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Thursday, 14 January 2010

England shot out for 180 and South Africa survive the rain and floodlights without loss

ANDREW STRAUSS fell to the first ball at The Wanderers this morning and England were shot out for 180 on a disastrous opening day of the “must-draw” final Test in Johannesburg.

South Africa, needing a win to tie the series at 1-1 and retain the Basil D’Oliviera trophy, were 29-0 with openers Graeme Smith(12) and Ashwell Prince (15) surviving 12 overs, a 95-minute rain delay (pictured right) and a bonus late session under floodlights.

When the umpires finally took them off for bad light, Strauss was furious. It was the end of a very, very bad day at the office.

Strauss’s first diamond duck was quickly followed by the loss of Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook as England found themselves 39-4 after 9.4 overs. South Africa’s opening pair, Morne Morkel (3-39) and the world’s top ranked Test bowler Dale Steyn (5-51) were almost unplayable in their opening barrage.

It was left to Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell to restore sanity – they added 76 for the fifth wicket before Collingwood departed for 47 and Bell followed for 35 soon after lunch.

And then the gormless procession resumed. Matt Prior, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom offered little resistance as England – Graeme Swann excepted - caved in. Yes, Sidebottom – a surprise choice to replace Graham Onions before play this morning. Onions, the legendary No11 bat the South Africans never managed to remove. Just another silly decision on a day of poor choices from England.

The most remarkable of the lot? Strauss deciding to bat when he’d won the toss. Did nobody tell him about 1999 when we were shot out for 122 on the opening day and lost by an innings?

There’s one reason this lot might do a tad better. Collingwood. Oh, for 11 Durham Determinators. Described by coach Andy Flower as “Our typical British Bulldog” he is carrying four separate injuries to his shoulder, back, hand and groin. But he celebrated the end of a fascinating first session by slapping Jacques Kallis for six over square leg and calmly walking off for lunch.

It couldn’t last. In the fifth over after lunch Collingwood, looking good for an heroic 50, turned a typical nurdle off his pads into a leading edge to JP Duminy. England were 115-5 and the Bulldog was gone for 47 off 61 balls, McLaren’s first Test victim.

Bell’s two-hour resistance ended when he was bowled by an absolute snorter from Steyn which nipped back and shattered his stumps.

Prior, who admitted earlier this week he was unhappy with his form in the city of his birth, was next. Steyn celebrated with abandon when he touched one to Boucher for 14 off 25 unconvincing balls.

Broad, once an England schools opening bat, produced a couple of nice shots before he went for 13, caught Morkel, bowled by an animated Jacques Kallis. No love lost there. Broad actually got a worse reception that Kevin Pietersen from the locals.

And Broad’s demise was typical of England today, a nothing shot to a nothing ball. While the South Africans are fired up and verbal, England’s batters appeared happy to wander in and out with no apparent fury.

Sidebottom did exactly that, Steyn’s fourth victim, caught behind for a duck off six balls. He waited all this time for the chance to bat in this series, worked so hard in the nets during the first three Tests. Then he nibbled at one outside off just when his country needed him to hang about a bit.

Graeme Swann, competing with Collingwood as England’s man of the series, got stuck in for a run-a-ball 27 before he became Steyn’s fifth victim and Boucher’s third. Innings closed but at least Swanny, the top wicket taker in the series, added 25 with Jimmy Anderson (6).

At 180 all out on a pitch being downgraded from “downright nasty” to “quite lively”, England are in serious trouble, but it could have been ever worse after the opening spell we witnessed this morning. An assault on the senses shared by a crowd of around 8,000 as the press box, packed with former Test stars, went into meltdown.

Steyn got things underway after Strauss – three-out-of-four with the coin on in this series - had won the toss. The England captain’s decision to bat is something he will have to live with for the rest of his career.

There was a hushed silence as Strauss turned the first delivery of the day straight into what the stadium commentator instantly described as “the magic hands of Hashim Amla” at short leg. Great catch, one handed to his right. Uproar.

England’s stunned Barmy Army, who had their traditional chorus of Jerusalem drowned out by the sound system at the “Bull Ring”, were immediately silenced. Strauss had become the 28th person dismissed on the first ball of a Test, a fate which befell the great Sunil Gavaskar three times. Last time this happened to England? Stan Worthington in Brisbane against the Australians in 1936.

The first over ended with England 3-1, nerves still jangling. Morkel’s first over from the other end was equally fiery. His first ball was edged by Trott for four. His second beat the bat completely. The sixth did for him, plumb LBW, England 7-2. A bizarre five-run, eight-ball innings of swishes and hopeful prods. What was Trott thinking?

Pietersen, on seven runs from 16 balls, did what he has been doing all tour. Made a rash decision just as he was beginning to get comfortable. He went for the big pull, didn’t quite make it and Wayne Parnell took a sharp catch at cover. England were 32-3. It was all so fast, the poor bloke, making his debut, even had a quick shy at the stumps after taking the catch.

Pietersen departed spitting and shaking his head. Now boasting a full beard and a rapidly diminishing Test average, the man from Pietermaritzburg looks an unhappy soul.

Alastair Cook, somehow keeping his sanity at the other end as three South Africa-born English batsmen perished, was next, Morkel’s third victim. His LBW decision went for review with the controversial TV umpire Daryl Harper and though it looked like a no-ball, the decision stood. England coach Andy Flower went to the match referee to complain, but by then it was too late. Far too late. Cook was gone for 21 off 31 balls and England were past shock and into intensive care at 39-4.

Labels: , England in Johannesburg, first ball, fourth test decider, , , result pitch, the wanderers

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Second Test: Day five: Tea: South Africa are making a meal of it. England can't lose five wicket in a session, surely?

PAUL COLLINGWOOD (left) and Ian Bell survived a ferocious four-hour assault from South Africa’s bowlers to take England within touching distance of a miraculous draw on the final day of the third Test in Cape Town today.

In front of another huge crowd — the 17,000-capacity Newlands ground was sold out for the first four days and isn’t far short of 15,000 today — the tourists lost nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson (nine) and locally-born Jonathan Trott (42) in the morning session. But Collingwood and Bell, unbeaten on scores of 58 and 34 respectively, survived everything the hosts could throw at them to guide England deep into the final session without further loss.

With time running out, England were 255 for five — 211 behind the hosts with an estimated 23 overs of this absorbing contest to come. They lost seven wickets in the final session in the opening drawn Test in Centurion when the new ball was used, but England clearly learned from that experience.

Their unbroken sixth wicket partnership has so far endured 288 balls and been worth 102 runs – at a modest but irrelevant rate of 1.98 per over.
Defeat here would have squared the series at 1-1 going into next Thursday’s final Test at the Wanderers high-altitude Johannesburg, making South Africa favourites to clinch victory in this fascinating 20-day tug-of-war. As it stands, England will fly inland on Sunday knowing they can’t lose.
England’s so-called chase — they needed 466 runs off 146 overs when South African captain Graeme Smith declared yesterday before tea — was never really on. But with Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook falling after a promising century-strong opening partnership last night and Kevin Pietersen joining them soon afterwards, even the chances of surviving for a draw looked anorexcally slim.
Resuming at their overnight 132 for three, Anderson — out here for his first ever golden duck in the first innings — survived for 45 minutes.
But he fell to the eternally fortunate Paul Harris, the non-spinning spinner, whose awful full toss was kept down by Anderson but it came off the boot and was brilliantly caught by Ashwell Prince, diving one-handed to his right.
Anderson departed for nine, but he’d done his job, batting 52 balls and supporting Trott for an hour to leave England on 153 for four.
Collingwood arrived but almost suffered a quick exit. His first ball from Harris hit something and was snapped up in the slips. The entire South African cordon went up, demanding the departure of England’s most stubborn resistor.
New Zealand umpire Tony Hill gave it out but Collingwood immediately called for a review.
Without hot-spot technology or the snickometer stump microphone, there was no evidence of a touch as the ball went through to hit his hip. The decision went in Collingwood’s favour. Gamesmanship by the hosts? Did they really hear something? Hard to tell.
But in the light of their ball-tampering allegations that apparently orchestrated appeal wasn’t quite what you’d call cricket either.
Seven overs later, the world’s top ranked Test bowler Dale Steyn, now fully recovered from the hamstring injury which forced him out of the drawn First Test in Centurion last month, worked his 90mph magic.
Trott, on 42 from 99 deliveries full of fiddling and marking his crease, saw his off-stump go flying as Steyn produced a touch of nip from the seam and squeezed the ball between bat and pad to leave England tottering on 160 for five.
Bell then joined Collingwood and the pair began the arduous task of trying to steady the England ship surviving a testing period as the hosts reached 179 for five at lunch.
The Durham man, suffering from a bad back all tour and the left index finger he dislocated during the wonderful win in Durban last time out, reached the break scoring a mere eight runs off 51 balls amid echoes of Cardiff and Centurion, where he was integral in carrying his side to safety. At the other end, Bell was almost belligerent scoring 12 off 27 up to lunch to frustrate the South Africans.
Before Christmas, Bell was considered something of a liability. But that superb match-securing 140 in Durban followed by a careful 48 in the first innings here makes him the one of the form batsmen — and with South Africa stuck out in the sun all day, the chances of a courageous draw were growing by the over.
Seamer Friedel de Wet – controversially drafted in to replace Makhaya Ntini, the 101-cap legend of black South Africa — needed an injection in his buttock for a muscle spasm before play and was bowling well below his normal pace.

After lunch, South Africa turned to Morkel for the new ball. He has been head-and-shoulders above the rest of the attack throughout this series and took five in the first innings here. At the other end Steyn, bowling like an express train gave Collingwood a torrid work out.

On another day, with a little more luck, Steyn and Morkel might have blown half a team away. But somehow Colly and Bell survived the crucial 20 overs after the new ball, defying the odds and giving England a real glimmer of hope.

At one point, the pair put on just one run in 24 balls between the 84th and 89th overs and when Collingwood picked up a four off Harris in the 101st over, it was England’s first boundary since Bell’s four off Steyn in the 83rd over – a lean period lasting 108 nerve-jangling balls.

But survive they did, and when Harris came back on in the 95th over, you could almost sense the relief. Steyn and Morkel had been magnificent, Kallis and De Wet less so. But the new ball had failed to produce the wicket South Africa so desperately needed.

In the final session, South Africa turned to twin-pronged spin, with JP Duminy joining Harris and finding some serious turn for the first time. But England’s heroic pairing simply adapted and Bell went to his 50 first, tucking Duminy away for four on the leg side after three hours and 134 balls. What a knock

At that point, with Steyn firing up again from the Wynburg end, Collingwood was on 32 off 156 balls and England were 249-5 with 26 overs to survive.

Labels: drawn first test, epic resistance, , , neal collins at Newlands, , , third Test

Monday, 4 January 2010

Matt finish adds gloss to a tough day for England

THE trusty trio of Matt Prior, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook were left to pick up the pieces today as England struggled for survival under the blazing sun in Cape Town.

After a rip-roaring start with the ball, Andrew Strauss's men, 1-0 up in the four-match series, slumped to 73-4 and 174-6 as first Cook (65), then Bell (48) and finally Prior (52 not out - he reached his fifty off the penultimate ball of the day) urged their ailing team towards the South African total of 291.

By the close of a dramatic second day, England are 241-7, still 50 behind, with Stuart Broad, 25, the last man out.

Graeme Swann, the England spinner who can bat a bit (he's only got five but he got a Test best 85 in Centurion) keeping Bell company against a South African attack showing far more urgency than they managed in the innings defeat in Durban after Christmas.

Bell finally buckled after 121 balls, falling just two runs short of a brave half-century. Essex opener Cook kept his head on an incredible morning when the sound of wickets falling echoed constantly off the dramatic cliffs of neighbouring Table Mountain.

Cook, who scored a much-needed century in Durban, survived the loss of current leader Andrew Strauss, the fiddling Jonathan Trott and the reckless Kevin Pietersen before losing a fourth partner in Paul Collingwood with the score a wobbly 73-4.

But Cookie didn’t crumble and when he was joined by Bell, who also produced a much-needed 140 at Kingsmead, the South African attack hit the wall. Bell needed 14 balls before he scored his first runs – a four off Morne Morkel – and he produced his second scoring shot off his 37th ball. Hardly sparkling stuff.

But they survived a torrid session before tea to frustrate the South Africans, who were skittled for 291 this morning. Cook was finally out – Morkel’s third victim – caught by Ashwell Prince off a weak pull shot after 136 balls and nearly four hours of resistance.

England's chances of building a lead are diminishing rapidly. The South Africans were 127-5 at one stage and rallied around centurion Jacques Kallis. Prior needs to do the same with Swann, Graham Onions and Jimmy Anderson at the other end.

