England v SA, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 1st day August 16, 2012

Fortune finally turns for England

England didn't bowl that much better than at Headingley but they enjoy the rub of the green that eluded them in the second Test
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Had the figure of Father Time, the familiar weather vane that has presided over Lord's for more than 80 years, been replaced by an image of a switch-hitting Kevin Pietersen, the presence of England's missing player could hardly have loomed more obviously in advance of this game.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of dropping the man of the match from the previous Test, it was a brave decision. But it would be simplistic to state that England's best day in the field in this series to date owes anything to Pietersen's absence. It is not until England bat that any judgement can be made about the cost of his omission.

Perhaps, for those who are so inclined to find them, there were one or two signs of a renewed spirit within the England side. While they have long made a point of running to congratulate each other with a pat or a handshake after a good stop in the field, on the first day of this game they took such behaviour to a new level. At one stage Matt Prior, the wicketkeeper, ran all the way to cover to pat Ian Bell after a diving stop; at another James Anderson, the bowler, wandered over to mid on to congratulate Stuart Broad. Whether such episodes are the manifestation of improved team spirit or an attempt to convince sceptical on-lookers remains to be seen. But, at a vital stage of a vital game, it may just be relevant that England produced their best bowling of the series.

But the main difference between the first day of this game and much of the rest of the series was simply fortune. England did not bowl so much better than they had at Leeds but, for the first time, enjoyed some luck. And, ultimately, it is on results, not performances, that players and teams are judged. Just as a good batsman can nick a ball early in his innings and be on his way, so a lesser one can miss by a foot, but go on to register a century. Sometimes blind luck plays more of a rule than we care to admit.

South Africa are tough to finish off, though. From 54 for 4 shortly before lunch, they recovered to add 208 more runs for the loss of only three more wickets in the rest of the day.

Certainly several of South Africa's top order will reflect with regret at the large part they played in their own dismissals. Hashim Amla received a good ball but will reflect that he could have allowed Steven Finn to park his car in the gap he left between his bat and pad, Jaques Rudolph played across the turning ball and JP Duminy had to unleash his go-go Gadget arms to reach across to the ball that dismissed him. The truth is that South Africa, having batted with such application and discipline in the first two Tests of the series, showed uncharacteristic frailty.

But England's biggest stroke of fortune came in two controversial umpiring decisions. To dismiss one top-order batsman caught down the leg side might be considered fortunate, but to dismiss two in the innings - Alviro Peterson and Jacques Kallis - was extraordinary. Both might have legitimate gripes about the decision to give them out, too, with replays suggesting that the glove that the ball brushed was off the bat at the time. While sympathy for Peterson might be tempered in the knowledge that he failed to take advantage of the Decision Review System (DRS) - another stroke of luck for England - the decision of third umpire, Rod Tucker, to overrule on the scantest of evidence to adjudge Kallis out was hard to fathom. Those who distrust the DRS will feel they have more ammunition for their case, though this was surely a case of human, rather than DRS, error.

While England later claimed they would have bowled anyway, losing the toss might also have been considered a significant stroke of fortune. It allowed their bowlers use of the pitch in the narrow window when it provided some assistance and, after South Africa opted to bat in bright sunlight, the weather changed markedly and the ball began to swing. At Lord's such atmospheric conditions always play a disproportionately large role and, on a pitch that is expected to improve, Graeme Smith may come to regret his decision to bat.

"We bowled beautifully in the first session," Finn said afterwards. "We made use of the conditions but, as the day went on, the sun came out, the ball got softer and the wicket didn't do as much. But we stuck to our guns really well and we are very happy with where we are.

"We're a little bit ahead of the game. The wicket was tacky in the morning so the ball nipped around, but it didn't do much later on. As the days go on and sun bakes the wicket, there may be some help for Graeme Swann, but it's a good cricket wicket.

"Obviously wickets caught down the leg side are always a little bit fortunate. We deserved some luck like that and we did have a leg gully and we had plans for each batsmen and bowled well to our fields."

South Africa are tough to finish off, though. The loss of Mark Boucher may well have strengthened them as a batting unit and, from a position of 54 for 4 shortly before lunch, they recovered to add 208 more runs for the loss of only three more wickets in the rest of the day. Duminy, the beneficiary of Boucher's misfortune, was the one man to register a half-century and helped add 72 with Vernon Philander for the seventh-wicket. It has left the game tilted only slightly in England's favour.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bramblefly on August 17, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    DRS doesn't make decisions by itself. There's a qualified umpire sitting up there who is as likely (or not) to make mistakes judging what's in front of him as the ones on the field. I don't have the figures on correct vs. wrong reversals but see from my own cricket watching experience that the correct ones forn the majority. The only objections remaining to DRS are from the conspiracy theorists who think that it's being used to get their players. Nonsense every time. DRS isn't perfect but it's improved the standard of umpiring and changed the game for the better.

  • jezzastyles on August 17, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    @7436: Generally speaking, the home team will get the higher percentage of the line-ball 50/50 decisions, at leat it seems that way. Umpires are under enough pressure & scrutiny as it is - it's all very well to suggest a "pattern of incompetence", but from the comments I've been seeing regarding the DRS, a lot of pundits don't want the technology to assist them. Make no mistake about it, umpiring in a test match is one the most difficult jobs imaginable, I'm in awe of the fact that they get the bulk of the decisions correct. We must also remember that international umpires are neutral, so there can be no allegations of bias or collusion. Everybody keeps stating that they are human and susceptible to human error, then turns around and criticises a poor decision, with the full benefit of hindsight and using every bit of technology available. There are also time constraints - we don't want to be sitting around for 5-10 minutes while a difficult decision is being rendered. Settle down.

  • prakash5455 on August 17, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Fortune finally turns *AWAY FROM* England

  • StaalBurgher on August 17, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Yeah, the headline of this article is rather stupid. Does any team deserve a wicket like that of Kallis? If not for that wicket would England have been unlucky and allowed to complain about things not going their way?

  • on August 17, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    Rub of the green is not what happened yesterday! It's getting the close calls. Trapping LBW getting ump to review and either way it's on field umps call with DRS. Or and edge is caught ump never picked it up and DRS sees faint edge. etc etc. Blatant bad umpiring NOT rub of the green! Had an English batsman received same fate it would be Headline news......

  • crick_sucks on August 17, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    You call this fortune? silly human error is what it is. You can give the 3rd umpire all the technology in the world but sadly you can't give him common sense.

  • crick_sucks on August 17, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    by "fortune" you mean the 2 not outs that ENG managed to chuck. This was just day light robbery. Surprisingly all this happened in spite of the DRS. Every time DRS is involved more than 1 howler gets through (and each time it is ENG that gets benefited from these howlers) and the DRS supporters cry hoarse in support of the DRS. DRS and immigrant cricketers had a big role in ENG reaching the top spot. You must admit it.

  • 200ondebut on August 17, 2012, 11:46 GMT

    A good day for England but inside I guess they will be disappointed they didn't fininsh SA off. This should though not take anything away from the fight SA showed. KP will be missed for his ability to hammer home Engs advantage and take SA out of the game and I sincerely hope that all concerned show some maturity and grace to expidite his swift return to the side.

  • 7436 on August 17, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    Dear George - can you be serious? South Africa would die to have such ill fortune as England have suffered. I thought the umpiring position was looking up after seeing the back of Steve Davis who had a poor First Test & a worse Second, but not so, I'm afraid. It's not the Kallis dismissal in isolation that irks, it's the pattern from the Second Test on: the stumping of Rudolph in the First dig (whatever happened to 'the batsman gets the benefit'?), the second innings dismissals of Smith & De Villiers, Cook's plumb LBW that wasn't....Difficult to escape the conclusion that umpires, Rauf, Tucker, the lot, are failing under home-crowd pressure. And this for a nation still haunted by the ghost of Javed Akhtar...!

  • creekeetman on August 17, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    horrible headline. btw, is the third umpire going to be padding up when england bat?

