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August 2, 2008
Innings of the day
At Lord's in the first Test, Graeme Smith reprised his double-century in 2003 with a second-innings century that guided his side to safety. Here at Edgbaston, he exceeded that feat with the performance of his life. While his team-mates stumbled around him, Smith summoned the indomitable spirit that cemented his legend five years ago, and dragged his bruised team to an incredible victory. On a day when Monty Panesar was spitting out of the left-hander's rough, he played the spinner with supreme judgment and technique, assessing length in an instant and picking off his runs almost exclusively on the leg side. He was untroubled by the sightscreen issues that dogged the right-handers, and by the fading light as well, as he produced the finest second-innings century in England since Graham Gooch beat the West Indians in 1991.
Sidekick of the day
Mark Boucher's career has been building towards a day like this. No-one in the South African side has a better understanding of sporting heartbreak than he, and there's no-one whom Smith would have rather had alongside him when the weariness threatened to set in and the requirement began to dip. Boucher is a battler, and he's got the scars to prove it. Arguably his dropped catch off Allan Donald at Trent Bridge in 1998 turned the tide of that series, and he had a starring role in their 2003 World Cup elimination as well. But in his 117th Test, he summoned every memory - good, bad and downright ugly - and ensured that, at the third attempt, he nailed the series win that, second only to victory in Australia, is the greatest goal of his career.
Wicket of the day
The one moment that really rocked South Africa's resolve came when Jacques Kallis was pinned lbw by Flintoff. Having at one stage been comfortably placed at 65 for 0, his departure left them floundering on 83 for 3, and with acrimony filling the air. Kallis was absolutely spitting as he left the crease. On Thursday evening he had expressed his wish that "common sense" would prevail, and that the troublesome sightscreen that contributed to his first-innings downfall would be extended to help him pick Flintoff's full-length deliveries. Nothing of the sort happened, and when Flintoff flung down a thigh-high full-toss, Kallis didn't come close to picking it. He possibly expected it to be called no-ball, but there was absolutely no question about the height. It tailed back into the crouching batsman, and would have hit middle two-thirds up.
Double-bluff of the day
He arrived with his usual fanfare, but after 20 slightly underwhelming deliveries, Flintoff consulted with his captain, and arranged for a few subtle changes in the field. A short midwicket was posted, as well as a man back for the hook, which could mean only one thing - it was time for a bouncer barrage. In fact, Flintoff's next delivery was quite the opposite end of the length scale. Out came the dreaded yorker that had caused such havoc in the first innings, and - although the weather was considerably brighter than it had been on Thursday evening - the effect was exactly the same. Neil McKenzie completely lost sight of it, and could only flinch in anticipation of impact as the ball scudded into his toe, just outside the line of off stump. Some might argue that McKenzie's evasive action equated to playing a shot, hence he should have been given not out, but Steve Davis had no doubts as the finger was raised.
Celebration of the day
As the afternoon wore on, Panesar began to extract more and more from the surface, and his excitement grew exponentially. Leaps and yelps and premature high-fives abounded, not least when Ashwell Prince emerged for a torrid examination out of the left-hander's rough. In a single over, Panesar stuck up his own finger as if to give an lbw decision that had already been turned down, then hurtled off into the arms of the wicketkeeper to celebrate a caught-behind that was incorrectly refused by Aleem Dar. Dar rightly had a quiet word with Panesar at that point, but before his words could sink in, Prince was gone, caught behind off James Anderson at the other end of the pitch. Panesar's reaction was somewhat akin to a gazelle stalking a lion - with big, bounding skips, he tracked down his celebrating colleague, leapt gleefully onto his back, and brought him tumbling to the turf.
Non-appeal of the day
And yet, incredibly, for all his histrionics, Panesar went AWOL for the one appeal that might have made the difference. On 85, and with the Barmy Army in full voice, Smith propped forward to defend a big ripper that flicked off the finger of his right glove, and looped tamely into the hands of Tim Ambrose jogging round from behind the stumps. England's fielders, to a man, were indifferent as they asked politely for the decision, though most of them were behind the bat so were in no position to tell. Panesar chose to keep his council as well, and in the face of such apathy, Dar had an easy decision to make.
Mix-up of the day
Other than that gloved chance, and a vast legbreaking lbw appeal that would have required a brave decision, Smith's performance was chanceless. But he could still have been dismissed on 79 after a rash call for a leg-bye from his partner, AB de Villiers. Smith responded, against his better judgement, as Tim Ambrose shed his right glove and hurtled round to field. A fierce shy came in on the bounce, but Ian Bell couldn't gather, and the moment - and the match - was lost.
Moment of the day
The final, brutal blow through midwicket that sealed South Africa's first series win in England since 1965. He was made to wait for the moment, as Kevin Pietersen tweaked his offbreaks into the rough, and he even edged the penultimate ball down into the crease. But then, Pietersen served up a half-tracker, Smith swung lustily across the line, and raised his arms in instant triumph, as the dressing-room poured out to the middle in acclaim.
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