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First-person reports from the stands

England v South Africa, first Test, The Oval, second day

The dark ages at The Oval

The Test is beautifully poised, but the technology to combat weather conditions is sadly out of date

Ewan Day-Collins

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Hashim Amla was closing in on a half-century at stumps, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval,  2nd day, July 20, 2012
Hashim Amla: a bright spark amid the gloom © AFP
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Choice of game
I chose the standout Test match of the summer - No. 1 v No. 2 (kind of) - that's England at No. 1, by the way. I thought I'd remind our Australian readers in case they'd forgotten. I haven't, as you can see. South Africa versus England, effectively the new Ashes, was the series to see. And I wasn't going to miss a visit to The Oval to witness history in the making.

Key performer
There was no obvious candidate for this category, but, because he's so underrated and because he scored the most runs on the day, Matt Prior edges it (though later, unfortunately, to AB de Villiers). He made a sumptuous and speedy 60, supporting the tail and crashing nine fours, being particularly adept through the off side. He just about beat the overall South African bowling unit, which restricted England impressively, into second place.

One thing I'd have changed
When the floodlights were switched on ominously, and depressingly, at 11.30am, I had an inkling that the day might not replicate the wonderfully sunny days so common in this country. Black clouds circled and eventually swooped down to unleash their venom just after the tea interval. But that's not all I'd liked to have changed about the day. The technology at The Oval could be significantly improved. When pensioners disguised as groundsmen meander on with plastic sheets, planks of wood, and a rope to restore pleasantness amid a deluge, you know your wait might be longer than hoped for. The hover cover - a beautiful invention that ensures swift covering of the strip and outfield - has been adopted widely across the UK. Perhaps England's second most important and prestigious cricket ground could be advised to drag themselves out of the technological dark ages and avoid such a painful hiatus in play.

Interplay I enjoyed the most
There is perhaps nothing more beautiful in cricket than a left-hand cover drive. But Hashim Amla's adroit balance and spectacular timing is perhaps the second-most majestic sight in the game.

Crowd meter
Aside from the grumbling spectator in front of me, and the irritatingly repetitive tunes of the Barmy Army (who everyone is ordered to enjoy, but who everyone actually despises because of the pain they cause), the rather optimistic punters in short sleeves, shorts and straw hats must be commended for their positivity, despite the pessimistic forecast. I found my choice of coat and jeans rather more judicious. I do, however, find watching cricket in a raincoat somewhat depressing, and contradictory to its ideals.

Entertainment
The famous English anthem "Jerusalem" (unless played by our friends the Barmy Army band, in which case it becomes infamous) resounded round The Oval before play, belying the glum faces on the bar staff resigned to another punishing day. At lunch (or luncheon, in "proper" English), a Q and A with former Surrey and (not very good England) player Mark Ramprakash was also interesting for a while. That was, I'm afraid, about it.

Tests v limited-overs
Because England are rubbish at ODIs (despite beating Australia 4-0 recently, just to remind you-know-who), I view the one-day format as the useless, bastard child. However, because England are No. 1 in Tests and the defending world T20 champions, to pick between the two formats is a bit like picking a favourite from among your children. But I'll let you in on a secret: I like Tests just a bit more.

Marks out of 10
4. It was an interesting day in the context of the match. The balance of power probably swung towards the tourists and therefore neutralised the overall contest. As a day, though, it was average, or ordinary, to utilise the most damning of cricketing phrases. No outstanding performances, no England victory, and quite a lot of rain. Quite like the old times if you think about it. But, don't forget, we are No. 1.

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Ewan Day-Collins is a 16-year-old student at a school in London. He aspires to be a sports journalist after doing history at university. He would liken his batting style to the recent Sehwag - he tries and hits a six every delivery but usually gets out first ball. Ewan recently started a cricket blog where he writes commentary and his opinions on cricket.

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Comments: 1 
Posted by Dr_Van_Nostrand on (July 21, 2012, 10:28 GMT)

You rock, Ewan. I myself will encounter the Barmy Army in March in NZ.

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