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December 29, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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