  • Bramblefly on August 17, 2012, 16:41 GMT

    DRS doesn't make decisions by itself. There's a qualified umpire sitting up there who is as likely (or not) to make mistakes judging what's in front of him as the ones on the field. I don't have the figures on correct vs. wrong reversals but see from my own cricket watching experience that the correct ones forn the majority. The only objections remaining to DRS are from the conspiracy theorists who think that it's being used to get their players. Nonsense every time. DRS isn't perfect but it's improved the standard of umpiring and changed the game for the better.

  • jezzastyles on August 17, 2012, 14:47 GMT

    @7436: Generally speaking, the home team will get the higher percentage of the line-ball 50/50 decisions, at leat it seems that way. Umpires are under enough pressure & scrutiny as it is - it's all very well to suggest a "pattern of incompetence", but from the comments I've been seeing regarding the DRS, a lot of pundits don't want the technology to assist them. Make no mistake about it, umpiring in a test match is one the most difficult jobs imaginable, I'm in awe of the fact that they get the bulk of the decisions correct. We must also remember that international umpires are neutral, so there can be no allegations of bias or collusion. Everybody keeps stating that they are human and susceptible to human error, then turns around and criticises a poor decision, with the full benefit of hindsight and using every bit of technology available. There are also time constraints - we don't want to be sitting around for 5-10 minutes while a difficult decision is being rendered. Settle down.

  • prakash5455 on August 17, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    Fortune finally turns *AWAY FROM* England

  • StaalBurgher on August 17, 2012, 13:11 GMT

    Yeah, the headline of this article is rather stupid. Does any team deserve a wicket like that of Kallis? If not for that wicket would England have been unlucky and allowed to complain about things not going their way?

  • on August 17, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    Rub of the green is not what happened yesterday! It's getting the close calls. Trapping LBW getting ump to review and either way it's on field umps call with DRS. Or and edge is caught ump never picked it up and DRS sees faint edge. etc etc. Blatant bad umpiring NOT rub of the green! Had an English batsman received same fate it would be Headline news......

  • crick_sucks on August 17, 2012, 12:41 GMT

    You call this fortune? silly human error is what it is. You can give the 3rd umpire all the technology in the world but sadly you can't give him common sense.

  • crick_sucks on August 17, 2012, 12:30 GMT

    by "fortune" you mean the 2 not outs that ENG managed to chuck. This was just day light robbery. Surprisingly all this happened in spite of the DRS. Every time DRS is involved more than 1 howler gets through (and each time it is ENG that gets benefited from these howlers) and the DRS supporters cry hoarse in support of the DRS. DRS and immigrant cricketers had a big role in ENG reaching the top spot. You must admit it.

  • 200ondebut on August 17, 2012, 11:46 GMT

    A good day for England but inside I guess they will be disappointed they didn't fininsh SA off. This should though not take anything away from the fight SA showed. KP will be missed for his ability to hammer home Engs advantage and take SA out of the game and I sincerely hope that all concerned show some maturity and grace to expidite his swift return to the side.

  • 7436 on August 17, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    Dear George - can you be serious? South Africa would die to have such ill fortune as England have suffered. I thought the umpiring position was looking up after seeing the back of Steve Davis who had a poor First Test & a worse Second, but not so, I'm afraid. It's not the Kallis dismissal in isolation that irks, it's the pattern from the Second Test on: the stumping of Rudolph in the First dig (whatever happened to 'the batsman gets the benefit'?), the second innings dismissals of Smith & De Villiers, Cook's plumb LBW that wasn't....Difficult to escape the conclusion that umpires, Rauf, Tucker, the lot, are failing under home-crowd pressure. And this for a nation still haunted by the ghost of Javed Akhtar...!

  • creekeetman on August 17, 2012, 10:57 GMT

    horrible headline. btw, is the third umpire going to be padding up when england bat?

  • kingcobra85 on August 17, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    Now everyone knows why England backs DRS...All the technology is controlled by them ...

