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July 31, 2008
Contest of the day
Out of the puddles of a wet and winding final session roared Andrew Flintoff in a titanic 10-ball duel that evoked memories of Allan Donald's assault on Michael Atherton at Trent Bridge ten years earlier. The man in Flintoff's sights was the lynchpin of South Africa's innings, Jacques Kallis, and then as now, the bowler was fuelled by the raw anger of injustice. Alternating yorkers and bouncers with a skill and aggression that is the preserve of few, Flintoff's Donald moment arrived with the fifth ball of his onslaught, when he struck Kallis flush on the toe with a ball that could only have demolished middle stump. Aleem Dar saw differently, and a livid Flintoff spent the whole of the next over telling the umpire what he thought while ticking like a timebomb at square leg. Kallis summoned all of his skill to survive Flintoff's next four balls, but the fifth was too good. An outswinging yorker that clipped the outside of the off stump, to spark delirium in Birmingham.
Replay of the day
The seeds of Flintoff's fury were sown during a luckless morning session. In the seventh over of the day Neil McKenzie, on 29, was given the first of two vital reprieves. Flintoff found the perfect line on off stump, with a shade of away movement, and McKenzie's angled defensive skidded low off the edge and into Andrew Strauss's hands at first slip. Immediately, however, there was doubt in Strauss's eyes, unquestionably as a result of the Vaughan/de Villiers controversy in the Headingley Test. Replays suggested that the ball might have bounced up off Strauss's fingertips and into the palms of his hands, but in the current climate, he wasn't about to risk accusations of gamesmanship. The decision was sent upstairs to the third umpire, Ian Gould, who had no option but to call the batsman back.
Drop of the day
McKenzie's second let-off was a much more clear-cut affair, and no prizes for guessing the culprit. Poor Paul Collingwood is enduring a shocking match, and the further he dwells on his misfortunes, the more he manages to compound them. He would normally have guzzled the low edge that flew to his right at second slip, as Flintoff pounded in in search of his 200th Test wicket. Instead - and unsurprisingly - his mind had drifted to other weightier matters and the chance went down. McKenzie had made 57 by this stage, and England's hopes of clawing their way back into contention had taken another battering.
Catch of the day
If the fielders can't do the job for you, then sometimes a bowler has no option but to do it all himself. That's precisely the route that James Anderson took, in a moment of commitment that hinted at the dramas to come. A sharp inducker grazed the inside edge of Hashim Amla's bat, rebounded off the pad-flap, and ballooned out towards the vacant silly point. Anderson sized up the situation in an instant, veered sideways in his follow-through, and hurtled across the pitch to launch himself one-handed towards the turf. He scooped the ball inches from the ground, but this time, the catch was clear-cut enough to prevent the South Africans from marching out of the pavilion to instruct their man to stay put.
Milestone of the day
Flintoff may have struck with his second ball of the match last night, but with McKenzie leading a charmed life, he needed another 13 overs to double his tally today. It looked for a while as though McKenzie was going to escape his clutches for good, as he whipped and drove two fours for consecutive balls move into the 70s, but with his very next ball, Flintoff roared back in to pin him lbw with a perfectly pitched inswinger. The wicket was his 200th in Test cricket, although the pedants will point out that only 193 of those have been taken for England (seven came for the Rest of the World against the Aussies in 2005). Still, his efforts ensured he became the tenth man to do the double of 3000 runs and 200 wickets. Curiously, his tally of two five-wicket hauls was the fewest by any bowler with that many wickets to their name.
Batsman of the day
It's been a quiet tour for Kallis - with the bat, at any rate. He's cut a slightly forlorn figure out in the middle in the first two Tests, mustering scores of 7, 13 and 4 while each of his top-order colleagues has racked up at least one century. But Kallis's commitment in this innings was a replay of his glory years. A pair of unbeaten half-centuries against Bangladesh A got him back into the groove last week, and after a few quiet jibes about his weight in the early part of this trip, his extra commitment in training has been notable. The upshot was a wholehearted 64, a performance that lifted South Africa from a dicey 135 for 4 to a potentially vital first-innings lead. His stay was ended only by a performance that is already sure to go down in folklore.
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