SEAMER Graham Onions has warned his England team-mates there is plenty of hard work left to do after the tourists battled back to leave the first Test with South Africa delicately poised at a sun-drenched Centurion.
The Durham paceman recovered from a calf strain on the opening day to take 3-86 as he and five-wicket hero Graeme Swann helped dismiss the Proteas for 418.
Captain Andrew Strauss then hit an unbeaten 44 to help leave the tourists in good shape at 88-1 at the close.
“As a unit we’ve done some really good things,” Onions said. “Maybe we didn’t expect it to turn as much so early but Graeme Swann was brilliant. There’s a lot of people talking about the draw already and we’re only two days down. That’s definitely not in our thoughts. We’ve still got three hard days to go.
“We know that being out there for two days it’s tough to bowl on but nice to bat on. There’s still a lot of hard work to be done.”
Onions was also full of praise for captain Strauss and No3 Jonathan Trott, who batted out an awkward session to leave England very much in the hunt.
“That could have quite easily been a tricky session,” Onions added. “With those overs to face, we could have been four down – and then you’re thinking ‘which way is the game going to go?’
“But we batted really well – and we’ve got a great opportunity to bat the whole day tomorrow.”
England didn’t have to wait long to make the crucial early breakthrough – ending the 124-run stand between centurion Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy when Kallis edged a James Anderson delivery to Paul Collingwood at slip, adding just eight to his overnight 112.
With the 124-run stand at an end, Duminy began to toil, leaving Mark Boucher to take over the mantle as aggressor. Indeed, it was no surprise when Duminy soon fell for 56, feeding Collingwood with a fourth catch of the innings from a Swann off-break, before Boucher also succumbed, finding Alastair Cook at short-leg just one short of a deserved half-century.
Onions then added the crucial wicket of Paul Harris for 38 after already having seen off Morne Morkel, leaving Swann to complete the third five-for of his fledgling Test career at the expense of debutant Friedel de Wet, who added a vital 20.
Strauss and Cook took the brunt of an aggressive opening spell from de Wet and Makhaya Ntini – playing in his 100th Test – before Cook eventually succumbed, feathering an edge from de Wet to a grateful Boucher behind the stumps.
But Strauss stepped up the chase with an impressive knock, enjoying an unbeaten 50 stand with Trott (18no) to set up a fascinating third day.