Plays of the day July 11, 2008

A new-model Bell and a howling Collingwood

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

Paul Harris made no mistake when cutting Ian Bell off on 199 ... © Getty Images

Innings of the day
Unbeknownst to his team-mate, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell batted for more than five hours last week, as he honed his technique with an imposing 215 for Warwickshire against Gloucestershire. At the time it was taken as yet more proof of Bell's infuriating penchant for soft runs - he's never really been out of form in his Test career to date, just out of his comfort zone. Over the past two days at Lord's, however, a new-model Bell has taken his toll of South Africa's bowlers. He arrived at the crease on the first afternoon with his team in strife and Pietersen bogged down against a pumped-up attack, but he charmed his first ball through the covers for four, and though his tempo fluctuated thereafter, his temperament never wavered - at least, not until he had reached the rarefied territory of the nervous 190s. He survived a streaky hook on 198, but that last elusive single sadly proved beyond his reach.

Catch of the day
It took an unlikely moment of inspiration to deny Bell his double-century. Paul Harris was treated with indifference by England's batsmen - despite his height, he found next to no purchase from a slow and flat pitch, and didn't do much in the way of deception through the air either. But, he did demonstrate some lightning reflexes and bucket-like hands, as he swooped to his right in his followthrough, and wrapped his fingers around a full-blooded drive down the ground. Bell looked to the heavens in horror, and received a consoling pat on the shoulder from Mark Boucher as he turned for the pavilion, having become the seventh batsman (and the first Englishman) to fall for 199 in Tests. Michael Vaughan instantly declared, no doubt sharing his team-mate's pain - in 2002, Vaughan reached the 190s twice in three Tests, but has never yet made that elusive 200.

Untimely dismissal of the day
Pity poor Paul Collingwood. There can't be many more inopportune moments to fall victim to an umpiring howler. With Andrew Flintoff clamouring for a recall, someone is going to have to make way at Headingley next week, and to judge by Bell's response to the pressure it certainly isn't going to be him. Bell's 286-run stand with Pietersen left Collingwood with a tricky half-hour before lunch, with rain in the air and his job on the line. A five-minute cloudburst might not have broken his concentration, but it certainly did for the umpire, Billy Bowden. Harris bowled on the line of leg stump, Hashim Amla claimed a smart catch at short leg, and up went the crooked finger, to Collingwood's world-weary disgust. Replays clearly showed there'd been no bat involved in the shot whatsoever.

... while Paul Collingwood had reason to feel robbed after being given out incorrectly © Getty Images

Untimely dismissal of the day 2
It's not just Collingwood under scrutiny, mind you, because Flintoff's return could have repercussions that extend further down the order. Despite a modicum of batting form for Lancashire, no-one is yet convinced that Freddie is ready to resume at No. 6, which means runs from the wicketkeeper have suddenly become all the more important. Which brings us to Tim Ambrose, who endured a shocking time in his maiden ODI series - 10 runs in four completed innings against New Zealand - and today added a seven-ball 4 before edging low to Graeme Smith. Admittedly his 67 at Trent Bridge last month was a pivotal performance in a series decider, but in his international career to date Ambrose hasn't gone past 11 in ten of his 15 innings. As Boucher said on the eve of the series, batting ability is the pre-requisite for modern-day wicketkeepers, because you've either got it or you haven't. The rest can be learnt on the job. Despite his century at Wellington in March, the jury is still out on Ambrose's long-term role.

Golden boy of the day
Ambrose, however, can expect a reprieve for the moment, simply because of the man behind him in the batting order. Stuart Broad's technically stupendous 76 was unequivocal proof of the class of England's youngest player. At 22 years and 17 days, Broad once again put many of his seniors to shame, as he posted his second Test half-century in as many innings, and set a career-best score for the fifth time in seven Tests. He hasn't made less than 25 for six consecutive innings, and he's not been dismissed in single figures since the first innings of his recall, at Wellington back in March. In short, he is coming into his own as a genuine Test batsman, tall and imposing at the crease, with a wonderful drive and a cool ability to tuck the short ball off his hip. South Africa's extra pace has not been able to ruffle him yet, although the true test will come on a pitch less sluggish than this.

Rueful reflection of the day
The full extent of Smith's folly at the toss can now be gauged. He wasn't alone in being duped by the conditions - Vaughan would have bowled as well - but by the time England called a halt to their onslaught on 593 for 8, they had racked up the third-highest score by any side asked to bat first in England. Mohammad Azharuddin was never able to live down his insertion of Graham Gooch's England on this same ground in 1990 - Gooch himself made 333 and England a massive 653 for 4 declared, and the only other higher score was 601 for 7 dec by Australia at Headingley in the opening innings of the 1989 Ashes, when Steve Waugh's 177 not out started a summer-long rot for England. It's inauspicious company, but Smith can at least console himself with his personal memories of batting on this stage.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo