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Firdose Moonda and George Dobell
July 23, 2012
Interest of the day
Test cricket has flirted with extinction but it is likely that it will not get there for a long, long time. If you needed any proof of its vitality you need only have disembarked at the Oval underground station at around 10.30 on Monday morning. The train was packed and the touts were doing a roaring trade. Fifth-day tickets were a fifth of the price of the other days and school holidays had started but it was a working day and England up against it, which might have lessened the support base. Nothing of the sort happened. When play started, two-thirds of the seats were filled and after four sold-out days, more than 100,000 people had seen some play at The Oval.
Drop of the day
AB de Villiers did a handy job in the first innings, when he held on to every catch that came his way but the same cannot be said of the second. With South Africa five wickets away from a series lead, Imran Tahir sent down a venomous legbreak, with enough turn and bounce to take the edge off Ian Bell's block. Bell was half forward, the catch was fairly simple and de Villiers had two attempts to complete it but could not hold on to register his first fluff behind the stumps. Bell was on 20 at the time and went on to make a stubborn half-century so vital to England's cause that he received a standing ovation.
Celeb-spot of the day
With Olympic fever raging in the air, there was every chance the five rings themselves would make an appearance. They did not quite make it to The Oval but an Olympian did: South Africa's 4 x 100 metre gold medallist Ryk Neethling, who will compete at the London Games was in attendance when South Africa wrapped up a famous win. The timing of the Games has meant the national cricket team has received support from people who do not usually get to watch them. Two days earlier, the country's sports minister Fikile Mbalula, who is in the United Kingdom to set up the South African athletes village, was also at the ground to congratulate Graeme Smith on his century in his 100th Test.
Contrast of the day:
The dismissal of Matt Prior, top-edging a sweep to slip, produced wildly-contrasting emotions in the batsman and bowler. Matt Prior, aghast at the sheer awfulness of his stroke, was rooted to his crease, head in his hands, coming to terms with the injury he had inflicted upon his team. Imran Tahir, meanwhile, celebrated with the unbridled enthusiasm that has made him such an endearing player. By the time Prior dragged himself from the crease, Tahir was at deep fine leg running in circles and bellowing with joy.
Over rule of the day:
England's last hope died when Stuart Broad, a man with a Test century to his name, was caught down the leg side. It was an interesting decision by the TV Umpire, Kumar Dharmasena. While the on-field umpire - Asad Rauf - had given a 'not out' decision and there were no obvious signs of contact from Hot Spot, Dharmasena made his decision partially on the evidence of the stump microphones, which did suggest contact with the glove, and partially on replay evidence which, while not conclusive, was certainly suggestive. He was probably right, but whether there was enough evidence to overrule the on-field umpire was a moot point.
Concern of the day:
Amid all the South African celebrations, there was just one area of concern for South Africa: the performance of AB de Villiers as a stand-in wicketkeeper was increasingly unconvincing. He dropped Ian Bell, on 20, standing up to Imran Tahir and his failure to reach the stumps in time to collect JP Duminy's throw - not the first time in the match that de Villiers failed to do this - also cost South Africa the chance of running Bell out on 28. England were unable to make South Africa pay for the error but, when the tourists select their team for the second Test, they may reflect that their top six is perfectly adequate and they could so with the specialist keeping skills of Thami Tsolekile. If that is the case, it may prove bad news for Duminy. Perhaps if Duminy's throw had hit, de Villiers error may have gone unnoticed?
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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