the ground. He's bowled 14 overs already this innings. Prince is the new batsman. He's a little scrapper. If he were an animal, he'd be an aardwolf. Look it up. Tell me I'm wrong.
South Africa 135-4 (39 overs) COUNT HIS WICKETS! 200 UP FOR FREDDIE! McKenzie looks to be getting the measure of Flintoff when he works him for successive fours...but the bowler roars back to trap him LBW in front of off, attempting to whip again through the leg-side. The wicket is Flintoff's 200th in Test cricket; he roars like a bear with toothache.
South Africa 126-3 (38 overs): Kallis is the new batsman. Worryingly for England, he is due some runs. About 342 of them.
South Africa 117-3 (37 overs): GREAT WORK FROM ANDERSON! EAT HIS DIVE! Anderson ducks one in to Amla; the batsman gets an inside edge on to his pad, attempting to work it away on the leg-side...the ball loops up towards short-cover, where the bowler takes a wonderful running, diving catch!
South Africa 111-2 (36 overs): SALT IN HIS WOUNDS! HIS GAPING, WEEPING WOUNDS! Collingwood puts down a low chance at slip off the bowling of Flintoff. Good job they're mates, because Flintoff is absolutely fuming.
South Africa 111-2 (34 overs): Three overs back after lunch. South Africa have got a few runs. We aint got any wickets.
South Africa 104-2 (31 overs) LUNCH: McKenzie reaches his half-century with a push for three through cover. South Africa's morning, without a doubt. England wasted the opportunity to put the batsmen under pressure with a swinging ball, bowling much too wide. Consequently, it took them 90 minutes to get rid of nightwatchman Harris, their only wicket this morning.
South Africa 94-2 (28 overs): SIDEBOTTOM DOES IT! HARRIS EDGES, COOK CATCHES! Sidebottom doesn't even bother celebrating as Harris edges him to Cook at third slip. Well, why would you celebrate? There is no need. It was obvious, wasn't it? Sidebottom is much too good for Harris. It only took him 90 minutes to get rid of him.
South Africa 94-1 (27 overs): Harris flicks Sidebottom off his legs, the ball landing just short of Bell at short mid-wicket. Sidebottom smiles smugly at the batsman, as if to say "Ha! That's what happens. You see, I am a world-class bowler, and what tends to happen when I bowl to tail-enders is that I get them out. Because I am a fantastic bowler. Much, much too good for a tailender like you. I am the mighty Ryan Sidebottom. Even opening batsmen struggle against my skills. I pity you. You are nothing to me."
South Africa 86-1 (25 overs): How has Harris managed to make 18 runs, and survive 43 balls, against a much-lauded seam attack in perfect swinging conditions? If you asked that question, you'd be well within your rights to expect an honest answer. The honest answer is, because Flintoff, Sidebottom and Anderson in particular, have bowled like they have had their brains removed overnight. Which, I'm told, does happen in some city-centre Birmingham hotels.
South Africa 85-1 (23 overs): Frustration for England; Harris drives to Sidebottom, gets a thick outside-edge, the ball flies between third slip and gully and runs down for four. Next over, Anderson drops a little short, McKenzie cuts off the back foot through backwards point. Lots of "Oooohs" and "Aaahs" from the slip cordon, primarily made up of underperforming batsmen who seem to believe that making encouraging noises in the field every now and again will justify their place in the side.
South Africa 75-1 (21 overs): Anderson is mixing it up, trying some induckers and outduckers; Harris gets a bit of pad on a vicious one that comes back into him, the ball whizzing past Ambrose for four leg-byes. A couple of balls later, a repeat. 19 leg-byes so far. Which is more than double what Vaughan, Pietersen and Collingwood made combined.
South Africa 66-1 (19 overs): That one carried: McKenzie cuts a short, wide one from Anderson straight through Collingwood. No great surprise there, though: Collingwood batted like the invisible man, why should he be any different in the field? Have you ever seen the film, Memoirs of an Invsisible Man? Chevy Chase? Good film. Not as good as National Lampoon's European Vacation.
South Africa 59-1 (18 overs): EDGE! CATCH IT! GOT HIM! HAS HE? NOT SURE! LET'S GO TO THE THIRD UMPIRE? OKAY! McKenzie edges from Flintoff...Strauss takes the ball low at second slip...England celebrate...Strauss looks a bit sheepish...the replays aren't hugely conclusive, although they do suggest the ball might have just bounced in. Not out. Huge anti-climax.
South Africa 54-1 (17 overs): Anderson is struggling to control the swing a little. So he digs one in short...and McKenzie rocks back and pulls through mid-wicket for four. "Catch it," someone in the slips shouts to Panesar at mid-on...Panesar looks confused, as if he has just been woken up. Remember when Anderson first burst onto the international scene and he had red hair? That looked good, didn't it? Really good, really cool. Made him look really hot; a bit edgy, a bit "street". Like he had fought his way up from the meanstreets of Harlem, and not Burnley.
South Africa 51-1 (14 overs): Flintoff completes his second over of the day; Harris, the nightwatchman, fends him off like a nine-year-old girl poking a pencil at a spider that has trapped her in the bathroom doorway.
Covers are off. I repeat, the covers are off. Meanwhile, in the Sky studio, Shaun Pollock is banging on about his mate Kallis, something about it being "a real luxury to have him around." Like a dishwasher, or an electric can-opener.
The rain has been quite hard, but appears to have eased. It's going to be "one of those days," Cowers believes. You know, on-and-off more than Ross and Rachel. The covers are being removed. the_kop2003 - are you comparing Vaughan or Anderson to Joey Barton? Either way, it's a bit harsh.
South Africa 51-1 (13 overs) Two boundaries in Sidebottom's first over; one, flicked off McKenzie's pad down to fine-leg, the second ran down to third man. The ball is swinging, without doubt. A slightly ominous sign as the groundstaff emerge mysteriously from the dank underground cave they inhabit...before the rain comes and play is suspended.
South Africa 38-1 (12 overs): Flintoff fires down the first over of the day. A bit of seam and swing in the air, aided by the heavy cloud-cover. Flintoff is going to have a lot of overs today, I reckon. The television cameras showed him giving a pep-talk to an England huddle before play began. I'd like to say it looked "rousing" but there was a lot of shoulder-shrugging going on. Less Churchillian, more Iain Duncan-Smith-ian.
11.00: Play will begin at 11.15am. Ian Botham is down there, taking a close look at the pitch. He has a massive head. Too big for his body. He gets down and prods the ground. "Still looks a very good surface..." we're told. His trousers look very strained around the groin area as he crouches down; hope he has a reinforced gusset.
10.48: Aah, yes. I forgot to tell you. The covers are on at Edgbaston. We're going to have a delayed start. There was some rain earlier this morning and the groundstaff are endeavouring to dry things out. Lots of athletic-looking men of middle-age, weathered faces and hairy legs protruding from slightly-too-short shorts, wandering round the outfield with brooms and brushes and ropes.
10.35 - There's no denying it; yesterday's Cowers was a real grumpy-bump. Something to do with the time of the month. And, you know what readers? Cowers liked it. Being downright mean and dirty and heartless - it felt good, you know? Liberating. So expect more of the same, because Cowers has realised something. Cowers has had an epiphany. Being nice and pleasant and friendly and "You know what? Michael Vaughan deserves his place in the side for his captaincy alone..." and "Oooh, that's a nice dress. Where d'ya get it from?" and "Oh, your hair looks nice: what shampoo do you use?" - well, all that bull gets you nowhere in life. Just makes you look like a girl.
Vaughan is crap at the moment; your dress makes you look like a prossie; and your hair looks like it's been cut by a barely-trained chimp.
10.26 - The problem is that they are just too many people to blame for yesterday's debacle: chairman of selectors Geoff Miller, one-time King of Spain Ashley Giles, Captain (Mainwaring) Vaughan, Sad Sack Collingwood, couldn't-score-on-a Middlesbrough-sink-estate Ambrose. There's just too many to choose from. Cowers needs a definitive fall guy; one guy we can bully into a corner before beating relentlessly and remorselessly with the big blame stick. Where's Darren Pattinson when you need him?
10.08 - Here's a question; who is the more loathsome bowler: Andre Nel or Ryan Sidebottom? Sidebottom's huffing and puffing at Monty Panesar's efforts in the field at the end of play yesterday were downright embarassing; like a child, stomping around Toys 'R' Us, screaming and wailing and tugging at his mum's mini-skirt because she won't buy him a petrol-driven go-kart.
09.58 - Cowers always believed g_hine to be a respectable man of high morals...and here he is talking about digging up holes in the Edgbaston strip? Disgusting behaviour. Quite a frightful business.
09.37 - Some early messageboard action. the_kop2003 predicts a dropped catch from Ambrose. That would necessitate someone bowling well enough to take the edge, so I think we can rule that out for a couple of hours.
09.17 - Stephen Brenkley, in the Guardian, accuses England of bullying the speccie kids: "In the six series since Vaughan came back as captain, England have already lost series against India and Sri Lanka and are well behind in this one against South Africa. They have beaten West Indies and, twice, New Zealand. This is the equivalent of kicking sand in the face of the seven stone weaklings and then being buried up to your neck in the stuff when the bigger boys arrive."
09.10 - England have been getting plenty of stick in the newspapers this morning. Rightly so, too: yesterday was absolutely abject. A real stinker. Here's what former England skipper Mike Atherton had to say in The Times: "There were single-figure scores for two people - Michael Vaughan and Collingwood - who needed the runs the most. Collingwood's innings was the most tortuous of all, a 40-minute, 22-ball affair that was agonising to watch. Here was a man fighting for his very survival as a Test match player, taunted by the knowledge that his place owed as much to past glories and to his captain's assertion that he is a "good bloke"."
And Simon Briggs in the Guardian: "If England lose the series here, as must now be a distinct possibility, they will at least have a free hand when it comes to picking the side for the Oval. A few orthodoxies may have to be challenged. And the starting point should be to restore Flintoff to his rightful place at No6. Time in the middle has always been the key to the big man's batting: when he first comes back, he seems ungainly and uncoordinated, as if struggling to balance his gargantuan frame. But with a couple of decent innings behind him, his sheer size becomes an advantage. The bat starts to look like a toothpick in his hands, and the stumps seem dauntingly small."
09.00 - Good morning, lovers of leather, devotees of the willow. Welcome to the second day of the third Test between England and South Africa; skies are relatively bright over Edgbaston at the moment, and the forecast suggests we should get another full day's play. Doesn't that just send a shiver of excitment down your spine?
- South Africa