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July 14, 2008
Delivery of the day 1
It was the 132nd over of South Africa's innings, and the match was drifting like a blimp from its moorings. Suddenly, an animated discussion kicked off at the non-striker's end, involving the umpire Billy Bowden, England's captain Michael Vaughan, the not-out batsman Neil McKenzie ... and Andrew Strauss, who suddenly turned and legged it for the pavilion. As he went, Bowden motioned a sprinting gesture, and suddenly it all became clear. Despite his pre-match protestations that he'd stand his ground for England, Strauss had sized up the situation and decided that, in the circumstances, he could probably justify deserting his post. So off he headed to hospital, to attend the birth of his second child. And at 5.22pm, almost exactly half-an-hour after the close, his second son, Luca, was safely delivered. "He just didn't want to field, he'd had enough," said his captain, Michael Vaughan, after the close. "He's a clever boy, he is."
Delivery of the day 2
The newly-married Ryan Sidebottom awoke to headlines proclaiming he was a "bed-hopper", thanks to some unfortunate innuendo-laden remarks from his bowling coach, Ottis Gibson. Gibson nevertheless was making a valid point about the difficulties of touring life, especially for fast bowlers whose backs are their most valuable asset, and who often find it tough to adapt to a different mattress every week. Sidebottom has clearly been struggling in this game, but true to form, he refused to complain and in his 29th over, he produced a beauty - an inswinging yorker that dipped late to rip Jacques Kallis off his feet. When the pitch is giving you nothing, it's best to take it out of the equation entirely.
Defender of the day
In his second coming as an international cricketer, Neil McKenzie has been obdurate beyond belief. He batted eight-and-a-half hours for his double century in Chittagong in March, a total of eleven-and-a-quarter one match later in Chennai, and now here at Lord's he's added another nine-and-a-half hour stay - and undoubtedly the most vital of the lot. There was nothing that England could do to unsettle him, with spin, seam, over or around the wicket, but eventually McKenzie's own body let him down. No sooner had Strauss gone to join his wife, Graeme Smith jogged out to join his opening partner as a runner. It was later reported that McKenzie had suffered a slight groin strain, and his lack of mobility doubtless contributed to his downfall, as he flashed at a wide one, and snicked a thin edge to the keeper.
Drop of the day
It was the chance that could have turned the Test. Ashwell Prince, South Africa's first-innings centurion, was still finding his feet when he drove with hard hands at a ball from Stuart Broad that nipped away from him from around the wicket. Alastair Cook in the gully launched himself to his right, but the chance refused to stick. At 21 for 4, England would have sensed a genuine opportunity for post-tea mischief.
Over of the day
Monty Panesar has never endured a more fruitless day's work than this. A personal record 60 overs in the innings, and scarcely a sniff of a wicket on a pitch that needs to be ploughed, planted with carrots, left to lie fallow for a year then used to graze cattle if any life is ever to be injected back into it. But, never let it be said that Monty doesn't raise his game when an opportunity arises. Prince had faced a solitary delivery and was yet to get off the mark when he took guard for Panesar's 55th over. Suddenly the ball began spitting out of the rough at the left-hander, who fenced and jabbed for survival for each of the six balls of his over. After three howling appeals for lbw and a jab off the hip that flew just past Vaughan at leg gully, Prince was happy still to be standing at the end of it.
Oddity of the day
How many times in Test history have more than half the players in a team taken the new ball? Not very many, I'd wager. But in this match, England shared the duties around like a bag of liquorice all-sorts. First there was Sidebottom and James Anderson, then - in the fading light on the third day - Monty Panesar and Kevin Pietersen had a four-over burst at the start of South Africa's second innings. Today, with the game already up, Stuart Broad was joined by Paul Collingwood, who found prodigious swing and produced more than a few hairy moments for the not-out batsmen - not least Prince, who ducked into a not-very-short ball, and gloved it back over the bowler's head.
Farce of the day
Test cricket really doesn't help itself at times. Not only does it persist in producing desperate pitches such as this, but no-one can ever fathom what the rules for an early finish are. When the umpires made an offer of bad light late in the day, the smiles and handshakes from the players made it clear they were ready to call it quits. But then, as soon as they had gone into the pavilion, the sun burst back through the clouds, and the crowd - not without reason - began to voice its disapproval. And so, reluctantly, the teams were coaxed back out for an encore, during which time they were treated to Cook's first over in international cricket.
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