  • Partyman on August 17, 2012, 9:04 GMT

    As an England supporter, I am pretty happy to see some constructive and decent comments here. Usually it is a case of abusing England and hailing up a particular team and its players, which is not even involved in this contest. I think England have already had their fun in this match - first session. By the end of Sunday, it will be 2 - 0 to SA. I can't see anything else happening. I don't believe England can complain either. With or without KP, England have been largely outplayed in this series.

  • JG2704 on August 17, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    @satish619chandar on (August 17 2012, 03:06 AM GMT Did you see Onions took 9 wkts yesterday with the other one being a run out by him? Also , I think all bar 1 were bowled or LBW and that 1 was a catch at 1st slip which must say something about his length and line too.

  • Solemnis on August 17, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    Oh, what a disgrace! Does Forune change due to a blatant human error???? Then there is a devil at work!?

  • Charles_Fortune_Favours_the_Brave on August 17, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    @ MattyP: Sure it was only one poor decision (although a very poor one from someone supposed to be an international level umpire), but it also got out the best player in world cricket today (and, debatably, ever) - that's the kind of blow that's heavy for any team at any time, let alone when you've just lost two quick wickets within the previous couple of overs.

    Context is always important when debating issues, and the timing of, and importance of, Kallis' wicket was what made the decision such an important one, and why us saffers think it was so pathetic!

  • Nutcutlet on August 17, 2012, 7:51 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster;@Baundele & others of like mind. As an England supporter, I have to agree with you. The SA innings might not look overwheming at the beginning of day 2, but should the all out total top 300 this may well prove to be more than competitive. This Lords' wicket is a result wicket & runs are unlikely to come easily. What's more, there will be high humidity in London today and probably on Saturday too. With those overhead condtions it will be a gt surprise if Stein, Morkel & Philander between them can't find the line, length & esp. pace of delivery that gives England's batting line up a severe examination. That said, it is a great opportunity for England's young guns to show their mettle. Overall, I hope that you see that Test cricket has far more to offer than T20 stuff, because there are far more dimensions to competitive tc. When both sides are evenly matched - it becomes a true test of character, captaincy & demands high & sustained skill from its participants. Enjoy!

  • on August 17, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    England bowled well but I think the key to them winning or losing is going to be their batting and the batting of one man in particular - Strauss. I think he is going to be personally motivated by the issues between him and KP and if he can lead from the front by getting a good score in the 1st innings, I think that would gyrate the entire England line up and it could be the end for SA. As a Saffer, I am obviously hoping that the Proteas will push through in order to put the 'choker' tag to bed once and for all (I do not think the no.1 ranking is as important) and Lords is the best place to do it. But England are making it very difficult at this stage. Either way, it is very exciting (and nerve racking) to watch.

  • maddy20 on August 17, 2012, 7:43 GMT

    @MattyP1979 Reviewing would be out of question if the two umpires on the field are good enough. Whether you agree or not both of the decisions are blunders by umpires. Ihave always said this and I am saying it again. UDRS will be rendered useless if the umpires do not even know the basics of the game. Had such a thing happened to Cook and Trott, English fans would be cussing the umpires, booing the Saffas(like they did against India reg Bell dismissal).

  • crindo77 on August 17, 2012, 7:29 GMT

    The ability to sniff blood and finish the job is what sets champions apart from the good teams; in that, I feel England is lacking. 105 for 5 and JP Duminy at the crease, adding another 160 odd runs for 2 wickets, that was surprising. England could have finished the game right there, between lunch and tea. Playing at home,to retain the no 1 ranking ,grass on the pitch, swinging ball, 3 pace bowlers at the peak of their fitness, huge support, opposition on the mat, well can't think of what else you need to mop up the tail. Especially when that tail hasn't had a lot of batting practice. Watching Steyn and Philander walk off smiling, I wasn't too sure who the momentum was with. Well, I suppose on the bright side for the Poms, Amla didn't get another 300. Day 2 will be entertaining.

