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March 6, 2008
Innings of the day
Ross Taylor began his innings on Wednesday afternoon with an unflattering accolade from the PA man ringing in his ears: "With a highest score of 17 ..." boomed the announcement as he strode out to bat. But Taylor put all such insecurities to one side and set about proving that he's more than just a one-paced wonder. His mighty hitting was there to see when the delivery merited the shot, but for the most part he played straight and late, and made crease occupation his primary concern. It was an eye-opening performance from a man who'd been under-estimated after failing in his first two Tests.
Shot of the day
Daniel Vettori didn't need to play too many expansive strokes in his beautifully paced innings. The majority of his 12 boundaries came from dabs behind square and sweeps through midwicket, as he waited for England to err in line on a decidedly sluggish pitch. But he did enjoy one majestic moment when Monty Panesar floated a full-length delivery right into the arc of his bat. Down he dropped to one knee, and deposited the ball clean over long-on. Two balls later he was back to basics, with a sweet late cut that whistled to the third-man fence.
Bowling change of the day
Not a lot went right for England in the field. Their front-line bowlers were off the pace and the pitch was unforgiving, and midway through the afternoon session, Michael Vaughan turned to his last resort. Kevin Pietersen has pretensions as an offspinner - indeed that is what he was when he played against England for KwaZulu-Natal in 1999-2000. But no-one quite expected him to have such an immediate impact. Ross Taylor allowed himself a solitary sighter, then launched into a mighty mow towards midwicket. The ball spiralled straight up in the air, and Pietersen claimed his third Test wicket.
Just desserts of the day
Ryan Sidebottom has earned a justifiable reputation as England's most luckless bowler. Against India and Sri Lanka last year, if a catch was going to be dropped, it would doubtless be off one of his deliveries. But in Hamilton he's at last earned a measure of payback. First there was Alastair Cook's outstanding pluck at gully to remove Stephen Fleming, and then today, just when it seemed he'd run out of time to massage his figures, he popped up with two wickets in three balls to give them the sheen they deserved. He left the field with 4 for 90 in 34.3 overs. A testament to a job very well done.
Improbable coincidence of the day
Yesterday Matthew Bell cleaned up his namesake, Ian Bell, with a whistling pull shot that clattered into his right wrist as he took evasive action at short leg. Today, Matthew - also positioned beneath the lid - got his comeuppance courtesy of England's captain, Michael Vaughan. Jeetan Patel served up a short ball, Vaughan pulled hard, down into the ground and back up into Bell's outstretched left fingertip. Blood poured out, presumably from a removed nail, and off he trooped to join the casualty ward.
Duff dismissal of the day
Alastair Cook scored a century in his most recent Test innings, at Galle in December, and had been easing benignly along on a pitch that was proving to be as dead as the England bowlers had claimed. But then, with five overs to go until the close, he pulled loosely at the tireless Chris Martin, and the substitute fielder Nick Horsley pouched a simple catch at square leg. Cook was kicking himself as he left and rightly so. Once again England's inability to convert promising starts into prolific finishes had undermined their day's work.
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