Nasser Hussain's daily dossier: Makhaya Ntini's decline hands Strauss and England an edge

We are only seven days into this series and already it's clear there is very little between the sides.

Sunday was a classic example, because South Africa seemed to gain the momentum with that last-wicket stand between Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini, only for Ntini to bowl a pile of rubbish to Andrew Strauss when England began their reply.

If I had to be in one of the captains' boots now, they would be Strauss's. But only just. 

Makhaya Ntini

Struggling: South African bowler Makhaya Ntini has endured a torrid start to the second Test in Durban

Right now I believe South Africa have more concerns over their bowling line-up than England and the Ntini issue could come back to haunt Graeme Smith. I don't buy all this romance about having the veteran in the side.

I realise there are political considerations in picking the South African team, but Test matches are there to be won, and Strauss must have been grateful Smith didn't open with Morne Morkel, a tall bowler who keeps causing him problems.

The way Strauss punished Ntini reminded me of how England targeted Jason Gillespie - a once fine bowler who was on his last legs - in the 2005 Ashes.

Ntini may come back today and have a blinder, because there are over 100 Test caps worth of experience to draw on. But South Africa will have to think long and hard before they leave Friedel de Wet out of the third Test.

Alistair Cook

Close: Alistair Cook survives an appeal for a catch

Strauss will have been frustrated by South Africa's last-wicket shenanigans, but I can't fault much of what England have done in this game. They have looked vulnerable at times, but only when AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher and Steyn have taken the attack to them. Fair enough.

Sure, an extra bowler would be ideal, as I've stated before, but this is less of an issue at the moment because Graeme Swann keeps taking first-innings wickets.

His performances have been a huge plus for the selectors - especially in a country that has traditionally favoured the quicker bowlers.

But a four-man attack leaves you treading a fine line and I know Strauss would have preferred not to have had to bowl Jonathan Trott on the first day after lunch.

Now England must bat well today and it was good to see one or two confident strokes from Alastair Cook. The thing that will keep Cook in this team is his mental strength. I remember batting in my first Test after resigning the captaincy in 2003 and I was all over the place.

But Cook, whatever his technical flaws, exudes calm at the crease. He's a survivor, a fighter, and I would urge him - if he gets in again this morning - to remember the lean patches and go and get a big one.

The Kingsmead pitch tends to flatten out the longer the game goes on and local knowledge suggests day three may be a good one for the batsmen, especially if the sun, as forecast, comes out.

What this game - and probably this series - will boil down to is whether either side has the firepower to take 20 wickets. England may just have the edge in these conditions, but there's a lot of hard work ahead if they're going to go to Cape Town with an unlikely 1-0 series lead.