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December 28, 2009
Pietersen cut short
Whatever Kevin Pietersen said beforehand, making an impression in this match, on his former home ground, would have left him with immense satisfaction. He looked primed for the challenge, too, as he concentrated hard at the start of the innings to just about stop himself trying for one of those hairy singles. But it was a pristine straight drive off Jacques Kallis's first ball of the day that made everyone sit up and take notice. Pietersen stood tall and drilled the delivery past mid-on, the type of shot he plays with regularity when at the top of his game and when he was dropped by Kallis at slip it appeared set for him. Alas, it was a false dawn as he tried to sweep a full ball from Paul Harris and was lbw. It had promised so much.
Aleem's hat trick
The weather has already played a part in this game, but the third day was perfect with clear blue skies. However, there was a strong wind blowing, which was gusting across the ground and causing a few problems. At one point it caught Aleem Dar's wide-brimmed hat and the umpire had to chase it through midwicket before finally grabbing hold two-thirds of the way towards the boundary. The crowd gave him a hearty cheer and Dar got into the spirit by acknowledging the applause before trying to firmly fix his hat back on.
Bowled 'im…oh, it's the wind
As well as troubling Dar, the gusts also meant the bails had trouble staying in their grooves and on one occasion struck with precision-like timing that would have done a Swiss-watchmaker proud. As Makhaya Ntini slanted a delivery across Alastair Cook, the left hander shoulder arms and the ball sailed through to the keeper. However, at the exact moment the ball flew past the stumps the bail fell out of its groove. It caused momentary excitement in the crowd and Cook may have thought he'd made a horrid misjudgement. It was all a false alarm.
There may be one England player who's now a big fan of the Umpire Decision Review System. On 64, Alastair Cook - who earlier confirmed to Pietersen that he was indeed plumb to Harris - prodded forward to JP Duminy and was given out caught at short leg. It was clear Cook wasn't happy and made the 'T' sign which brought Steve Davis into action. The third umpire had a long look and the pictures did suggest that ball had missed bat and glove, coming straight off the pad. Was it conclusive enough? Yes, Cook was saved and went on to reach a gusty hundred. "It's great, this new system," he might have said.
Sadly for Ian Bell his leave against Paul Harris in the first innings at Centurion will be played forever more on blooper videos. It will live with him, but all he can do is try and show what he is capable of. The pressure is certainly on, but he looked far more comfortable as he came to the crease on this occasion - although that may have had something to do with a score that read 297 for 4. After a couple of leaves against Harris (brave boy) he made his intent clear with two steps down the track and a six over long. It's a shot that will replayed, but still not as much as that leave.
And down she goes
It was a tough day for South Africa with just four wickets to show for their efforts, but they could easily have had an extra scalp to take with them which would have made tomorrow morning appear slightly less daunting. Kallis, still not at 100% after his injury, came back for a late spell and forced Matt Prior to defend a ball into his thigh pad that bounced out to Hashim Amla at short leg. Amla is normally very safe under the helmet, but could only palm the chance to ground. It was one of those days.
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