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ESPNcricinfo presents the Plays of the Day from the first day of the first Test between South Africa and Australia, in Cape Town
November 9, 2011
A perfect start
Vernon Philander has faced questions over his inclusion in the squad but justified his selection in the starting XI with his very first ball. Philander opened the bowling with Dale Steyn and started with a delivery that landed on the seam and moved away from Shane Watson. An impressive first three overs ended with the scalp of Phil Hughes who Philander dismissed with a short-of-length delivery that took the edge as it seamed away. His celebration - a sprint faster than his run-up, a leap, a punch in the air, a little kick and a loud cry - said what his backers have been for weeks: 94 wickets in just over two seasons of first-class cricket is enough to merit a place in the team.
The torrid welcome
Dale Steyn, who appeared off the pace in the limited-over matches, bowled a first spell of accuracy and aggression but returned after lunch with fire in his belly. With his second ball, he had Ricky Ponting out lbw after a review and in the over after got stuck into Michael Clarke. First, he bowled a gentle length ball, then a spirited bouncer, and then a short ball which Clarke did not spot immediately. Steyn followed up with a length ball but had a few words of advice for Clarke, who was having none of it. He walked towards Steyn, two-thirds of the way down the pitch and gave it right back to him. Steyn let the ball do the talking in reply. A snorter, aimed at the helmet, had Clarke playing awkwardly and he somehow managed to avoid edging it to the slips.
Milestone of the day
Mark Boucher seems to have been around forever, and his figures are starting to look like that as well. When he caught an edge off Vernon Philander's bowling to remove Phil Hughes, Boucher became the first man in Test history to register 500 catches. It's impossible to predict how long such a record will remain but Boucher certainly has plenty of breathing space. His nearest rivals among current players are Kamran Akmal with 184 catches and MS Dhoni with 176.
The needless delay
Half an hour before the toss was due, the weather at Newlands was fine, if a little cloudy. But the rain can blow in rapidly over Table Mountain and a heavy shower pushed back the start of play by 105 minutes. Not even then could Dale Steyn run in with the new ball to get the series under way. A naming-rights sponsor for the series was only found last week and perhaps their advertising boards were rushed into place; one fell down behind the bowler and play couldn't start until it was resurrected. Another five-minute delay ensued, in perfect sunshine.
The poor advertisement for cricket
Taking a 40-minute lunch break after the start of play was delayed by nearly two hours was bad enough, but cricket continues to do itself no favours with the way bad light is handled. Forty minutes before the scheduled close of play, the umpires decided the conditions were too gloomy and the players were asked to leave the field. The floodlights had been on for some time and while it was a bit dull, it was hard to imagine that conditions were dangerous for the players. In fairness, rain arrived 20 minutes later, but surely the more cricket that can be squeezed into a day's play, the better.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo; Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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