Plays of the day July 13, 2008

McKenzie's reawakening continues

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

Innings of the day 1


Neil McKenzie's average is at last approaching something respectable © Getty Images
 

From the fury of youth to the calm of maturity. Graeme Smith's second Test century at Lord's was, just like his first back in 2003, a triumph of a very considerable will. There, however, the comparisons end. The anger, bordering on hatred, that carried Smith to his incredible matchwinning 259 five years ago was nowhere to be seen today, as he swallowed his pride, sized up his task, and set out his stall to bat, and bat, and bat. His humility was especially evident in the coolly understated celebration of his century - a lingering glance to the heavens and a slow but deliberate raising of the arms. Though he fell to the new ball before the close, the warmth of the acclaim as he returned to the pavilion was due recognition for one very doughty fighter indeed.

Innings of the day 2

Smith stole the plaudits, but it was his sidekick who survived to the close. McKenzie's second coming as an international cricketer, after three-and-a-half years in the wilderness, has been a remarkable tale of redemption. In this third match back, against Bangladesh in Chittagong, he and Smith shared in a world-record stand of 415 - not a bad memory to call upon when batting for two days is the task you've set yourself. And one match later, against India in Chennai, he chipped in with twin innings of 94 and 155 not out. In fact, in seven matches since his return, he's scored 763 runs at 84.77, and boosted his Test average from an unworthy 33.24 to a respectable 39.87.

Drop of the day

Who'd be an England wicketkeeper? No position comes in for greater scrutiny, especially on days of hard yakka such as these, when nothing less than the highest standards will suffice. In the 80th over of the innings, with the new ball around the corner and Kevin Pietersen turning his arm over to while away the minutes, he found a bit of rip outside Smith's off stump, and induced the thinnest of snicks. Tim Ambrose, however, could do nothing more than parry the ball with his left mitt, and the rebound bobbled out of the reach of slip as well. It had all the makings of a Matt Prior-esque clanger.

Wicket of the day

... but then, to Ambrose's intense relief, James Anderson made the breakthrough with the new ball. His first delivery was wild and called wide, as it jagged off the seam towards the slips, but it did enough to tip Smith's equilibrium just a fraction. His next ball was right on target, and bounced as well, as Smith decided that attack would be the best form of defence and climbed into an imposing pull. The ball took the top-edge and ballooned out to point, where Pietersen was on hand to end a mighty innings and give England their only breakthrough of the day.

Dummy of the day

Sometimes, fielders will resort to all sorts of knavish tricks to try and buy a run-out. More often than not, they end up looking rather silly in the process. Take Andrew Strauss's cunning plan, shortly after tea, with South Africa rumbling along on 146 for 0, and looking utterly invincible. Smith clipped Panesar off his toes through midwicket, where Pietersen was lurking in the deep to cut it off. Strauss, however, took off on a swallow dive to give the impression he'd pulled off a miracle stop, but the only man he managed to fool was his own team-mate. Pietersen abandoned his own pursuit, and the ball dribbled over the ropes for four.

Non-appeal of the day

Sometimes it's worth going up for everything, just in case the umpire's feeling twitchy. Unfortunately for England, when Smith was on 22, he played such an uncharacteristically rash shot - a swished pull across the line - that everyone was too astonished to enquire as to whether there might have been a nick as the back of his bat whizzed by. Paul Collingwood motioned as if to appeal, but no-one else bothered. Replays suggested there might have been a graze.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo