Plays of the day December 20, 2008

Australia's drinking problem

Graeme Smith became the fourth South Africa batsman to reach 6000 runs © Getty Images

Australia's drinking problem
It's amazing how often a wicket falls immediately after drinks. On the third day Ricky Ponting departed on the fourth ball following a break and from the first delivery after the next drinks interval Andrew Symonds skied a catch to mid-on off the spinner Paul Harris. On the fourth day Mitchell Johnson became the third Australian in the innings to suffer a concentration snap in the first over after a drinks break when he tried to launch an expansive drive off Morne Morkel and edged to slip.

A truly cracking shot
A different kind of break caused a problem for Johnson earlier in his innings. When he mistimed a drive off Dale Steyn his bat cracked and a replacement was hurried out from the dressing room so he could safely face the final ball of the over. Johnson had pulled Steyn for four earlier in the over and the first delivery with the new bat proved the runs were coming because of the wielder and not the wood - he immediately pulled another short one forward of midwicket for another boundary.

Smith's 6k
Graeme Smith has struggled to produce his best against Australia but the rest of his Test career has been so successful that he has become the fourth South Africa batsman to score 6000 runs. He reached the milestone when he moved from 6 to 7 with a single worked through leg off Peter Siddle and acknowledged the crowd's applause with a couple of muted bat-raises, well aware that he had more important priorities in this game.

Siddle in a flap
It's challenging enough for a No. 11 to face a fast bowler of Makhaya Ntini's quality without any added obstacles. Peter Siddle was therefore lucky to survive when a seagull flew across the pitch near his eyeline just as Ntini's delivery was speeding towards him. Siddle tried to pull out but when he saw the ball heading close to the stumps he hung his bat out in hope. The ball missed the bat and the stumps and Siddle was fortunate as there was no dead ball call from the umpire Asoka De Silva.

Lee spreads his wings
Jason Gillespie made famous the tactic of flapping his arms while running in to bowl in an attempt to put the batsman off and now Brett Lee has tried the same thing. Lee didn't get a wicket in the first innings and was also without a breakthrough in the second when he spread his arms during his run-up to bowl to Graeme Smith. It wasn't quite a Gillespie flap, more sedate like an umpire signalling wide, and Smith calmly bunted the ball away without damage.

Aleem's apology
The umpire Aleem Dar ended Matthew Hayden's innings on the third day with an awful decision to adjudge him caught and bowled off his pad. The moment was particularly unwelcome for a batsman struggling for form but at least Dar later recognised his error. "I got it wrong," Dar told the Courier-Mail. "I thought it was an inside edge but it wasn't. I thought Matthew was very good about it. I get along very well with him and he is a very nice fellow. I plan to speak to him about it."

Day-night Test cricket works a treat
Cricket Australia is keen to pursue the idea of playing Tests at night and the late start, slow-over rates and rain delays meant it was almost trialled at the WACA. Play went on until 8pm - 10pm in some of Australia's eastern states - by which time the light was fading but not enough to halt play. And Jacques Kallis got into the spirit with a limited-overs style display in the final overs. He swatted Peter Siddle for a six and a four to square leg and then pounded a couple of boundaries off Jason Krejza. It was an uncharacteristic approach from Kallis, particularly given the enormity of South Africa's task, but it gave the fans something to cheer at the end of a long, long day.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo