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December 18, 2009
Drinks on Ntini
Makhaya Ntini should have had his first wicket yesterday evening, but AB de Villiers couldn't lend a helping hand and a ground-ful of thirsty punters weredenied a free drink. However, in the third over of the day, Ntini bowled Andrew Strauss and launched into an expansive celebration. Before the PA could announce the moment, however, the fans were already heading to the bar, including members of the Barmy Army who, possibly for the first time ever, had some consolation over England losing a wicket.
Harris gets his mate
Paul Harris and Jonathan Trott are good friends. They played together at Western Province and for Warwickshire, but now they are on opposite sides. So it will have given Harris huge pleasure that he got the better of their first battle together. Trott had become bogged down as he concentrated on survival on a pitch starting to play tricks, and then he suddenly wanted to break the shackles. He advanced down the track and aimed an ugly heave through the leg side, but didn't make contact. The leg stump went back, Trott went off and Harris went on a celebratory sprint.
Belly, Belly, Belly ...
Ian Bell had a thick covering of grass to thank for his place at No. 6. If the pitch on the first morning hadn't looked so green, Luke Wright would probably have made his Test debut, but instead England chose to play it safe. So it was a big chance for him when he strode out with the game in the balance at 168 for 4. And what did he do? He left a straight ball from Harris. It wasn't even a marginal leave as the ball demolished middle and off stumps. Harris is a hugely under-rated bowler, but he doesn't turn the ball much. Bell clearly believed otherwise. The death rattle will doubtless have persuaded him otherwise.
It's amazing how many problems sightscreens cause in international cricket, and midway through the day it happened again. The screen at the Hennops River End couldn't quite change itself back to white when the batsman was facing up, and it remained half-and-half with the advertisement. The solution was to drape a white sheet down over the screen which was a sensible move, but won't have impressed the companies paying hefty sums to promote their products.
Swann does a KP
England would have been several leagues up the creek with scarcely a paddle-sweep for salvation if it hadn't been for Graeme Swann. First he bowled 45 overs to claim five wickets, then he walked to the crease with his team in a hole at 221 for 7 and responded with a crackling career-best 81-ball 85. In the course of his counter-attack he showed there's more than one player capable of the switch hit, when he flipped himself into a left-hander and swung Paul Harris through cover (or is that midwicket?). It certainly gave him something to tweet about.
James Anderson was pretty upset to lose his duck-less Test record when he fell for 0 in the first innings of the final Ashes Test at The Oval. He is hugely proud of his batting and has provided a number of valuable innings to England's cause. His 29 at Centurion Park could well join that list and during his 78-ball stay he managed to register his first Test six, after six years of trying. Going down on one knee, he launched Harris out of the middle of the bat and miles over deep midwicket. He now lurks just one blow behind Alastair Cook's tally of sixes.
ESPNcricinfo looks at five reasons for England's failure to compete in Australia