England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 2nd day July 20, 2012

Swings and missed run-outs

Plays of the Day from the second day of the first Test between England and South Africa

Change of the Day
Batting looked a far more demanding business in the first couple of hours of day two than it had on day one. Some credited a more intense approach from the South Africa bowlers, others a minor change in atmospheric conditions, others simply a straighter line. While each of those factors may have been relevant up to a point, the main difference between day one and day two was simply the fact that, on the first day, Alastair Cook left the ball with excellent discipline and judgement, while on day two he was drawn into pushing at one he could have left and was bowled off the inside edge. The value of Cook's innings was highlighted by his absence. The new batsmen struggled to negate a revitalised South Africa bowling attack that were armed with a ball that was only a dozen overs old and England lost 4 for 42 in the first 21 overs of the day. South Africa did not bowl much differently, it is just that without Cook to negate them, they found more reward for their efforts.

Drop of the Day
Had Matt Prior, on 17, been held in the gully by Jacques Rudolph off Morne Morkel, England would have been 298 for 7. As it was, Rudolph was unable to cling on to a tough chance to his left and Prior was able to go on to contribute 60. Just as importantly, he helped England eek out 70 runs for their last three wickets and revive an innings that looked as if it may founder despite the platform provided by Cook and Jonathan Trott. Such moments could prove crucial in what looks likely to be a closely contested series.

Mix-up of the Day
When Prior cut a delivery from Dale Steyn on 5 he presumed it had beaten Alviro Petersen at backward point. Instead, Petersen pulled off a superb stop and, with Prior and Ian Bell committed to a run, would have completed a run out had he hit the stumps with his throw. Bell, who may well have been the man dismissed, fell soon afterwards anyway, so the incident cost South Africa little. But it did still highlight a couple of issues: firstly, it exposed the loss of Mark Boucher who, with his experience and energy as wicketkeeper, may well have made swifter ground to the stumps or would have had the presence of mind to tell Petersen to take his time with the throw. It was also interesting to note that, although Prior had realised with horror that a direct hit would bring a wicket, he still ensured that he passed his partner in mid-pitch to ensure Bell would be the man run out.

Inswinger of the Day
The contest between Steyn and James Anderson was thought to have already been won after Steyn's out-of-sorts performance on the first day. Steyn came back a different person on the second morning with more aggression, greater focus and, most importantly, swing. His best delivery of the morning was one that caught Graeme Swann on the pads and induced a lung-collapsing scream from Steyn. The ball jagged back in and hit Swann on the back pad but an inside-edge prevented it from being given out. Anderson's inswinger was perhaps better, because it got the desired result. His roared in at a steep angle that beat Alviro Petersen's bat and cost South Africa their first wicket.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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