But at least this Test has returned to some sort of sanity. At the start of this dramatic day, the cliffs of neighbouring Table Mountain were echoing to the sound of clattering wickets.

South Africa lost four in the first 17 balls for 12 runs to slump from 279-6 to 291 all out. If all Tests went the way of this morning’s first four overs we’d see all four innings completed by lunch-time on day one with just over 100 runs on the board.

But Jimmy Anderson’s five wicket haul was soon forgotten as captain Strauss fell first over to Morkel for two. Trott stayed for 36 balls before he was bowled by Dale Steyn – the world’s top ranked bowler who doesn’t even open for South Africa any more – for 20. The eternally disappointing Pietersen lasted just two balls before Steyn completed a neat caught-and-bowled duck. The first seven wickets of the day had all belonged to men born in South Africa.

And when Morkel finally got rid of Collingwood, lbw, for 19 off 44 balls, England were in deep trouble at 73-4. Cook showed them how to do it, refusing to nibble outside the off-stump and relying largely on the odd flick around the corner to add to his tally. Just twice in 136 balls he actually played with any force on the off-side, and he had to wait until the arrival of non-spinning Paul Harris to slap two fours and raise the tempo with Bell often becalmed at the other end.

But with the wicket offering little, the South Africans, particularly Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, the world's top ranked Test bowler, never let England get comfortable as Cook, Bell and Broad were winkled out. And that's why England spent all day on the back foot - apart from the first 17 balls.

Tomorrow they're promising further heat, with temperatures rising into the 40s. South Africa may just be in the right place at the right time by lunch tomorrow, and we could head for the final Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on January 14 with the series locked at 1-1.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Cook provides the vital ingredient, Bell left with a ding-dong battle

ALASTAIR COOK proved his match-changing century in Durban was no flash in the pan as he produced another unflashy but vital 65 for England in Cape Town today.

The Essex opener kept his head on an incredible morning when the sound of wickets falling echoed constantly off the dramatic cliffs of neighbouring Table Mountain. With England 1-0 up in the four-match series, the second Test is now back in the balance as we approach the end of a sizzling day two with day three threatening temperatures of over 40 degrees.

Cook, generally regarded as a future England captain, survived the loss of current leader Andrew Strauss, the fiddling Jonathan Trott and the reckless Kevin Pietersen before losing a fourth partner in Paul Collingwood with the score a wobbly 73-4.

But Cookie didn’t crumble and when he was joined by Ian Bell, another centurion in Durban, the South African attack hit the wall. Cook needed 14 balls before he scored his first runs – a four off Morne Morkel – and he produced his second scoring shot off his 37th ball. Hardly sparkling stuff.

But they survived a torrid session before tea to frustrate the South Africans, who were skittled for 291 this morning. Cook was finally out – Morkel’s third victim – caught by Ashwell Prince off a weak pull shot after 136 balls and nearly four hours of resistance.

Bell (38), who had added 60 off 26 overs with Cook for the fifth wicket, was left to lead the resistance with wicketkeeper Matt Prior (6) at 133-5 and they had taken the score on to 154-5 without further loss midway through the final session.

But at least they had returned this Test to some sort of sanity. At the start of day two, South Africa lost four wickets in the first 17 balls for 12 runs to slump from 279-6 to 291 all out. Incredible. If all Tests went the way of this morning’s first four overs we’d see all four innings completed by lunch-time on day one with just over 100 runs on the board.

But Jimmy Anderson’s five wicket haul was soon forgotten as captain Strauss fell first over to Morkel for two. Trott stayed for 36 balls before he was bowled by Dale Steyn – the world’s top ranked bowler who doesn’t even open for South Africa any more – for 20.

The eternally disappointing Pietersen lasted just two balls before Steyn completed a neat caught-and-bowled duck. And when Morkel finally got rid of Collingwood, lbw, for 19 off 44 balls, England were in deep trouble at 73-4.

Cook showed them how to do it, refusing to nibble outside the off-stump and relying largely on the odd flick around the corner to add to his tally.

Just twice in 136 balls he actually played with any force on the off-side, and he had to wait until the arrival of non-spinning Paul Harris to slap two fours and raise the tempo with Bell often becalmed at the other end.

Labels: , collapse, england in cape town, , , newslands

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My worst day: Steyn. My best day in an England shirt: Bell

SOUTH AFRICA'S Dale Steyn sat in the bowels of the Kingsmead Stadium tonight looking slightly shell-shocked and said: "Yes, that has to be the worst day of my cricketing career."
A few minutes later Ian Bell, with 141 to his name plus a sharp catch at short leg, said: "That's got to be one of my best days in an England shirt."
And that sums it up nicely after a sensational day four of the second Test in Durban when England ran up a score of 575-9 declared and then sent South Africa plunging to 76-6, still 156 runs short of making England bat again if they are to save this pulsating second Test.
Steyn did his best to put a positive spin on his nation's terrible demise. He recalled last year's Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, where South Africa were in a similar state, he and JP Duminy produced a great late rally and turned the game around.
Steyn, who got his Test-best 76 that day and a second-best 47 in the first innings here, grinned: "I'll be watching videos of Melbourne tonight. We just have to go out and try to stay there tomorrow. Morne Morkel can bat a bit and Mark Boucher is one of the best wicket-keeper-batsmen in the world.
"But to be honest, the weather is our best chance."
Fair play to the South African, it was a thankless task talking to the media today.
Bell, whose century today was described as "career-saving" by his former Warwickshire county team-mate, said: "Of course Dale's right. I knew I was under the pump. It was very satisfying. Nobody expected things to go as perfectly today as they have."
After Bell's efforts were added to Alastair Cook's century, plus fifties from Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood - who picked up a dislocated left index finger in the warm-up and didn't field - and Matt Prior, the bowlers had the perfect platform.
At 27-0, South African captain Graeme Smith and fellow opener Ashwell Prince looked comfortable enough. Then former Ashes-winner Matthew Hoggard (in his pink shirt, pictured above under Jimmy Saville's flag) joined the Barmy Army. And when England called for Swann's turn in the 10th over, Hoggy joined the Army with a rendition of their old classic: "Never trust a spinner."
Swannie's second ball resulted in a sharp bat-pad catch for Bell and the collapse began.
Half-a-dozen wickets for 23 runs in 12 overs with county team-mates Broad (3-18) and Swann (3-22) tying 'em up in Notts.
Bell said: "Swannie always seems to make things happen. He's proved that again and again on this tour. And when Broadie's bowling like that, with his height, he's very hard to play. They're brilliant together."
Usually reliable Proteas like Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers folded under the pressure, barely offering shots. JP Duminy went first ball, getting an inside edge to Broad as the South Africans quacked up. And then captain Smith fell lbw to Swann, made a desperate request for a review, and departed, head bowed.
Only the resistance of Mark Boucher (20 not out) and Morkel (7) prevented a quick finish... and then the umpires called play off for bad light at 4.22pm local time with 16 overs left in the day. The floodlights had been on since 3.15pm. That's what it's like here, what England have to watch for tomorrow.
The forecast? Partly cloudy, showers in the evening. Bell said: "We'll be fired up for the first ball," but Steyn painted the nightmare scenario for England: "Who knows in cricket? We could get a few runs and it could be England hanging on at 50-5, 50-6 at the end of the day."
Surely not. Four wickets. That's all they need to head off to Cape Town for the New Year Test with a 1-0 lead in the four-match
series. Pray for sunshine.Or as David "Bumble" Lloyd has just twittered: "Call to prayer in Mosque opposite hotel."

Labels: best day, collapse, crisis, , , , neal collins in durban, second Test, worst ever

England fire as South Africa are tied up in Notts... with a little help from Hoggy

MATTHEW HOGGARD did the trick for England today. With a little help from the Barmy Army. Yes Hoggy, the Ashes-winning former Yorkshire paceman, played his part today as Andrew Strauss's mighty men took a stranglehold on the second Test in muggy Durban.
Did I say muggy? England have mugged the mugs on day four, rattling up a mammoth 575-9 declared to take a 231 lead over the hosts, then reducing the South Africans to 76-6. Yes, that's SIX. They still need another 156 to make England bat again. Incredible scenes, amazing stuff.
Half-a-dozen wickets for 23 runs in 12 overs with county team-mates Stuart Broad (3-18) and Graeme Swann (3-22) tying 'em up in Notts
Hoggy, in his pink South African Broadcasting Corporation top, chose the perfect moment to join the Barmy Army, massed in the south corner of the East Stand. South Africa were 27-0 after nine overs and apparently cruising.
While Hoggy stood beneath Vic "Jimmy Saville" Flower's waving Union Jack (see picture above, you can just make him out, I'm no photographer!) the volume rose and rose. First "Jerusalem", then "There's Only One Matthew Hoggard". Then, as England turned to Graeme Swann, they began a chorus of "Never Trust A Spinner", with Hoggy, the subject of a thousand flashing cameras and Test Match Special, in full voice.
And lo, it came to pass on Swann's second ball of the day Ashwell Prince failed to deal with the turn, getting an inside edge on to his pad which was brilliantly picked up by Ian Bell, back in his favourite position at short leg. Bell, who scored a magnificent 141 to give England the impetus today, went potty. Some catch. Some bloke.
Suddenly South Africa, who had been cruising, were vulnerable. Hoggy had worked the magic.
And it only got better. Hashim Amla, the local hero who refuses to profit from his side's brewery sponsors because of his Muslim roots, went just before tea, bowled by the magnificent Swann for 6. Two failures on his home ground. Unthinkable for Amla, whose century turned the drawn first Test South Africa's way in Centurion.
With Jacques Kallis joining captain Graeme Smith, South Africa were firmly up against the wall. But these were their two go-to guys, the old warhorses. Stubborn, reliable. And then came the ball of the day. Stuart Broad, in from the Umgeni end, got the ball to nip back a veritable mile off the seam and Kallis's off-stump flew out of the ground. The poor bloke didn't even get to play a shot. Did it happen because the tide was in? Locals say it helps. And it was high tide at 1.40pm.
What a moment though, what a turning of the tide. The Barmy Army lapped it up. South Africa were 40-3 and sinking fast.
AB De Villiers was next, he got out twice. First he survived on review after touching Swann to Prior - the replay showed deviation though apparently not conclusively - but an over later he was gone for good after a second review, LBW to Broad.
That left South Africa 44-4. Broad had his tail up. Kaboom! The once prolific JP Duminy came, saw and was conquered in a single ball, clean bowled for a golden duck. Another one to go without playing a shot. These South Africans are quacking up!
Then, the big one. Captain Smith goes down with his ship. Swann got one through, rapped the pads plumb in front and though he waited for a desperate review, he knew... and was gone for 22 off 56 balls.
With South Africa 50-6 and the floodlights on, the stereo-typical last gasp resistance came from Mark Boucher, impressive throughout this series, and Morne Morkel, South Africa's best bowler in both Tests so far.
At 76-6 with 16 overs still to come, the umpires, those lords of darkness, decided it was too dark to continue at 22 minutes past four in the afternoon. Shocking!
But with a day to play and "partly cloudy, little chance of rain" the forecast for Durban tomorrow, surely this can only end one way - and England will go to Cape Town for the New Year Test 1-0 up in the series.

Labels: collapse, , , , , hashim amla, , incredible, , matthew hoggard, neal collins in durban,

South Africa can't live with England, Living with the Lions is more comfortable!

ENGLAND have declared for 575-9 just after lunch on day four of the second Test in Durban and the South Africans trail by nearly 231 with Ian Bell just out for a magnificent 141.
The hosts will have to bat a day-and-a-half to save this Test, the tide's coming in, the clouds are low and anything could happen - apart from England losing. Brilliant, despite Paul Collingwood dislocating a finger during the warm-up this morning. The good news? It's not fractured. The bad news, his back's still bad too.
But this game is all about Alastair Cook and Bell - both desperate for a bit of form - joining the centurions on the honours board here at Kingsmead. Since the Apartheid isolation from1970-1992, the board shows Nasser Hussain, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss from 1999 and 2004.
To that, add the gritty Cook and ding-dong Bell. In the margins, remember the fifty-plus contributions of Strauss, Collingwood and Prior, who went for 60 this morning. The wicket-keeper batsman is back.
After missing out on a win by one wicket in the first clash at Centurion, Graeme Smith's men could yet find themselves 1-0 down when we get to Cape Town for the New Year Test at Newlands next week. We can but hope. The cloud is back and the light could shorten the day, even if they put the floodlights on, given the way the dark lords of umpiring have behaved so far at Kingsmead.
But before we get into all that, let me introduce my party of tourists from Living With The Lions. Hardy souls, able to sit through hour after hour of tedium and appreciate the subtleties over five days. And good company over an evening meal here in Durban too.
From the left, Colin from York, who still plays for his local club with his son, Fred the umpire and wife Sylvia who makes the big decisions, Mike and Mary, who know everything about Somerset, Claire, who always wants a burger even in the finest restaurants, and husband Mark, who constantly advises me to wear long trousers. What's wrong with my knees?
Then we've got big Brett Lingley, our superb tour leader from Living With The Lions who grew up around here, followed by the Burnley foursome, Andy, wife Allison and the boys, who all insist on supporting the Premier League nonentities. At the front? That's me. Pratt. Oh, Mary and Roger had gone for lunch. Sorry!

Labels: , , century, , , , , living with the lions, new year test, second Test,

Second Test: Day Four: Bell's belter, Colly's folly and Broad's bore

IAN BELL joined Alastair Cook on the Kingsmead honours board today, the second England batsman to produce a selection-enhancing century at the second Test in Durban.
While Cook's 118 was a gritty 263-ball, nearly six-hour crusade yesterday, Bell's ton was a far more fluent affair, needed 172 balls to carve the weary South African attack apart.
He went to three figures for the ninth time in his Test career by waltzing down the track and slapping Harris back over his head for four.
But as England dominate, there is bad news too. Paul Collingwood, who added a magnificent 91 yesterday to his first Test scores of 50 and 26 not out, has just returned from a scan which revealed no fracture.
He dislocated his left index finger this morning while warming-up - the man who took a record-equalling four slip catches in the first innings of the drawn Centurion Test always puts himself through a tough pre-play session - and was taken off in some pain.
Fortunately, Bell, with help from Matt Prior (60 off 81 balls, they put on 112 together for the sixth wicket) has ensured Collingwood won't have to bat again in this Test.
Collingwood was also spotted with an ice-pack on his shoulder, suggesting the back problems that nagged him during the triumphant one-day series triumph earlier in the tour are not dealt with.
That might explain why he bowled just one over in South Africa's first innings 343, with part-timers Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen called up to help the front-line bowlers ahead of the Durham man.
Already Luke Wright is being suggested as the obvious replacement for the New Year Test in Cape Town next week - but with Collingwood averaging 83.5 in this series and the best fielder out there even with one hand and a bad back, captain Andrew Strauss will be relieved there is no fracture. We await further developments.
With lunch still half-an-hour away, England moved things on to 500-6 this morning, extending their lead to beyond 150 and with high tide due at 1.40pm (it affects the pitch and the swing apparently) the afternoon might have been interesting. But Stuart Broad (x off xx balls) put down anchor and England simply lost the initiative. Quite why the Notts man decided to bat like a barnacle (the politest verdict I can conjure) nobody's sure. Bloody ridiculous is another way of looking at it. 11 runs in eight overs before lunch at 513-6. Ludicrous.
The clouds are back for day four but the gateman told me: "It won't rain, I have a direct line to God." Who am I to argue... but it's the light which could prevent a result here. The floodlights were on all day on Monday, they could be on again soon here.

Labels: century, dislocated finger, , , , injury, , , second Test, x-rays

Day four: the dislocated finger: Bell belter, Colly folly

BEFORE I'd even grabbed my first can of grapetiser (it's all the rage here) in the press box this morning, the bad news arrived before the start of day four at Kingsmead.
England's experienced team media manager Andrew Walpole was on the phone. The words "dislocation" and "x-ray" were clear. And soon it was official. Paul Collingwood (pictured), England's most consistent batsman in this series, disclocated his left index finger during the warm-up this morning. He is off to hospital for x-rays. Terrible news.
Collingwood, who puts himself through perhaps the toughest slip-catching regime of all (he took a record-equalling four catches in the ring during the first Test), injured the digit and was in obviousy pain and he went off for treatment.
On top of that, he was having ice treatment on his neck, a legacy of the back problems he suffered during the triumphant one-day series earlier in the tour. That might explain why Andrew Strauss is turning to Jonathan Trott ahead of Colly when he needs a trundler here. He's even used Kevin Pietersen to give Collingwood a breathing space.
The Durham man only bowled one over in the first innings and already there are suggestions Luke Wright could be needed for the New Year Test in Cape Town next week.
Collingwood, with scores of 50 and 26 not out in Centurion, scored another monumental 91 yesterday... I leave you to work out his average so far (erm 83.5?).
Along with Alastair Cook (118) and Ian Bell (55 not out overnight), the Durham super sportsman (he's pretty good at golf and most other manly past-times) helped propel England past South Africa's first innings score of 343 on day three.
Starting this morning on 386-5, England have moved to 457-5 this morning, extending their overnight lead of 43 to 114. Bell, who looked so confident yesterday despite his failures in Centurion, is now in the nervous 90s but still looking remarkably fluent with Prior going to a much-needed 50 with a swept six. If he gets there, everyone except Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott will have added at least a half-century. That's erm... all the most English England players!
After yesterday's 10,000 crowd (we've had 17,000 on Boxing Day, 7,000 on Sunday), we're back down to a sparse sprinkling this morning and the clouds are back. Expect the floodlights to come on at any minute - they were on all day on Sunday.
But the gateman, when I asked him if it was going to rain, replied confidently: "No. I have as direct line to God."
I won't question that sort of authority. But it's the bad light that worries me. We could be off by 3.15pm the way things are with this umpires and their light meters.
More news on Colly when it arrives. He's a tough northern type. I bet he'd bat with one hand and a bad back.

Labels: , andrew walpole, dislocated finger, , , , neal collins at kingsmead, , x-ray

Monday, 28 December 2009

England's unsung heroes... and why Durban should host a future Olympics

TODAY was the day for England's unsung heroes. The men who quietly serve while Kevin Pietersen. our only truly world-class batsman, preens.
Take a bow Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell. Thanks to you England are 386-5, 43 ahead with half their wickets in hand going into day four of the Second Test in a balmy, Barmy Army-dominated Kingsmead.
Cook (118) and Bell (55 not out) needed the runs. Collingwood (91) just keeps coming up with the goods.
While an impressive-looking Pietersen came and went much too quickly on his old home ground, England's Three Musketeers dominated the third day in sunny Durban, leaving South Africa frustrated and flustered.
The world's best bowler, Dale Steyn, normally takes a wicket every six or seven overs. Not today. Not with Cook, Collingwood and Bell in this mood. He's bowled 26 sweaty overs without success. One for all and all for none might be dangerous Dale's creed.
After the initial departure of the world's most annoying batsman Jonathan Trott - no tears there as he scratches and delays at the crease - KP was out to the very ordinary spinner Paul Harris trying to sweep a straight one on 31. So straight, England didn't even bother to ask for a review. Like Trott and Bell in the drawn first Test in Centurion, perhaps he was expecting Harris to turn one. He rarely does.
The Cook recipe never includes such extravagances as sweeps and paddles. His ingredients amount to the basics. Grit, resolve, determination, with just the odd boundary thrown in.
It wasn't pretty to watch but after 218 balls, the roar finally went up. With an equally gritty Collingwood at the other end, these two pushed England gradually - too gradually for some - from 155 to 297 for the fourth wicket with a review or two their only threat.
And if South Africa's last pair, Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini, hadn't added 58 runs to push their total on to 343, England would been just about past them at tea with seven wickets to spare and a result on the cards.
As it is, knowing the light and tropical storms around these parts, this one's headed for a draw unless the pitch turns suddenly demonic.
There were fallow periods. At the end of day two, Cook had scored 8 out of 58 when captain Andrew Strauss raced past 50 and fell to the excellent Morne Morkel.
This morning, he scored just one run off his first 37 balls. But this is Test cricket. And England are starting to look the better side at the longest form of the game, having already won the One-Day series here. Not bad on foreign soil, in vastly changeable conditions.
And what of Collingwood, who, like Cook, averages around 43 in Test cricket? After his two superb knocks in Centurion, he was eventually out for 91 off 215 balls. The man is a mountain, impossible to shift, averaging over 80 in the series so far.
And then there's Bell. So nervous at Centurion, but looking great today, justifying the selectors' decision not to drop him for Ryan Sidebottom or Luke Wright. He got on with it, tearing into the weary South Africans after Cook went and crashing Harris for a masterful six. Neat and stylish, he ended the day on 55 not out off a more brisk 84 balls with Matt Prior, who could also do with some runs, on 11 not out at the other end. Great stuff.
But Cook will be the story in the morning papers. He was 25 on Christmas Day and became the youngest ever England player to pass 50 caps this week. Ten tons in 50 outings ain't bad. Once more, he looks the man born to captain, the lead when the going gets tough.
Truth is, I missed most of Cook's determined innings, went off to see the new Moses Madhiba World Cup stadium (above) about a mile away from Kingsmead, next to the impressive old King's Park rugby stadium.
There were long queues for the cable car which sails over the arch - why didn't Wembley think of that? - and plenty of people taking the stadium tour. Pity England aren't playing here... though they could face a World Cup quarter-final in Durban if they don't win Group C.
Durban would make a perfect Olympic Venue. Kingsmead (25,000), King's Park (55,000) and the Moses Madhiba (60,000) are all within a mile of eachother, centred around the fairly new railway station. There is also a small athletics stadium, a old velodrome and indoor and outdoor swimming stadiums, plus two fabulous golf courses, one inside the magnificent Greyville racecourse. All within spitting distance of eachother.
The regatta could take place just over the road, with the beach volleyball on North Beach, where they are building a walkway to the football stadium 400m away.
Incredible. And in winter - June/July - the climate here is perfect. Warm enough to swim in the sea but not so hot you need sunscreen.
Worth considering, especially with the new Airport at La Mercy opening early in March. Then they'll have two international airports, one each end of this tropical city, where monkeys still leap from the roadside trees.
Miles of beaches and huge hotels, game parks and waterfalls all around. The local Zulus always have a smile and provide superb service, the huge local Asian population help make the commerce zing. The new Ushaka development has transformed the rough end of Durban around the docks at Point Road. I could go on...
Olympic paradise. Trust me.

At that juncture of the east and south stands at Kingsmead, the Barmy Army are dominating the sparse South African platoons... Jimmy Saville - real name Vic Flower - apparently fully recovered from the Boxing Day assault mentioned here yesterday. The Natal Mercury, the local morning paper I worked for from 1980 to 1983 - were on the phone three times yesterday about the story and ran it on their front page today.

Who needs newspapers when you've got my blog! That said, I'm off to the pool. It's hot!

Labels: , , , , , king's park, , moses madhibe stadium, olympic venue, , Paul Collingwood umpire

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Flower backs Bell after clangers

ENGLAND cricket coach Andy Flower has defended Ian Bell in the face of mounting calls for the Warwickshire man to be replaced by seamer Ryan Sidebottom or all-rounder Luke Wright for the Boxing Day Test in steamy Durban on Saturday.
Bell (right) had a dreadful time in the first Test, failing to offer a shot when he was clean bowled for five in the first innings in Centurion, and he offered little bit in the way of resistance in the vital second innings, edging behind on two as England held out for a tantalising draw with one wicket to spare.

Bob Willis has described Bell as "the new Mark Ramprakash" and said his Test future is in danger. The former England paceman, now a Sky analyst, wants England to include Sidebottom in a five-bowler selection for the second Test arguing "we will need an extra bowler in Durban, where it will be extremely humid at this time or year".

But Cape Town-born Flower, the 41-year-old Zimbabwean, insisted at England's plush hotel in Umhlanga today: "He's a high quality player, and we're backing him. I think he'll be fine. Belly got some runs in the pre-tour games, and I think he's feeling quite confident about the way he's playing."

Recalling Bell's 72 against Australia in the final Ashes-clinching Test last summer, Flower said: "He's just had a tough Test match.He made a misjudgment in the first innings and then got 'nicked off' in the second."

Flower admitted to chronic relief after Graham Onions and Paul Collingwood stood resolute as South Africa desperately sought the final wicket. He said: "Of course, we're relieved - after losing those seven wickets to the last new ball - to get out of it with a draw. But it was a superb Test match and a great advert for the game.

"We always knew that second new ball was going to be a very tough period.

"We obviously didn't think we'd lose that many wickets that quickly - but we did well to fight back and hang on in the end."

Labels: andy flower, boxing day test, , drawn first test, , , , ryan sidebottom

For whom the Bell tolls in Durban at Christmas

ENGLAND arrived at their luxurious new base at the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks ready to make waves in a buoyant dressing room by axing Ian Bell for seamer Ryan Sidebottom.

As the Indian Ocean crashes onto the beach outside in surf sometimes six feet high, the tide of opinion seems to be running firmly against their No6 batsman Bell as the Boxing Day Test 10 miles along the coast at Kingsmead in Durban looms on Saturday.

England held on for a riveting draw in Centurion with Bell shouldering arms to a straight on in the first innings on five and providing little in the way of resistance in the crucial second knock (2 off 17 balls).

Former England paceman Bob Willis said: "I think Bell’s Test career is in danger. The problem with Ian is, he has now played 50 Test matches and he's still not a permanent fixture in that England side.

"He's very quickly going into the sort of Mark Ramprakash column as a guy with all the talent but not the temperament for the big time. I think there's a big question mark against him."

And with Graeme Swann top-scoring with 85 in Centurion at No9 in the order, Sky commentator Willis prefers the five-bowler option, which many argued should have been used at Centurion, where Bell was preferred to Ryan Sidebottom, who took five wickets in the final pre-Test warm-up in East London. He said: "I think the selectors will think they'll need another bowler at Durban. It's very, very humid down there this time of year - and the bowlers looked exhausted at times at Centurion. I do think England will go down the five-bowler route.

“But six batsmen, including Matt Prior, should be able to score enough runs because Stuart Broad and Swann are getting runs down the order and we've seen Jimmy Anderson and Graham Onions are no rabbits with the bat now and Ryan Sidebottom has played some really important Test innings as well.

"We really do need to go with an extra bowler and I think they will make a change. I think they will bring somebody in for Bell. They may experiment with all-rounder Luke Wright; he's obviously a better batsman that Sidebottom but he's pretty unreliable as a bowler and you'd expect him to go for four runs an over.

"They may well go that way to bolster the batting, but my own choice would be to go for Sidebottom."

England will be cheered by the fact South African captain Graeme Smith – who said after the draw “I was a bit surprised with the fist-pumping and stuff like that from England, maybe it was a bit much” – has fallen out of the world’s top 10 batsmen for the first time in 16 months. He managed a duck and 12 in Centurion. Smith is now 11th, but has been replaced by Centurion centurion Jacques Kallis in the top ten. England’s highest ranked batsman is Kevin Pietersen, whose 81 on Sunday moved him up to 13th.

Collingwood is 29th, Jonathan Trott, with just two Tests under his belt, is 49th. In the bowling rankings, Nottinghamshire pair Graeme Swann (11th) and Stuart Broad (13th) feature in their best ever positions for England with Lancashire’s James Anderson slotting in at 12. South Africa’s injured Dale Steyn still heads the list of the world’s top bowlers and but may not be fit for Kingsmead on Saturday.

Steyn said: "I've got until Wednesday to get my hamstring ready. I think we will make an early decision this time on whether I will play, rather than wait until the morning of the game. That puts other players under stress and basically throws the guys into the ocean.

"I'm hopeful. I was very keen to play at Centurion and having a few more days off has given me extra time to get it right, so I don't see any reason why I shouldn't be ready for Boxing Day.

"I just want to make sure it's 100 percent because we have a lot of cricket to play, not just against England but also a tour to India, and hamstrings can be quite a difficult area to sort out. Just when you think you've got it right, it hits you again and slows you down. We are hoping that everything will be right for Durban, that's the goal, and we've been working really hard on it.."

Labels: boxing day test, , , , , exciting draw, , , ryan sidebottom

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Closing overs, Day Five: Why the Trott/KP partnership hurt so much for South Africa

STRANGE isn’t it? Two men playing against the country of their birth are so determined to resist in front of their former compatriots. And the two Englishmen we saw early today, James Anderson and Alastair Cook, produced a couple of airy-fairy shots to go and sit comfortably in the shade of the dressing-room while the heat is on.

At tea Jonathan Trott (53 off 148 balls) and Kevin Pietersen (80 off 136) had pushed England from 27-3 to 169-3, an unbroken partnership of 142. Safety looms, though Pietersen ran himself out for 81 an over after the second interval and Trott was brilliantly caught by, one-handed by AB De Villiers at first slip off Friedel De Wet for 61 - and went of nursing a bruised thumb from a superb, rising delivery, the 212th Trott received.

That leaves two lilly-white Englishmen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, who left a straight one in the first innings, to see out the last 13 overs of the fifth day to ensure a drawn first Test with the score 209-5.

But what British stiff-upper-lip Trott and Pietersen displayed! What true English blitz spirit! And of course, they're both South African reared.

Nightwatchman Anderson, judging by his twitter this morning, was more intent on getting back to find a television by lunch-time. He said: “Huge day today. Wolves v Burnley 1.30pm.”

After Andrew Strauss’s departure last night, Anderson and Cook were out in the first hour with just 27 on the board, 336 still needed. All looked lost, a growing Sunday crowd were having their time in the sun. Then Cape Town-born Trott got his head down and was joined by Pietermaritzburg-born Kevin Pietersen and the resistance grew. And grew.

As I wandered around this magnificent ground, all grass banks, paddling pools and beer, the South Africans were getting remarkably uptight. About 10,000 of them have disturbed their traditional pre-Christmas Sunday braai (or barbecue) to witness England, the old enemy around these parts, crushed.

Instead they were forced to witness two of their own, batting proudly for queen and country, soaking up the pressure and pushing England towards a draw. In their charming double-storey executive boxes, which look like Victorian houses, and on their picnic blankets, I recognise the words from the bearded men as they see yet another appeal turned down. Bitter words. Angry phrases from a near-forgotten childhood.

It’s not hard to understand their discomfort. The Afrikaans curses shouted loudly across the ground are understandable. In short: Centurion, once known as Verwoerdburg, lies next to Pretoria, the heart of Afrikanerdom. They were never too keen on the “rooineks” (red necks) here. Not since we built a concentration camp in nearby Irene, about a mile away, during the Boer War 110 years ago and left the local populace in small-pox infected misery. Okay, it's ancient history to most, but the vast graveyard and memorial, next to Irene Primary School, is barely a six-hit away. It holds the graves of the 1,149 mostly women and children who died there.

So this is no fun for the folks gathered here, large people, large appetites, large opinions. And not all of them modern, democratic thinkers. Things have changed, the nation is rainbow-coloured, but the last thing they need is for two turncoats from the coastal regions to push this game beyond South Africa’s reach. I’m amazed they’ve been so gentle on this pair, considering.

The South Africans on the field are little happier. Even Jacques Kallis, supposedly not allowed to bowl because of the rib he fractured in October, demanded a go at this pair. And he got nowhere. At tea he had figures of 3-1-5-0. And the misery goes on for the locals.

Early on, things were unpleasant for England and their tiny Barmy Army after the first overnight rain of this sun-soaked Test. The ball was flying around, it was pleasantly cool for the fielding side. But Anderson, who gloved Friedel de Wet to Mark Boucher 13 balls into day five, produced an avoidable dismissal.

The gormless Cook followed soon afterwards, caught by South African captain Graeme Smith at gully off Paul Harris. What is the point of Cook? He's earmarked to captain the side in Bangladesh on their next tour but hasn't got to 50 since Lord's against the Australians. He looks good, sounds good... but he's no Test opener at the moment. He looked terrified coming out to bat last night.

The irrepressible Graeme Swann, whose five wickets and Test-best 85 carried his side through the first three days of this Test, twittered a more positive: “Three things I want to see today. Jimmy get a fifty, Cookie a hundred and the Toon smash the Smoggies.”

Only the last of those is now a realistic option. For our foreign readers the words “Toon smash the Smoggies” constitute a Geordie phrase roughly equivalent to “the once-great Newcastle beat never-great Middlesbrough in the second tier of English football which nobody cares about”.

Of far more importance to lovers of real football was Arsenal’s 3-0 win over those niggling, nasty men from the fires of Hull. It closes the gap on Manchester United – smashed by Fulham, 3-0 (yes, that's 3-0) – and extends the lead over Liverpool – beaten 2-0 by bottom club Portsmouth (yes, that's 2-0).

Which just leaves Chelsea to lose to West Ham today, just after this absorbing Test draws to a close this afternoon. And yes, it’s all true. Mark Hughes is gone despite yesterday’s goal-happy 4-3 win over Sunderland which left Manchester City handily placed in sixth. His replacement? Roberto Mancini. So that means City are are in trouble.

And is my precious book, A GAME APART. It was published two days ago. Sales have reached a feverish 14 in two days despite emails to all my mates, constant blogging and attempts to bring people into my web-site with pathetic twittering. My wife threatens to cut people's hair badly in her salon if they won't buy.

But it isn't working. Please help. Behind me, the Johannesburg Star's Kevin McCallum sold 40,000 copies of his sports trivia book. I need 39,986 of you to help. It's the book you must read before the World Cup. If you want. It's not expensive. My wife liked it. Just go to

Labels: , first test, friedel de wet, , , jimmy anderson, , , master plan, ,

Friday, 18 December 2009

Broad fury as he falls to the electronic finger

STUART BROAD’S brave resistance was ended by Hawkeye at Centurion today as the controversial Umpire Decision Referral System left England reeling once more.

Umpire Aleem Dar gave the Nottinghamshire paceman not out when he was rapped on the pads by the innocuous slow bowling of JP Duminy with England teetering on 242-7.

The South Africans had a chat and 34 seconds later, they decided to appeal – and despite the ball appearing to pitch outside the line of off-stump, Broad was given the electronic finger. Furious, he appealed to the umpires but high in the stands, it was television official Amiesh Saheba who needed a talking to.

And Broad did exactly that – we’ve just seen him walking out of the television replay room here. His dad Chris, of course, is a well-known match referee and former Test opener. Broad jnr apparently feels the South Africans had been given a signal from the dressing-room, which is against the rules.

By then, England’s hopes of reaching parity with South Africa were all but over. At 281-8 with Graeme Swann (a startlingly confident 29) and Jimmy Anderson (a nearly as good 18) battling on, they are still 141runs behind thanks to a very average spinner and aided by the suicidal efforts of Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

There were snorts of derision when Bell left a straight one from Paul Harris, assuming he might actually turn the ball. It just went straight on and bowled him. Harris has 4-90. And he’s more Phil Tufnell than Muttiah Muralitharan, this fellow.

The once-docile first Test pitch, which allowed the home side to plod along to 418, has given way to a day-three demon which claimed captain Andrew Strauss just seven overs into the morning session, having added just two runs to his impressive overnight 44.

It was drinks all round as Makhaya Ntini, on his 100th appearance, got one to zip through low beneath Strauss’s desperate defence to rattle the furniture. Sponsors Castle lager are offering a free beer to everyone in the ground when Ntini takes a wicket. The Barmy Army were first in the queue, despite their chronic disappointment.

Suddenly the ease with which Strauss and Trott added 63 in 17 overs last night was forgotten. Ntini ran to sun-soaked fans, arms raised. His 389th wicket puts him one closer to Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 Test victims. Not a bad morning for South Africa’s first black cricketer, who had earlier received a congratulatory letter from Nelson Mandela, the former President who brought peace to this nation and added colour to their sports teams in 1993.

Following Johannesburg-born Strauss’s departure, Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen came out to join Cape Town-born Trott. The only non-South African on the field? Harris, born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, now known as Harare, Zimbabwe.

Pietersen got a remarkably gentle welcome from the Centurion fans. The lack of boos was probably down to the free-flowing booze being handed out to the gathering of about 5,000.

Trott and Pietersen did their best to handle the conditions, surviving the odd shooter but looking distinctly uncomfortable until the arrival of the very ordinary spinner Harris.

Then Trott made the mistake of thinking Harris could turn the ball. He charged down the pitch, took a huge heave allowing for spin... and the ball simply kept dead straight and caught the top of his leg stump.

Just as Pietersen was getting into his stride. Morkel got one to nip, got an inside edge... and Pietersen was bowled for 40.

Worse was to follow. Ian Bell, who should have made way for all-rounder Luke Wright or seamer Ryan Sidebottom here, chose to shoulder arms to. Once more he must have assumed Harris actually turns the ball. It didn’t deviate, it just went straight on into the stumps. Incredible.

Harris must have thought Christmas had come early when, after facing 34 balls and scoring four runs, Matt Prior finally decided to have a go and popped one into the hands of Friedel de Wet.

And Harris’s tally went to four when, an over later, he actually turned one and Jacques Kallis took the catch at first slip to dismiss Paul Collingwood (above) for a fine 50 off 87 balls as England slumped to 221-7.

The review system put paid to Stuart Broad’s resistance. Despite the ball pitching outside off-stump, he went for 17 and JP Duminy, another average spinner, had his first wicket. It’s painful to watch. But Swann and Anderson were soon showing the so-called batsmen how to go about it, plundering late runs and closing the gap as day three drifted to a sweaty close.

Labels: argument, , , , Paul Collingwood umpire,