  • Jazman on August 17, 2012, 7:12 GMT

    Eng luck finally turned? Every single controversial decision of the series went against SA. Funny how they came in the second test after SA's reviews ran out. Just saying.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on August 17, 2012, 6:41 GMT

    World class bowling from England and only a thousand edges got SA up to 200. England reassert their authority at the top of the world rankings, and stir up more envy from fans of teams vanquished and whitewashed by England in the last three years.

  • warnerbasher on August 17, 2012, 6:00 GMT

    Better performance by England and back to the standard that Australia can expect when we tour England next year. Much better looking side with Swann back in the team and Pietersen out. Top 3 hold the key for the Poms as usual andwith Matt Prior providing the oompf at 7 England have the capacity to really fight back in this series. What was forgotten after the first test was that England have some very fine, proud cricketers that have the capacity to prove that the Oval was an aberration

  • venbas on August 17, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    South African score is a decent one though not overwhelming. With the bowling arsenal that Smith has, it might still be prove too much for England. However I thought that Smith missed a massive trick by NOT putting England to bat. With a favorable pitch for the initial stages, their oppositions best batsman forced to sit out, Smith should just have gone for the jugular and closed out the match in the first few hours. That would have really set the game up for South Africa to be the deserving No.1. Well maybe thats what seperates the current crop of No.1 teams from the Australian team of yore who would have just got on with their ruthless gameplans from the very go!!!

  • satish619chandar on August 17, 2012, 3:06 GMT

    First, it was a very good bowling performance from England.. Always felt Finn should be in the 11 at any cost and he proved it.. Same applies to Onions.. England did a good job be preferring more potent bowling of Finn over bat+bowl of Bresnan.. Same with Broad.. I feel on current form, Onions can add more value to the team more than Broad.. Still, at 262-7, it is well balanced.. If SA crosses more than 300, it would give them a small advantage.. Lot depends on the conditions.. Usually in England, swing when overcast and flat when sun shines..

  • MattyP1979 on August 17, 2012, 2:09 GMT

    Disco_Bob."SA were undone by some poor decisions". Like Alvero not reviewing? Amla missing the ball? 1 debatable decision goes Eng way and Aus heads explode. As for needing KP you may be right but lets wait and see, no doubt we will need to bat well.

  • MattyP1979 on August 17, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    Leg side dismissals are always considered unlucky. Eng had 2 in the first game so there may be some truth in luck evens itself out. As for first innings total under 300, I would have to say advantage Eng, but in truth we are going to have to bat really well to force a victory as batting last might prove difficult. Quite boards today, I wonder why that is.

  • on August 17, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    Mr. Dobell let the test be 2 more days old and we will see about the spirit in the field you mentioned by English players. I guess its the same you talked about after the 1st day of 1st test match.. will find out soon enough..

  • Baundele on August 16, 2012, 23:13 GMT

    Wait for the England innings to judge the value of a 200+ first innings total.

  • jjoooce on August 16, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    Hard to say where the teams stand at this stage. Great that most of the series has been like this. Got to wait until tomorrow, I guess.

  • phoenixsteve on August 16, 2012, 22:16 GMT

    Great article and a very fair and balanced summary - we agree George! I can't help feeling that England missed the chance to go for the preverbial jugular - especialy after some good fortune? Taking a chance on an extra bowler in the guise of Onions may have paid dvidends - with SA dismissed for around 150? We'll never know now, but England will have to bat REALLY well to set up a win. I'm hopeful but slightly disappointed that England couldn't finish the job of a cheap SA dismissal today..... Tomorrow will be a key day. COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 16, 2012, 22:06 GMT

    Good bowling performance by England. I was impressed by Finn. I wouldn't pay much attention to the 2 leg side dismissals. These things happen in cricket and the game should move forward. I support DRS and in the long run, many right decisions will be eventually made the more we make use of it. SA are slightly ahead IMO because they were 100 odd for 4 or 5 and thanks to a good partnership between Rudolph and JP, they could now post somewhere near 350. England need to bowl out the tail quickly and bat long. They must win this game to retain no.1 ranking. All set for an exciting day 2 at the Home of Cricket.

  • disco_bob on August 16, 2012, 21:40 GMT

    SA were undone by some poor decisions, however if they aspire to number one they must rise above this, and they did; 285 will be plenty to bowl at. They will be fired up when the time comes to bowl and England will be mighty glad they've got KP in good form because they are going to need him. ...oh hang on.

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  • disco_bob on August 16, 2012, 21:40 GMT

    SA were undone by some poor decisions, however if they aspire to number one they must rise above this, and they did; 285 will be plenty to bowl at. They will be fired up when the time comes to bowl and England will be mighty glad they've got KP in good form because they are going to need him. ...oh hang on.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 16, 2012, 22:06 GMT

    Good bowling performance by England. I was impressed by Finn. I wouldn't pay much attention to the 2 leg side dismissals. These things happen in cricket and the game should move forward. I support DRS and in the long run, many right decisions will be eventually made the more we make use of it. SA are slightly ahead IMO because they were 100 odd for 4 or 5 and thanks to a good partnership between Rudolph and JP, they could now post somewhere near 350. England need to bowl out the tail quickly and bat long. They must win this game to retain no.1 ranking. All set for an exciting day 2 at the Home of Cricket.

  • phoenixsteve on August 16, 2012, 22:16 GMT

    Great article and a very fair and balanced summary - we agree George! I can't help feeling that England missed the chance to go for the preverbial jugular - especialy after some good fortune? Taking a chance on an extra bowler in the guise of Onions may have paid dvidends - with SA dismissed for around 150? We'll never know now, but England will have to bat REALLY well to set up a win. I'm hopeful but slightly disappointed that England couldn't finish the job of a cheap SA dismissal today..... Tomorrow will be a key day. COME ON ENGLAND!!!

  • jjoooce on August 16, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    Hard to say where the teams stand at this stage. Great that most of the series has been like this. Got to wait until tomorrow, I guess.

  • Baundele on August 16, 2012, 23:13 GMT

    Wait for the England innings to judge the value of a 200+ first innings total.

  • on August 17, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    Mr. Dobell let the test be 2 more days old and we will see about the spirit in the field you mentioned by English players. I guess its the same you talked about after the 1st day of 1st test match.. will find out soon enough..

  • MattyP1979 on August 17, 2012, 1:23 GMT

    Leg side dismissals are always considered unlucky. Eng had 2 in the first game so there may be some truth in luck evens itself out. As for first innings total under 300, I would have to say advantage Eng, but in truth we are going to have to bat really well to force a victory as batting last might prove difficult. Quite boards today, I wonder why that is.

  • MattyP1979 on August 17, 2012, 2:09 GMT

    Disco_Bob."SA were undone by some poor decisions". Like Alvero not reviewing? Amla missing the ball? 1 debatable decision goes Eng way and Aus heads explode. As for needing KP you may be right but lets wait and see, no doubt we will need to bat well.

  • satish619chandar on August 17, 2012, 3:06 GMT

    First, it was a very good bowling performance from England.. Always felt Finn should be in the 11 at any cost and he proved it.. Same applies to Onions.. England did a good job be preferring more potent bowling of Finn over bat+bowl of Bresnan.. Same with Broad.. I feel on current form, Onions can add more value to the team more than Broad.. Still, at 262-7, it is well balanced.. If SA crosses more than 300, it would give them a small advantage.. Lot depends on the conditions.. Usually in England, swing when overcast and flat when sun shines..

  • venbas on August 17, 2012, 5:46 GMT

    South African score is a decent one though not overwhelming. With the bowling arsenal that Smith has, it might still be prove too much for England. However I thought that Smith missed a massive trick by NOT putting England to bat. With a favorable pitch for the initial stages, their oppositions best batsman forced to sit out, Smith should just have gone for the jugular and closed out the match in the first few hours. That would have really set the game up for South Africa to be the deserving No.1. Well maybe thats what seperates the current crop of No.1 teams from the Australian team of yore who would have just got on with their ruthless gameplans from the very go!!!