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A Game Apart

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A Game Apart


London Evening Standard



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Oakwood Estates

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

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

England need 334. South Africa need seven wickets. 1-1 here we come...

SOME Test this. England need 334 off the final 90 overs tomorrow, South Africa need seven wickets. I was in the middle of the South African fans when Kevin Pietersen got given lbw with England on 112-2 chasing an improbable 466 as day four drew to a close at red-hot Newlands.

Umpire Daryl Harper hesitated, gave it... and the much-booed Pietersen immediately called for a review, indicating he’d hit it. Actually he’d smashed it on to his pads. Not out on review, a massive cheer from the Barmy Army, torrents of abuse around me from the locals. This is real cricket. Not your pathetic thrash-and-bash stuff. Five days of sustained tension in extreme heat amid intense beer drinking.

There was no time to relax when, just 17 runs later, Dale Steyn rapped the pads, up went the finger and out went Pietersen for a disappointing six to add to his first innings duckulence. A massive moment in this super showdown, where England are 1-0 up and fighting for their lives in front of a fourth successive sell-out crowd in Cape Town.

The tourists made a sparkling start in the chase for 466 – but never forget, that's a hundred more than anybody has ever made in a fourth innings at Newlands.

Talk of a miracle was simmering among the slowly-baking Barmy Army as England reached the century without loss after 35 overs but then openers Alastair Cook (55 off 116 balls before he skied Friedel De Wet into the welcoming gloves of Mark Boucher) and captain Andrew Strauss (45 off 107, he prodded Paul Harris on to a pad and straight to Hashim Amla) departed in quick succession.

Shortly after tea, Cook – usually so cautious – slapped spinner Harris high over the head of De Wet in the deep, much to the chagrin of the wicket-hungry locals.

And at the other end, Strauss on 25 eased a four safely through the slips off the mighty Morne Morkel, then crashed the hapless Harris to the fence to move England into the 70s. They were definitely not putting safety first as they galloped along at three an over - and the required rate for victory is a modest 3.2.

At 107-2 we saw Cape Town-born Jonathan Trott joined by Pietermtzburg-born Pietersen and we were in the familiar position of having only one foreigner in action –Harris, born in Harare, Zimbabwe.

The multi-national batsmen, so contrasting in styles, ground their way through several mini-crises before Pietersen was trapped on 129 in the 48th over. And now we have nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson, subjected to his first ever golden duck on day three, in with the fiddling, frustrating Trott, who has 24 off 46 balls.

Tomorrow they need 334 or 90 overs of pure defiance . Sunburnt English tourists are hoping for a draw, dreaming of a win. Stranger things have happened. Just ask the Australians after this morning’s epic 37-run win over Pakistan.

When Graeme Smith made his slightly sporting declaration 40 minutes after lunch with South Africa on 447-7, England strode purposefully to the pavilion to prepare for four-and-a-half sessions of resistance with Jimmy Anderson’s eighth wicket of this Test quickly forgotten.

Matt Prior actually ran from the dressing room to the nets to practice his batting - and that after spending a day-and-half wearing voluminous padding and two pairs of gloves in temperatures approaching 40 degrees. This England outfit doesn’t shirk hard work.

The general consensus was that Smith had been generous. He could have batted on until tea. Instead he left England to survive for 146 overs – which is not as many as they successfully endured in Johannesburg in 1995, when Michael Atherton led a stoic defence spanning 165 overs. Mind you, England only had to survive 96 overs in the drawn first Test at Centurion and South Africa were leaning heavily on last man Graham Onions by the finish.

Though it may be impossible to rule out anything after Australia's bookmaker-bashing victory in Sydney, Strauss's weary men should still be staring defeat in the face sometime tomorrow afternoon and we’ll be heading for the final Test in Johannesburg next Thursday with the series locked at 1-1.

The highest winning fourth innings score at this ground on the slopes of Table Mountain is 334-6, made when Australia beat South Africa in 2002... though the West Indies managed 354-5 when they held on for a draw at Newlands in 2004.

Still, considering their hopeless position this morning, England – their seamers pilloried on the front page of the local Cape Times for causing a "BALL TAMPERING FURORE" - plugged away manfully after the departure of South African captain Graeme Smith for a magnificent 183. And his final denouement came courtesy of what was later revealed to be a Graham Onions no ball.

Then obdurate first innings centurion Kallis went for 46 and AB De Villiers fell after lunch, superby caught by Stuart Broad at mid-off for 46 as he became Anderson’s seventh victim.

Spinner Graeme Swann then had Mark Boucher’s top edge caught by Ian Bell for 15, his 19thwicket of the series, leaving Anderson to claim JP Duminy for 36 and force the declaration.

The only hard-working bowler left without a wicket was Broad, who sparked the so-called ball-tampering storm this morning.

He chose to stop a drive with his studded boot just after lunch yesterday, saying afterwards he was too tired to field it in temperatures approaching 40 degrees.
The South Africans saw it differently. They replayed footage of the incident on television again and again, added a bit of Jimmy Anderson ball-picking and came up with allegations which they referred to match referee Roshan Mahanama, but refused to turn into a full-blown complaint. The ICC will take no further action.

Geoff Boycott's exclusive assessment in the loo downstairs? "Ball tampering? There's nothing going on at all. The umpires looked at the ball and found nothing. "

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

England. We just don't do ball tampering very well, Broadly speaking. And prepare for the decider at the Wanderers

SO NOW we know. England are very, very bad at ball-tampering. And South Africa are a very, very fussy bunch.

Tonight’s discussion after day three of the vital third Test at a blistering Newlands did not centre on the incredible heat, the record second wicket partnership between centurion Graeme Smith and the unlucky Hashim Amla. Nor even the way South Africa took a vice-like grip on the match.

No, it all came down Stuart Broad using his studded boot to stop a cricket ball. They showed it again and again on video, then the Seffeffrikens released a statement saying: "There have been several queries from the media about various video footage shown today, and certain allegations being made about the ball.

"We have raised our concerns with the match referee about it and we've left it to him to decide if any further action or investigation is necessary."

Great. They have a thing about Broad here. Too cocky. Too argumentative. Almost like a South African when he perceives a sporting injustice.

But hold on a moment. South Africa scored a mammoth 312 for the loss of just two wickets today... they’re 330 ahead with Smith unbeaten on 162 with the man mountain Jacques Kallis not out at the other end. Just how much ball tampering can a bloke get up to and still bowl all day in 40-degree heat without success? And is stopping a ball with your foot really worth bothering the match referee with?

England team director Andy Flower was left to defend the daft allegations: “I don't think it is a big issue. It was a long, hot day and he put his foot out and stopped the ball. All he did was stop the ball."

Quite rightly, Flower was blooming concerned with England’s fate. The Cape Town born Zimbabwean Test batsman admitted: "The South Africans played superbly today. It was very hot. A tough day for the boys. The wicket flattened out a little bit and there wasn't much movement for the seamers.

"We worked hard and Graeme Swann (who took the wickets of Ashwell Prince and Amla to take his series tally to 17) bowled well but without much luck."

"Tomorrow we have got to attack with the new ball. We have seen wickets fall early on all the days so far. We have definitely got to attack early.

"The first two days produced very difficult batting conditions, today was easier. We don't know what sort of conditions are going to arrive tomorrow. If it plays as easy as it has today, we have got a chance."

But not much of a chance. This one is going South Africa’s way with more record-breaking temperatures threatening in the morning, though a draw by an obdurate England is by no means out of the question.

Still, if we get to the Wanderers on January 14 with the series at 1-1, we’d have taken that before this series started against a side who needed to win 2-0 to go back above India as the world’s best Test side.

Labels: ball tampering, , hashim amla, ,

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hungry Kallis gets down and dirty to deny England in Cape Town

JACQUES KALLIS is "hungry" for runs and ready to play "dirty cricket" to dig his nation out of a hole - and that can only mean trouble for England in Cape Town today.

Kallis, who averages 65 on his home ground at Newlands, peaked in the shadow of the magnificent Table Mountain yesterday, scoring an undefeated 108 off 188 balls. He single-handedly denied England the dominance they deserved as day one of the third Test at Newlands ended with South Africa 279-6 and still very much in the game.

After a rain delayed start England, 1-0 up in the four match series, threatened to dominate when they won the toss and elected to bowl - captain Andrew Strauss's seventh success out of nine with the coin. They had the hosts 51-3 and 127-5 but Kallis, in fifty-plus partnerships with AB De Villiers, Mark Boucher and promoted paceman Dale Steyn, led the fightback to frustrate the tourists' pace attack.

Boucher, who put on 89 runs for the sixth wicket with his Capetonian neighbour, said afterwards: "He's hungry. And that's always a dangerous sign for the opposition. Jacques is so calm. His defence is so good.

"He's hungry for runs and he's worked hard on his fitness. Now the hard work is paying off. He is very focused - that's what makes him so good. I always enjoy batting with Jacques.

"We were 50 for three and 120-odd for five and we played some dirty cricket to get back into it.

"Our tail is wagging - and we hope that can continue."

England seamer Jimmy Anderson, who removed Ashwell Prince in the first over of the day, admitted after Kallis's 33rd Test match ton: "He's very focused when he bats and very difficult to bowl at. You've just got to deal with it. You come across these players in Test cricket.

"The lateness that he plays the ball is incredible - and even when the ball is reversing he can pick it, which makes it even harder.

"We bowled reasonably well and I think it's even stevens at this stage. Conditions were in favour of bowling in the morning. Apparently the best time to bat is on days two and three."

Graeme Swann, England's Man of the Match in the first and second Tests, took two quick wickets and nearly turned the game around when he dismissed the initial dangers of AB De Villiers and JP Duminy. But Anderson admitted: "On another day we could have had Kallis in early but it wasn't to be. We'll have the new ball in our hands tomorrow and have to do our best to get him out early."

Anderson backed the decision to bowl first after winning the toss - South Africa captain Graeme Smith has now won just one in 11 heads-or-tails battles - adding: "The conditions this morning were very bowler-friendly. In the warm-up it was swinging a lot - and with rain around as well, it was a very easy choice for us to bowl.

"We're happy with the decision. They've played really well - Kallis played unbelievably well."

Labels: , , , jimmy anderson, mark boucher, , third Test

Third Test: Day One: Lunch: Smith dropped, Ntini axed, the tension mounts in the shadow of the mountain

JUST two overs into the rain-delayed third Test in Cape Town this morning and we witessed one of the key moments of this topsy-turvy series which sees South Africa 51-2 at lunch on the first day of the third Test.
With out-of-form opener Ashwell Prince falling to James Anderson in the first over, the hosts were reeling at 1-1 when, in Graham Onion's opening over from the other end, captain Graeme Smith prodded needlessly at a wide one.
He got a huge edge and time stood still beneath the clouds next to Table Mountain as the ball carried to Graeme Swann at second slip.
England's greatest living cricketer - he has been magnificent on this tour so far - took it in the midriff. And spilled it. Gasps from the huge New Year crowd at Newlands. Fury from Onions. "Smith" and "dropped" are the two words you don't want to hear in one sentence on tour in South Africa unless it accompanies news that the locals have decided to axe their stubborn skipper.
Two balls later a relieved Smith dispatched Onions to the leg side - twice - for four. Normal service resumed. With the clouds clearing and Cape Town's weather returning to its summer January normality, that might have been one of the big drops in cricket.
And of course Paul Collingwood, who normally fields at second slip, was down at fine leg, protecting the left index finger he dislocated before the fourth day in Durban. Out behind the stands here, I've just seen Michael Carberry, the Hamshire lad flown out as cover for Collingwood, practising his slip fielding in the nets.
But Collingwood, despite discomfort, plays in an unchanged England side after Andrew Strauss won his seventh toss out of nine and opted to bowl. Smith has won one of his last eleven with the coin. He's saving his luck for his batting, perhaps. By lunch, South Africa were a highly-fortunate 51-2 with Prince caught behind by Prior for a duck, and Hashim Amla, who fell lbw to Onions for 14, the two victims. Smith has 30, Jacques Kallis is off the mark with one and the conditions are gradually calming down.
There are other huge issues boiling away here as the sun comes out for the first time during the lunch break. The big one? The African cricketing legend that is Makhaya Ntini has been axed. A nation is in turmoil.
Neil Manthorp, the face of the South African Broadcasting Association, twittered helpfully before the start: "Makhaya not even warming up with rest of squad. Understandable that he wants to avoid spotlight. He's been dropped - no one died!"
In a purely cricketing sense, he's right. Friedel De Wet, the 29-year-old seamer who nearly bowled his side to a glorious first Test victory in Centurion on his debut, has been recalled.
He should never have been dropped for the crushing second Test defeat in Durban.
Ntini, the fifth South African to reach 100 Test caps in Centurion, has taken 2-233 in the two Test so far. And both of those were in Centurion, where sponsors South African breweries were offering free beers to the fans every time he took a wicket. Some members of the Barmy Army became severely dehydrated on the back of that promotion.
While Ntini laboured, De Wet - already featuring in a tug-of-war between head of selectors MIke Procter and coach Mickey Arthur - grabbed the new ball late on the fifth day in Centurion and took three quick wickets in a devastating debut burst.
But when the last over was bowled, captain Graeme Smith opted to rest De Wet and give Ntini the final over at Graham Onions in an attempt to produce a romantic triumph. It didn't work. England survived by a single wicket. Ntini, 32, failed to work his magic.
De Wet, who waited so long for his first Test cap, was the hero. But there was no room for him in Durban when the world's top-ranked Test bowler, Dale Steyn was able to return after a hamstring injury. His last-minute breakdown in Centurion had paved the way for De Wet, his return meant South Africa went back to a three-and-a-half-pronged attack of Steyn, Ntini, the excellent Morne Morkel and the half-fit Jacques Kallis.
The rest is history. England made merry, with out-of-form Alastair Cook and Ian Bell both getting centuries. Strauss, Collingwood and Matt Prior all got 50. The South Africans were dispatched to all corners and beaten by an innings and 98 runs.
Steyn didn't look anything special, Ntini failed to take a wicket, Kallis was clearly still strugging with his rib and Morkel was the pick of their pacemen.
So today's decision to axe Ntini is no real surprise. In cricket terms. But of course, this is South Africa. Just down the road from here, a local coloured lad called Basil D'Oliviera, arguably the best player of his generation, was forced to play for England because Apartheid meant he couldn't play for the land of his birth. And he wasn't allowed to tour here with his adopted country.
From 1970 to 1992, partly because of the D'Oliviera affair, South Africa were in sporting isolation. Until Ntini came along at the forefront of the Rainbow Nation's colourful return, to encourage a generation of black cricketers in this country to don their whites.
Worryingly, there is no obvious candidate to replace his face in the line-up. Apparently the sports minister was asked if dropping the only black man in the side - JP Duminy, Ashwell Prince and Hashim Amla are still considered "coloured" and "Asian" here - and captain Smith admitted: "Obviously it is a sensitive issue in South Africa - that's being honest."
Sensitive or not, it's happened. Ntini is now rumoured to be on his way to Middlesex next summer, keeping him out of the way of the political fall-out from this decision. And South Africa must try to ride the fall-out.
A couple more dropped catches and a win here would help. As they walked off at lunch, England's South African Kevin Pietersen was in heated conversation with Smith. We're in for a fascinating five days which reverberations going way beyond cricket.

Labels: , , , graham onions, jimmy anderson, , , , third Test