England v South Africa, 2nd npower Test, Headingley, 1st day July 18, 2008

Rollercoaster rides and daring decisions


Darren who? © Getty Images
 

Selection of the day
No, it wasn't Andrew Flintoff. Shortly before 10am, news came through that England had named Darren Pattinson in their eleven. A day earlier he was preparing to visit Alton Towers, now he was being introduced to the England captain and his new team-mates. "It's a bit different than a rollercoaster," he said before play, but then had the chance to sit back after Graeme Smith stuck England in. It was one of the more amazing England selections, made even more surprising by the absolute consistency of the last six Tests.

Brave decision of the day
Everything about the first morning said to the captain winning the toss to bowl. But Graeme Smith will still have need to take a deep breath before sending England in for the second time in two Tests. Last week, his team conceded 593 for 8 on the Lord's featherbed, yet Smith - rightly - still backed his bowlers. This time they assessed the conditions much more quickly and pitched the ball up on another slow surface. The rewards then came as Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel claimed three wickets before lunch and England lasted only 52 overs in total.

Come down of the day
This is Michael Vaughan's 50th Test as captain, and he's just the second player to lead England a half-century of times, currently sitting four behind Michael Atherton. It was all set for a Vaughan classic to mark the occasion, just as he managed last year against West Indies in his comeback Test from injury. Alas, it wasn't to be as he edged a perfect outswinger from Dale Steyn to Smith at first slip seventh ball after being applauded to the middle by the home support. The roar as he left the field wasn't for him, but the incoming Kevin Pietersen. Vaughan now has 2 and 0 in this series, both times falling to Steyn. It's a good contest to watch, but at the moment they are brief duels.

Contest of the day
The Vaughan-Steyn battles have been short-lived, but the Steyn-Kevin Pietersen head-to-head has offered extended enterainment. At Lord's, Steyn clattered Pietersen on the helmet early in his 152 and today Pietersen began his innings with a whipped four through midwicket and a crunching pull into the Western Terrace. After lunch, Pietersen was ticking and took Steyn for boundaries through the off side, off his legs and straight. However, the ball after an effortless back-foot force past mid-off, Pietersen went for one shot too many and edged to first slip. The South Africans celebrated as one, aware of the importance of the wicket.

Ovations of the day
At 2.28pm the Headingley crowd rose to their feet and greeted Flintoff with a spine-tingling standing ovation as the allrounder made his way to the crease for his first Test innings since January 2007. They also cheered his first-ball defensive push, while the opening boundary would have lifted the roof off the ground if it had one. But the crowd still had plenty to give. Monty Panesar was also offered a hero's welcome but he looked as much a No. 10 as Tim Ambrose did a No. 6.

Wrong order of the day
England are at sixes and sevens about their batting order. Tim Ambrose isn't a Test No. 6 and it seems almost unfair that he has been given that role, while Stuart Broad looks better than a No. 8. In between them was Andrew Flintoff who mixed a few edges with a couple of more authentic strokes. However, his dismissal wouldn't have looked good for a No. 11 as he flashed at a very wide ball from Steyn.

Controversies of the day
It's level at one-apiece for the two teams today. AB de Villiers claimed a catch off Andrew Strauss which was clearly dropped, leading to some angry scenes from the England balcony, then towards the end of the day Michael Vaughan thought he'd caught Amla at mid-off against Flintoff. Amla had almost made his way off the ground when Mickey Arthur and Graeme Smith signalled for him to stay on. Eventually he was given not out and a fiery final few overs were played out. This series has come alive.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo