England v SA, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley August 2, 2012

Decisions, drops and dead balls

George Dobell and Firdose Moonda at Headingley
ESPNcricinfo presents the Plays of the Day from the first day of the second Test at Headingley

Decision of the day
The decision to replace Graeme Swann with Steven Finn meant England went into a Test without a specialist spinner for the first time since 2003. That game was also against South Africa at Leeds; a game that South Africa won by 191 runs. This was also the first time in 43 Tests that Swann has been omitted. Despite a game at The Oval, Swann's record in 2012 is pretty good: in nine Tests this year he has claimed 35 wickets at an average of 31.82. But England have a habit of taking gambles at Headingley: this was the ground where Darren Pattinson in 2008 and Mike Smith in 1997 enjoyed their only Test caps (both games ended in heavy losses for England) and where England also omitted a specialist spinner in 1989 against Australia when they lost by 210 runs.

Drop of the day
Perhaps Swann's absence was felt most keenly in the field. Alviro Petersen was on 29 when James Anderson found his outside edge. The ball flew at a comfortable height to Alastair Cook at second slip but the fielder was unable to hold on to a relatively easy chance. Had Swann been included, he would almost certainly have been at second slip. It is hard to believe he would have squandered such a simple chance. Petersen went on to close 124 not out.

Dead ball of day
Graeme Smith was on just 6 when he edged one angled across him from Steven Finn and Andrew Strauss held the catch at first slip. But Smith was reprieved as the umpire, Steve Davis, called dead ball on the grounds that Finn may have distracted the batsmen by knocking off the bails with his right knee as he ran into bowl. While Davis's decision was not popular with a partisan crowd, it was justified by Law 23.4 section B VI which states: "Either umpire shall call and signal dead ball when the striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it."

Low point of the day
The selection of James Taylor might have marked a new low in English cricket. While he is probably not the shortest man to represent England in Test cricket, he may well be in the top - or should that be bottom? - half-dozen. Walter Cornford, who was imaginatively nicknamed "Tich", played four Tests for England in 1930, was thought to be about 5'1", while Billy Quaife, who played the last of his seven Tests in 1902, was said by his son Bernard to measure "somewhere between 5'1" and 5'3"." "Tich" Freeman, the prolific spinner who played the last of his 12 Tests in 1929, was said to 5'2". Taylor's official height is given as 5'4" though some believe that it stretching credulity.

Stat of the day
When the wicket of Graeme Smith fell 50 minutes after lunch, it ended what seemed like a lifetime of wicketless overs for them. It was, in fact, 139.3 overs - 102.1 at the Oval and 37.1 at Headingley - since they had taken their last wicket, also the scalp of Smith. Ten hours and three minutes of time on the field had passed between Smith being bowled by Bresnan for 131 and Smith feeding a full delivery to Ian Bell at backward square leg, also off Bresnan. In that time, South Africa's batsmen had scored 497 runs, meaning that England's last five wickets in Test cricket cost them 900 runs, dating back to when Tino Best was at the crease at Edgbaston.

Job-done of the day
Despite suggestions to the contrary, Alviro Petersen's place in the starting XI was never in doubt but he made extra certain of that with his pull shot off Stuart Broad in the last hour of play. The four runs completed his hard-fought century, which took 215 balls to reach. Petersen first fifty came in quick time but the second was a laboured effort but after being dropped on 29 and with conditions becoming more bowler friendly, he may have wanted to make absolutely sure he got to the milestone. His celebration was not lavish, the usual raising of arms and acknowledgment of a standing ovation but he did take one, long hard look at the badge on his helmet. It could simply have been him figuring how to put it back on but it could also have been a poignant moment of realisation that he belongs in this South African side.

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