England fought hard to show they can find an ex-KP factor against South Africa here as they continued their gut-busting efforts to cling on to their status as the best Test side on earth.
Their trial separation from Kevin Pietersen apparently a day or two closer to becoming a divorce, England approached the final Test of the Investec series to decide the Heavyweight Championship of cricket fully aware of the risks involved in dropping one of the best attacking batsmen in the world.
The wonderful 149 which the 32-year-old scored against the nation of his birth at Headingley two weeks ago highlighted that.
No matter what Pietersen’s advisers may plan next, the England team and management appear determined to face the future without him in all forms of the game.
Yet Andrew Strauss, Andy Flower and their players arrived here knowing what they could really do to persuade everyone such a hard-line approach was justified was to win, pure and simple.
Late in the evening, the game swung a notch or two back in their favour with the controversial dismissal of Jacques Kallis at 131-3, lbw to Steve Finn when Hotspot failed to support the batsman’s assertion that he had hit the ball.
To win, England will need skill, courage and more of the same luck against a South Africa team worthy of challenging for top spot. In truth, they are just a bit better than England right now.
But the fact that, after the trauma, tension and supposed treachery of the past fraughtnight, England will arrive at Lord’s still in with a shout shows they may yet achieve the aim of Strauss and Flower to show it is possible to replace the potential of one outstanding individual to turn a game with the collective strength that means one outstanding individual doesn’t have to.
With Pietersen about to resume his batting for Surrey against Hampshire, how England must crave the breathing space such a victory would allow.