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ESPNcricinfo presents the Plays of the Day from the first day at The Oval
George Dobell and Firdose Moonda at The Oval
July 19, 2012
Tribute of the day
Graeme Smith became just the sixth South African player to reach 100 Tests caps (99 for South Africa and one for the ICC World XI) when he led his side out at start of play. Reasoning that Smith deserved a moment to soak up the applause, his team-mates hung back as Smith ran on to the playing area and allowed the capacity crowd to show their appreciation for a fine player and a strong leader.
Tactic of the day
It had been widely anticipated in the run-up to the series that the new ball would be shared by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. With good reason, too. Not only had the South African camp suggested that would be the case, but this was just the second time since 2005 that Steyn had played a Test without opening the bowling in the first innings. It was, therefore, something of a surprise that Morne Morkel was preferred to Steyn with the new ball. Perhaps we should not have been surprised: Morkel had dismissed Andrew Strauss six times in Tests before this game - often operating from round the wicket - and the tactic brought immediate reward when England's captain was dismissed in the first over.
Review of the day
It did not take long to feel the influence of the Decision Review System (DRS). Just four balls into the game, South Africa asked for a review of umpire Steve Davis' not out decision following an lbw appeal from Morkel and were rewarded with the wicket of Strauss, who missed a straight one. Much has been made of Smith's reputation as a slayer of England captains. After playing a hand in the demise of Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan, this was not a bad way to start on his third potential victim. It was also worth noting the hush that came over the ground as the crowd waited for a replay of the delivery on the big screens around the Oval: the silence of 23,500 people at such a key moment underlined not just the anticipation this series had gained, but suggested that the DRS, when used correctly, can enhance the drama of the day for spectators.
Statistic of the day
73.60 - the average worth of a Test partnership between Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott after their stand of 170 on the first day of this game. They have now added 1,840 runs together in 27 partnerships. This was their seventh partnership in excess of 100 and they have two more in excess of 50.
Falls of the day
There were times of the day when Morkel looked like the only South African bowler who could make something happen and he knew it. After his success with the new ball, something he has not touched since Vernon Philander debuted eight Tests ago, he became Smith's go-to man when a wicket was needed. Morkel held back on the short ball but concentrated on his line and although he did not attack the stumps as much as he should have, was the most threatening of an otherwise generous attack. He put major effort into two balls, one a bouncer, the other a yorker, and both times fell on his knees onto the pitch after delivering. The second one had so much oomph behind it that Morkel ended up overstepping as well.
Not-sure-what-to-do of the day
With Cook and Trott batting as comfortably as though they were playing a club match on a Sunday afternoon and South Africa's bowlers operating as friendly giants instead of the meanies they were talked up to be, Smith had to search for ideas. He used all his frontline bowlers from both ends, asked Steyn to go from over the wicket to around to the left-hander, talked Morkel into making more liberal use of bouncers, gave Imran Tahir enough overs to create something and then ran out of things to try. At the start of the 47th over, Smith played the hand that showed he had run out of options and called on JP Duminy to bowl offspin while the rest had a break. Duminy's spell only lasted two overs, before Smith went back to the big guns, but it was turning to him in the first place that showed the South Africa's captain desperation.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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