England v SA, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day July 23, 2012

Crowds flock to final day

Firdose Moonda and George Dobell

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?

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew on July 24, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    @Taimur Huk Indeed. But most people who went knew that anyway. They went because they love the game and are the best supporters in the world. Unless you're a Man U fan you support your team if they win or lose.

  • vishal on July 24, 2012, 12:13 GMT

    Its all fixed.Next match will be draw and 3rd will be won by England. All in all series would be draw. Look at today's Ind-SL match. Same pitch India all out on 138. Series won by either team, doesn't matter, it will be decided on last match to maintain interest.

  • Nicholas on July 24, 2012, 11:53 GMT

    @Meety (post on July 24 2012, 10:43 AM GMT): yes, absolutely - I never said otherwise. Bell certainly rode his luck at times, but compared to that lollypop catch Strauss offered up and Pietersen going for his typically aggresive approach... I don't know, maybe this is just a knee-jerk feeling as I probably wouldn't be typing this if offence had in fact turned out to be the best defence. To be fair, Cook and Trott were done-in by excellent bowling; the rest were perhaps just as much batsman-error as good bowling. Tired legs, tired minds, fired-up SA bowlers... not a good combo!

  • Andrew on July 24, 2012, 10:43 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK - apart from what JG2704 said about Bell, he was dropped on 20 & should of been run out on 28, so it wasn't like it was a masterclass or anything.

  • Shalin on July 24, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    @ Tlotoxl: One can't blame the weather, conditions or the pitch. Strauss won the toss and chose to bat first.

  • Duncan on July 24, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    This game was actually quite similar to the Cardiff test of 2009 against Australia. Main difference was of course that we got away with a draw on that occasion (and were helped by the weather). Anyway, England went on to win the next test - so maybe that is some cause for optimism (I''m trying hard to find something). The remaining venues don't fill me with optimism though. England's recent record at Headingley is very poor and Lords in August will surely be another flat pitch.

  • Justin on July 24, 2012, 9:00 GMT

    After 5 days of cricket SA took 20 wickets and Eng took 2. You can talk about pitch and weather all you like but thats a big difference. Also did you see Amla playing loosely at short wide balls or trying to sweep swan to score? Played with a lovely straight bat and played the ball under his nose - beautiful to watch (esp as a neutral). Well done SA.

  • Chris on July 24, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    Horrible game by England, but let's not take anything away from SA who played superbly - it's telling that it seems there's a need to criticise ABDV who didn't do a lot wrong, just to find something to criticise about them. It is a bit tiring to see the old comments about England not deserving #1 test side though. You must be totally oblivious to recent results - of course England haven't ever been dominant in the way of WI and Australia, but nobody's ever claimed they were, just better than anybody else, and the facts speak for themselves. England had put together a better sequence of results than any other team, even including the Pakistan series - look at the others' results, Australia suffering a 3-1 home loss to England (and more recently drawing at home to NZ), whilst SA have drawn far more series than they've won. England however have won the vast majority of their series, with the Pakistan series being the only loss in the last 3 years. If SA win this series they'll deserve #1

  • Nicholas on July 24, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    @JG2704 (post on July 24 2012, 07:33 AM GMT): bit harsh on Bell mate. I think after 5 hours batting, at a strike-rate of 25, you'd be rather tired and be somewhat batting-bunny too. The way the top order got out is shocking, and only Bell looked like England's knight in (not-so-shining) armour.

  • John on July 24, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    @Tlotoxl on (July 23 2012, 21:18 PM GMT) Granted SA had by far the best of the bowling conditions on day 2 but fact is they batted better than us when the conditions were good

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