Smith's statement, and Ishant's lack of luck
Until Monday, in all the Test innings he had opened with Alviro Petersen, Graeme Smith had taken first strike. Coming up against his old nemesis in the first innings in Durban, Smith let his younger opening partner face Zaheer Khan. He himself lasted just five balls against Zaheer. On Tuesday, though, he made a bold statement by reverting to taking first strike, and that's not where his intent ended. He faced all 18 balls of Zaheer's first three overs and cracked five boundaries, hitting his nemesis out of the attack, clearly subscribing to the theory that if he isn't bowling, he can't bother me.
Not long ago, umpire Steve Davis was on a hat-trick of bad decisions in a Test involving India. Davis missed thick inside-edges, and ruled VVS Laxman and Zaheer Khan out lbw off successive balls against in Ahmedabad. Today he made amends when Dale Steyn thought he had caught Zaheer dead plumb. Davis didn't call the resultant run a leg-bye, but the replays showed the ball had missed the inside-edge. Zaheer went on to add 17 more, and his crucial partnership with Laxman yielded 37 more.
The reprieve … not
Ishant Sharma and no-balls go back a long way. Not only does he bowl many, he was perhaps the first bowler on the receiving end of the new rule where umpires can refer no-ball calls to the third umpire. In Mohali, earlier this year, he missed out on what he thought was Michael Clarke's wicket when the replays showed he had overstepped. Then, in the first Test of this series, he was the beneficiary of a referral as the replays cut short Morne Morkel's celebrations of his wicket. Something similar seemed on offer when Davis referred a delivery from Jacques Kallis, a delivery that had got Ishant out. This time, it turned out the ball was legitimate, and Ishant's relief was short-lived.
The lucky break… not
That was not the only time when Ishant tried his luck. Following up on his freak run-out of Kallis on Monday, Ishant once again fielded a straight-drive off his bowling just well enough to get a finger on the ball before it hit the stumps at the non-striker's end. This time, though, the replays showed Smith was alert and back in his crease well before the ball reached the stumps.
Things got heated up between a rampaging Smith and Sreesanth, when the latter hit the former in the finger with a sharp lifter and seemed to have a few things to say to the batsman. The next ball got an inside edge onto Smith's thigh. When Smith pulled the next ball away, taking a single, he waved his bat at Sreesanth and had a few words of his own. Sreesanth had the last laugh when a Smith top edge settled in MS Dhoni's gloves.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo