Plays of the day July 12, 2008

A silver lining and a 21st Century paceman

Andrew Miller presents the plays of the third day between England and South Africa at Lord's


Monty Panesar found a cracking angle from which to bowl Neil McKenzie © Getty Images
 

Bowler of the day
In his pre-match press conference, Michael Vaughan was proud to stand up for the merits of England's attack. He conceded they may lack the brawn of their South African counterparts, but in terms of skill he was sure they'd prove a touch more troublesome than anticipated. His faith was justified in a single over on Friday evening, when Ryan Sidebottom swung the ball more prodigiously than any of the South Africans had managed in six sessions, but it wasn't just the pacemen to whom he had been referring. With his first ball after lunch, Monty Panesar succeeded where Paul Harris had palpably failed, and tweaked his delivery so sharply that Neil McKenzie was bowled around his legs from the acutest of angles. It was all the encouragement Panesar needed. Morne Morkel was done in by an equally prodigious ripper, and by the time England called for the new ball late in the day, Panesar had broken the innings with 4 for 73 in 25 overs.

Innings of the day
Ashwell Prince began his Test career as a dry and dogged survivor at the crease - gritty and unattractive, but unflinchingly determined, as if desperate to prove that the 25-over thrashes on which he grew up as a youngster in the Eastern Cape were not the sum total of his talents. He's long since established his value to the team, and today, he married the two sides of his game in a beautifully paced performance that respected the dominance that England had established, without surrendering to it in its entirety. On a day when Panesar ran rings around his team-mates, Prince alone found a means to combat his wiles, and in the space of three balls, unfurled two of the finest shots of the match - a powerful reverse-sweep that galloped at speed through third man, and a monstrous mow into the Mound Stand. His eighth Test century was richly deserved, even if the loose swipe that ended it was a shame after such application.

Catch(es) of the day
Fast bowlers are generally renowned for their ineptitude in the field - one only needs to recall the great West Indians of the 1980s and 1990s and their heavy-limbed pounding on the fine-leg boundary. But then there's James Anderson, a very 21st-Century paceman. There are no more committed fielders in England's team, and few more skilful either, as he demonstrated with a full-stretch dive to his left at mid-on to send AB de Villiers on his way for 42. Admittedly it was not the best-timed stroke that de Villiers produced all day, but just to show that Anderson is equally good off either foot, he later launched himself to his right as well, as Harris muffed an attempted drill through midwicket.

Unhappy return of the day
Trying to live up to past glories is never easy. When Michael Atherton returned to the Wanderers in Johannesburg, four years after his epic 185 not out, he was bowled second ball by a booming inswinger from Allan Donald, as England crashed to 2 for 4 and an ignominious defeat. Graeme Smith might reflect on his return to Lord's in a similar manner. Five years ago he was lord of all he surveyed, 259 runs in the bank and dominion established over each of England's cricketers. Today, he resumed South Africa's struggle for survival, still smarting from the failure of his bowlers to strike after being given first use of the conditions. Not entirely surprisingly, he was unable to re-establish his aura today. Anderson found a touch more bounce outside off, and Ian Bell claimed a lobbed catch in the gully.

Predictable failure of the day
Many great players have failed to leave their names on the dressing-room honours-boards at Lord's - Shane Warne and Brian Lara, to name but the most obvious examples. Few, however, have sunk without trace at the old ground. Spare a thought, therefore, for poor Jacques Kallis, who - a decade on from his maiden appearance in 1998 - has finally registered his first international runs on the hallowed turf. Admittedly this was only his third innings (he missed the 2003 victory because of the death of his father, but made a duck when he returned for the one-dayers) but it didn't exactly set his record straight either. He got off the mark with a streaky four through the gully, and had added only three more runs when Sidebottom speared one across his bows for Andrew Strauss to complete an excellent low catch at second slip.

Bowling change of the day
It wasn't a plan, but it might as well have been. With the light fading and South Africa's tenth-wicket pair at the crease, even Paul Collingwood was deemed too ferocious to be given an over. So Vaughan decided that the only man to turn to was that renowned former Natal offspinner, Kevin Pietersen. Dale Steyn had done his utmost to cling on for the cause, and had even partnered Prince for the final 23 runs of his century, but given the chance to wallop a few over the top, he couldn't resist temptation. Pietersen served up a gimme outside off, Steyn had a swipe, and Sidebottom completed a dolly of a catch at mid-off. Ten minutes later, and Pietersen was back in action again, opening the bowling against his former countrymen. The century was one thing, but surely even Pietersen never envisaged that.

Silver lining of the day
While the prospects of South Africa's cricketers shrivelled in the afternoon sunshine, the visiting journalists in the media centre could at least console themselves with the knowledge that they won't be over-burdened for navel-gazing copy tonight. Because, on the other side of the world, their World Cup-winning rugby players have guaranteed a monopoly of the sports pages by ending the All Blacks' record 30-match home winning streak, with a thrilling 30-28 victory at Carisbrook, "the House of Pain" in Dunedin.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo