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January 15, 2010
Was the volume down?
England needed early wickets and were convinced they had one when Graeme Smith slashed at a very wide ball from Ryan Sidebottom. But the umpire Tony Hill gave it not out and Andrew Strauss immediately called for a review. So, it was over to Daryl Harper again. Replays showed no clear deviation off the bat, but would the stump microphone provide the answer? Well, it would have done but Harper, for some reason, couldn't hear it and ruled that there was no clear evidence to overturn the on-field verdict. A few minutes later a clear noise was audible on another replay. Cue the latest review-related controversy.
Safe hands, this time
At least England were able to celebrate a wicket - albeit a different batsman - when Ashwell Prince fell in the next over against Stuart Broad. The outside edge was found and flew at waist-height to Graeme Swann at second slip and he took the catch comfortably. That will have been a huge relief to Swann because he dropped a sitter at Newlands to reprieve Smith in this first innings, but with Paul Collingwood still nursing his dislocated finger the job is still his.
When Swann was introduced into the attack in the 31st over it was the first spin of the Test and although he couldn't perform his regular trick of taking a wicket straight away it was a far from uneventful start for him. He found copious turn and ripped one past Smith's outside edge and later almost had the South Africa captain caught at mid-off. It was a fascinating duel, but England needed Smith out for much fewer than his eventual 105.
Smith, like the rest of his team, has struggled to work out how South Africa are still behind in this series and he is desperate to put the score line right. He did all he could at Newlands with a thumping 183 and was at it again here with a cultured 105 as he made the most of slightly easier batting conditions. When he reached three figures he swirled the bat in his follow through and saluted the ground and as the applause died down he was still pumped. He has a record of 'going big' against England so it came as a surprise when he edged to slip.
England are going need some help getting out of this match and more storms of the type that descended on the Wanderers in early afternoon would help. You could see the clouds gathering behind the ground, then the drizzle arrived and suddenly the heavens opened. For the locals it was a normal highveld thunderstorm, but it was still dramatic and within a few minutes the outfield was a lake as the rain lashed down. Thunder cracked and lightening jagged down from the sky, but after about half an hour it had moved away. However, it won't be the last of this match - and South Africa better make sure they don't hang around. England, though, will be looking skywards.