Gibbs rediscovers his balance
Herschelle Gibbs admitted that he would be sleeping soundly for the first time in months, after his 14th Test century had carried South Africa into a potent position on the third day's play at the Wanderers. By the close, South Africa trailed by 105 runs, with four wickets remaining.
"There's still a lot in that wicket," said Gibbs. "There's some pace and bounce, and it's been swinging for the entire Test. We've got a big task ahead of us tomorrow, and it'll be nice to have someone who's batted for the entire innings and knows the wicket. But I'll be starting from scratch again, so I'll still have to play myself in."
Despite a classy innings, Gibbs was fortunate to survive the penultimate ball of the day, when Geraint Jones dropped a flying catch in front of first slip. "Even Bradman needed a bit of luck," he quipped afterwards. "I'm pretty tired now, because the altitude takes a lot out of you. We needed a good disciplined innings today, and fortunately today was my day." He added that he had taken his lead from Andrew Strauss's 147 on the first day. "Strauss showed similar discipline, but when the ball was there, he still went after it."
Gibbs is never one to fall shy of calling a spade a spade, and following the controversial dismissal of Boeta Dippenaar, who was caught low at first slip by Marcus Trescothick, he laid himself open to a rap on the knuckles from the ICC match refereee, Clive Lloyd for his comments on the subject. "I told him to wait, but the umpire stuck his finger up and he walked," said Gibbs. "I would have suggested that he stayed. The TV never lies."
Despite Gibbs's efforts, South Africa were still in trouble at 184 for 5 when Mark Boucher came out to join him, but the pair added 120 for the sixth wicket to turn the innings around. "Bouch is the sort of player who, if the ball is there to hit, he'll have a go, irrespective of the match situation," said Gibbs. "He's a gutsy sort of player, and he bats with intensity. It was a crucial partnership and it's gone a long way towards bringing us up to England's total.
"Getting the balance between attack and defence is crucial to any opener," said Gibbs, when asked about his turnaround in form. "Today, my balance was the best it's been for ages, and it's not been that great since Sri Lanka. But I worked hard in our two practices before this Test, and it showed today. I haven't slept well for the last few months, but I'll sleep well tonight."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo.