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December 26, 2009
Close South Africa 175 for 5 (Boucher 1*, de Villiers 8*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
South Africa's old guard of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis combined superbly in a third-wicket stand of 150 to claw their side into the ascendancy on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead, but England claimed five wickets in 17 overs either side of that partnership to finish an eventful day with their noses just in front. By the time bad light and rain combined to lop 29 overs off the day's allocation, South Africa were grateful for the intercession at 175 for 5, having just lost three wickets for 10 runs in 29 balls.
That late collapse mirrored South Africa's earlier struggles against the new ball, in which they struggled to 10 for 2 in 9.4 torturously negotiated overs, and made the alliance that followed, between Smith and Kallis, all the more invaluable. Together they batted with increasing serenity for 45.5 overs, including the entire second session, to demonstrate that Smith's decision to bat first in humid, swinging conditions had not been an error of judgment. But when Kallis fell to his third delivery of the final session, an opening had been prised, and Smith's catastrophic run-out was compounded by the late extraction of JP Duminy for 4.
On a wicket offering plenty assistance to the seamers, and hindered by a damp outfield that deprived them of full value for their shots, even the two batsmen who made starts found the going extremely tough - not least Smith, who received a painful blow to his left index finger from James Anderson early on in his innings, and required further treatment from the physio. But as the ball began to soften as the day wore on, and against a toiling four-man attack to which Jonathan Trott's medium-pacers offered scant variation, both Smith and Kallis found a more commanding tempo to please a festive home support.
Of the pair, Kallis was the more fluent. He scored the first boundaries of South Africa's innings in the 16th over, when a brace of short balls from Stuart Broad were cut and pulled to the fence, and reached his half-century from 94 deliveries with a rare false shot through a yawning gap in the slips as Trott induced an unlikely edge. In between whiles he was caused some bother by the spin of Graeme Swann, who lured him into an ugly heave over midwicket in his first over, but by and large his authority was absolute, as he built on his first-Test hundred with an innings containing four further fours.
Smith, on the other hand, relied on his unyielding determination, not least to negotiate a traumatic period against the new ball, during which time Anderson and Graham Onions proved to be an accurate and incisive pairing. He had two lucky escapes, first on 45 - when Swann shaved his outside edge with a well-flighted offbreak, but Paul Collingwood at slip couldn't quite get his fingers underneath a low chance - and then on 53, when he sized up an ambitious sweep to be rapped on the pad plumb in front of middle. England opted not to go for the review, and it seemed at first to be an erroneous decision, although later replays suggested there might have been a thick inside-edge.
Swann was his usual threatening self, but the seamers ought to have provided a bigger source of wickets, especially after the start they enjoyed. Anderson took the first over from Shaun Pollock's favoured Umgeni End, and the reputed extra bounce available to bowlers from that end paid dividends after seven deliveries when Ashwell Prince was pushed onto the back foot by an off-stump lifter, and Swann at third slip pouched a regulation spliced edge.
Hashim Amla had defied England with dogged discipline throughout his second-innings hundred at Centurion, and his brand of obdurate watchfulness was just what was needed as Anderson's zippy swing and Onions' tight wicket-to-wicket line kept the runs down to a trickle. But it was the introduction of Broad that ended his stay on just 2 from 22 balls. Replacing Onions at the Old Fort End, Broad instantly located that probing full-length that did for Australia at The Oval in August, and Amla didn't even contemplate a review as he planted his front foot to a yorker-length delivery, and was pinned plumb lbw.
With Smith entrenched (and soon to be in pain as Anderson jammed his finger to the bat handle), Kallis arrived with his team in some strife. Understandably enough, survival was his first priority. However, as the session wore on and a few limbs began to tire, England's decision to go into the match with just three seamers began to tell against them. Kallis clicked up a gear as Broad allowed his length to drift, and Smith finally registered his first boundary from his 63rd delivery, when Anderson fed him too much width for his favourite cut shot.
But then, nine balls after tea, the momentum of the match swung dramatically back in England's favour. First to go was Kallis, quite out of the blue, as he pushed absentmindedly at a regulation offbreak from Swann, and edged a low chance to Collingwood at slip. Though AB de Villiers crunched his first delivery for four, his confidence in the conditions proved to be his captain's undoing. Three overs later, he seized upon a non-existent single as Smith defended to Alastair Cook in the covers, and Smith had no chance of regaining his ground as Cook sprinted for the stumps with ball in hand, and beat his despairing dive by three inches.
With dark clouds already looming, South Africa were starting to get anxious about the fading light, and Onions, who was arguably England's best bowler of the day, gained late reward for his discipline when JP Duminy was trapped on the walk by a perfect stump-to-stump seamer, and sent on his lbw lbw for 4. Once again, the opportunity to review was declined, as South Africa sought to keep their powder dry for what promises to be a testing second morning - not least if the wicket is juiced up by more overnight rain.
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