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December 17, 2009
de Villiers drops the script...
Makhaya Ntini arrived at the crease to a standing ovation in his 100th Test. Yet it was his efforts with the ball which really brought the crowd to their feet, not least the Barmy Army, after a free drink was promised to everyone in the ground for the moment Ntini took his first wicket. With emotions running high, Ntini flew into an aggressive spell and immediately found the obliging edge of Alastair Cook's bat. With the sure-handed AB de Villiers at third slip, Ntini was already celebrating, but astonishingly, the script flew straight through AB's fingers. It was the closest Ntini came to a wicket, but an early beer could await the crowd tomorrow.
How pleasing it was to see the fans allowed on the outfield during the lunch interval. It's hard to remember the last time that happened during a Test match in countries such as England and Australia, where tough health and safety laws preclude it, or on the subcontinent, where security fears play their part. But shortly after the players had left for lunch, the crowd swarmed onto the ground and enjoyed the balmy weather while playing their own games of mini-cricket. They were able to stroll up and look at the pitch while children were able to run around on the same surface as their heroes. Nobody got hurt and no damage was done. Hopefully other administrators were watching.
Jimmy's long wait...
England's 'leader of the attack' has actually been chasing his team-mates for a while. James Anderson had not managed a Test wicket since Edgbaston on August 3, when he had Shane Watson caught behind for 53. Since then he toiled without reward for 18 overs as England almost lost the Ashes at Headingley, before 21 more at The Oval as England won them back. Today, four months on, and after a further 26 overs in this game, he finally picked up the key wicket of Jacques Kallis to get England's morning and Anderson's series underway.
England bowlers couldn't create many chances, but when they did, they inevitably seemed to find their way to Paul Collingwood. England's best fielder took three catches yesterday and was snaffling them for fun in practice before play started today. When he caught JP Duminy, off Graeme Swann's opening over, he equalled the England record for most outfield catches in an innings. He then had the chance to go clear at the top, when Harris top-edged an attempted cut, but he spilled it. His place in history is now shared with a fairly lengthy list of fellow players, with Marcus Trescothick against Zimbabwe at Lord's in 2003 being the last.
Down and then out
Morne Morkel was putting up stubborn resistance with an impressively determined innings when he got himself into a tangle against a well-directed short ball from Graham Onions and took a nasty blow on the chin. He staggered away from the crease and then went down on his haunches as concerned players quickly signalled for the physio. Looking a little dazed, Morkel lay on the ground as he was treated with some magic spray. Soon he was given the all-clear, but it wasn't a surprise when he flashed outside off stump and edged to the keeper soon afterwards.
Plenty has already been said about the review system in this game, but today it worked as it was meant to, even if Graeme Swann is probably still convinced he had Morkel leg before only to see it overturned. South Africa had the better of the system - or rather used it better - so had both their reviews left when Friedel de Wet was given out to Swann to close the innings. He had nothing to lose so he asked for a second look and TV confirmed it was plumb. When teams have spare reviews at the end it's going to lead to some rather hopeful requests.
Young and old
South Africa's new-ball attack was in the hands of two bowlers at opposite ends of their careers. Bowling the first over was 100-Test veteran Ntini and at the other was new cap Friedel de Wet. Ntini should have had a wicket in his first over, while de Wet could barely land his first ball on the cut strip. However, it was the debutant who ended up making the breakthrough and the man with 388 Test scalps had to wait to add to his tally.
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