Plays of the day March 9, 2009

A Sparrow, a sequel, and an A-grade AB


No keeping duties for AB de Villiers, please © AFP
 

The sparrow takes flight
Luke "Sparrow" Gillian is often seen when the TV cameras cut to the crowd, wearing his version of the baggy green and waving the Australian flag. The founder of the "Waving the Flag" supporter tours has been a lone figure in the stands at the Tests but he got his moment in the sun during the tea break, when he was one of three people competing on the field to win some beer. It was a simple bowl-off - whoever hit the stumps most from three attempts won. A young South African man, a bikini-clad girl with a highly dubious action, and Sparrow failed in all their attempts and it wasn't until the makeshift pitch was shortened that anyone got near the stumps. Sparrow eventually got his line right, grabbed a stump and set off on a lap of honour, stopping briefly to happily accept a hug of congratulations from the girl in the bikini. The beer will taste extra good tonight.

Asad watch, the sequel
On the third day, the umpire Asad Rauf was always worth watching as he tried various poses with his hat, preened his ample head of hair and got a massage from the fourth umpire during a drinks break. Again on the fourth day he was up to some strange antics, collecting a bottle of water during the final drinks break and proceeding to pour the water into ... his eyes. For the second day in a row, Billy Bowden was the least interesting umpire on the field.

A-grade AB
AB de Villiers has declared he does not want to become the long-term wicketkeeper for South Africa whenever Mark Boucher retires and when he shows off his best in the slips it's hard to imagine gloves making him any better. There was another top-drawer effort when Marcus North flashed at a wide ball from Dale Steyn and de Villiers, at second slip, hurled up his left hand and casually took the catch as easily as if he was picking apples.


More fielding practice for Marcus North © AFP
 

North's day goes further south
As if a duck wasn't enough for North, things got worse for him when he couldn't replicate de Villiers' effort at the start of the Australia innings. Peter Siddle had just got rid of Neil McKenzie and should have had Jacques Kallis first ball when he drew a thick edge. North, at first slip, was a little slow to react and couldn't get his hands around the ball. At that moment North would have liked to be invisible, which he clearly was later when the ground announcer introduced the fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus as Marcus North. It was a change from the tour match at Potchefstroom, where North came on to bowl and was introduced as Phillip Hughes.

Right to refer
South Africa's appalling record with referrals in this series got slightly better when McKenzie was unconvinced about Billy Bowden's decision to send him on his way lbw for 3. The line was good, there was no inside edge but the height was the problem and the side angle suggested the ball was already at bail-height and still rising, so McKenzie was rightly reprieved. The referral system hasn't endeared itself to the South Africans over the past nine days of Test cricket but as they are starting to learn, it's all about when you use them.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo