Plays of the day March 7, 2009

Slow death, and the mamba strikes


Michael Hussey ducks into a bouncer © AFP
 

Over rates over-rated
The start of South Africa's innings was so eventful that in the first 22 minutes only 15 balls were bowled. First there was a ridiculously long five-minute delay as Steve Bucknor proved that his "slow death" reputation has been transferred to the third umpire's chair. Hashim Amla was lbw to Mitchell Johnson and asked for a referral. Although he was plumb, Bucknor seemed obsessed with detecting if there had been an inside edge and used far too many replays to determine what Hot Spot showed in one go - there was no bat involved. Then there was another long delay as Graeme Smith was assessed by the physio before he retired hurt. Ricky Ponting will have a right to complain if there is any query over Australia's slow over rate.

Deal or no deal?
Phillip Hughes struck an agreement with his fellow opener Simon Katich before the first Test that Hughes would face the first ball of each innings if Katich took the short-leg duties. It seems the younger man isn't keen on getting in harm's way. But something must have happened to void the deal. As Mitchell Johnson fired in unplayable bouncers, Hughes was in close under the helmet while Katich kicked back and relaxed at mid-off. Even when Hughes was at leg gully - some 15 metres from the bat - he kept his helmet on.

Double header
Michael Hussey was a gun squash player as a teenager, as well as being a star cricketer. If his effort at Kingsmead is anything to go by he might also have been a handy soccer striker. Hussey ducked into a vicious Dale Steyn bouncer and it flew off the top of his helmet and behind point at such speed that the batsmen were able to run two leg-byes. It was the kind of header that would have done Ronaldo proud. It also kicked off a fiery Steyn spell that featured some words exchanged between him and Hussey.

Mamba strikes
The so-called green mamba pitch at Kingsmead has a mystical reputation. The idea is that because the ground is so close to the sea, at high tide the ball begins to move around so much that it strikes fear into the batsmen. High tide on the second day was at 1.45pm. As that time approached there was such a spate of wickets that it was hard not to think about the legend. But alas, the exact moment came and went without a perfectly-timed strike. However, both teams combined to take 10 for 85 plus two retired-hurts in the first two sessions. The mamba had awoken.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo