South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban, 4th day

Finding the top of off

Andrew McGlashan in Durban

December 29, 2009

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Jacques Kallis shouldered arms to a ball that darted back into his off stump, South Africa v England, 2nd Test, Durban, December 29, 2009
Stuart Broad hit the right length, the right line, and sent Jacques Kallis's off stump cartwheeling © Getty Images
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Down on his knees
Nothing is going right for Makhaya Ntini at the moment. He can't buy a wicket and when Matt Prior sent an outside edge flying past the outstretched hand of Ashwell Prince at gully it was almost too much to cope with as he sank to his knees in his follow through. It takes a lot to stop Ntini smiling, but he's wearing a permanent frown these days and despite being given a crack at England's lower order he still ended wicketless. In fact, he'd just bowled one of his fieriest overs to Graham Onions - striking the No. 11 on the helmet - when Andrew Strauss declared England's innings. A wicket wasn't meant to be.

Out…no six
Prior's punchy innings was just what England needed to build momentum on the fourth morning and he really opened his shoulders against JP Duminy. However, it was probably a good thing there was a decent breeze blowing across Kingsmead when he got a big top edge onto a sweep that looked to heading to deep square-leg. But the ball kept on going and just cleared the boundary to bring up Prior's fifty and the hundred partnership with Ian Bell.

Bell's emotion
Ian Bell now has nine Test centuries and each time they have come in an innings that has included another ton. He still struggles to shake the reputation of someone who reacts to situations rather than sets them up. But all he was able to do on this occasion was score as many as he could and it was an innings that clearly meant a lot. After stepping down the pitch and driving Paul Harris straight over mid-on to reach three figures he punched the air with both arms and tugged on his England badge. It's been a decent game for England's under-pressure batsmen.

Dot, single. Make it five
Paul Harris isn't the best South African fielder so that, coupled with the fatigue of being in the field for two days and bowling more than 30 overs, may have played a part in an embarrassing lapse on the boundary. It all started with a push to point by Bell and hesitancy over a quick single. Bell and Graeme Swann had initially declined the run, but after the throw misses the stumps it went for a long over-throw. It shouldn't have been any more, but Harris on the deep midwicket rope made a complete hash of the backing up and what could potentially have been a dot ball ended up costing five. And it was off Ntini to boot.

Swann's 50th and counting
Graeme Swann should bowl in one-over spells. For the third time in the series he struck in his opening over - and his removal of Ashwell Prince was the second time he'd grabbed the left-hander in his first over of an innings having done the same on the opening day at Centurion. He really has had a stunning year and Prince's wicket was his 50th for 2009. He is second on the wicket-taking list for the last 12 months behind Mitchell Johnson and it wasn't long before he had wicket No. 51 and Graeme Smith became scalp 52.

Top of off
After his Ashes-winning spell of 5 for 37 at The Oval, Stuart Broad said he'd learnt what length to bowl in Test cricket, but his opening spell at Centurion suggested the lesson hadn't fully sunk in as he wasted the new ball. He has lost opening privileges to Graham Onions now, but relocated that perfect length today. The ball that jagged back at Jacques Kallis was a beauty, then another caught AB de Villiers shouldering arms before JP Duminy dragged on a leave. It was The Oval all over again. Stick to top of off, Stuart.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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