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August 10, 2008
South Africa's coach, Mickey Arthur, said on Saturday evening that a target of 200 would be enough to put the wind up England, but when they slipped, in effect, to 16 for 4 before lunch, there didn't seem to be much resistance left to carry them to such heights. Out of adversity, however, strode AB de Villiers, whose positive, punchy style rarely alters whatever the circumstances. He was made to struggle for his runs at first, but his hand-eye co-ordination is so superb that, before long, the merest hint of width was being flailed through the covers or rifled through midwicket. The pick of his strokes, however, was a sweetly timed sweep off Monty Panesar that leapt over the square leg ropes before the fielders had time to blink. He would have richly deserved his second century of the series, but in the end the nervous nineties, and his lack of faith in his tail, tempted him down the track as Panesar ripped one out of the rough and into his leg stump.
Bowler of the day
It's not been a bowler's series. Only Makhaya Ntini has registered a five-wicket haul, and only Jacques Kallis has averaged less than 30. But nonetheless, after a tough time with the ball in recent weeks, Stuart Broad has bounced back in this match to record two Test bests - his best figures in an innings of 3 for 44, and his best in a match of 5 for 104. They are not riches by any stretch of the imagination, but as the junior member of a five-man attack, his role is as much about learning as it is about starring. His efforts in this final innings have been invaluable, however - a superb cutter to bowl Neil McKenzie in his first over on Saturday evening, and then two wickets in 11 balls to dock South Africa's tail at a time when it was starting to wag with unnerving freedom. He's enjoyed the extra pace and bounce at The Oval, and has responded well to being left out at Edgbaston.
Statistic of the day
Anyone who envisaged a South African triumph on this tour doubtless assumed that Kallis would be called upon to lead the way with the bat. Instead he has just completed his most disappointing series in a decade, although his pivotal role with the ball has provided some considerable consolation. In four matches, Kallis has mustered 104 runs, which is his lowest aggregate in a series of three or more matches since Sri Lanka toured South Africa in 2000-01 (although his total, on that occasion, of 92 runs was limited by back-to-back innings victories). His average of 14.85, however, is his worst return since his rookie years in the South African side. Only in his debut series against England in 1995-96, when he made eight runs in two Tests, and Australia's visit 14 months later (49 runs in five innings) has he had a leaner time of it.
Luck of the day
On Friday evening, after an incredible run of good fortune during his first two days in the job, Kevin Pietersen declared that the captaincy experience "can only get worse". With a tricky run-chase in prospect on the final day, he might just have a point, although for the moment at least, his luck does seem to be holding. For, if any moment was likely to prick KP's euphoria, it came in the 13th over of the day, when Kallis drove loosely at Steve Harmison, straight into the skipper's midriff at short cover. The chance went begging, however, and as Pietersen flung the ball furiously back to the keeper, South Africa's hopes of setting a testing target had been renewed. But then, one delivery later, Harmison came wider on the crease, angled a sharp lifter back into Kallis, and Paul Collingwood at slip sealed the deal. No-one celebrated more wildly than England's relieved captain.
Captaincy hunch of the day
Monty Panesar had bowled a solitary over from the Vauxhall End, without a great deal of encouragement, when Pietersen interrupted him as he walked to his bowling mark and - after a brief consultation - whipped the ball out of his hands and twirled down a solitary over of his own. As anticipated, the change had been made to bring Panesar on at the Pavilion End, where the left-to-right breeze would help his drift into the right-handers. But the switch had a double benefit, as it enabled Pietersen to call James Anderson back to the end where he had taken all of his wickets in the first innings. Lo and behold, Anderson found extra bounce with his very first delivery, Mark Boucher spliced a looping edge to Collingwood in the gully, and for the umpteenth time in this Test, a Pietersen change had brought instant dividends.
Over-elaboration of the day
When England took the new ball at the start of the 80th over, South Africa's lead was a meagre 119 with three wickets still standing, and England were in touching distance of a four-day win. One of the remaining men, however, was de Villiers, and in England's eagerness to target his tailend partner, Paul Harris, they left the stable door wide open. After Harris escaped the strike with a single from the first ball from Anderson, Pietersen whipped out two slips to reinforce the covers. Anderson's very next delivery pitched and bounced and took the edge ... and whistled clean through the gap where third slip would have been.