<
>

Nixon in reverse gear

Shot of the Day 1
'Anything KP can do I can do better' ... Paul Nixon's obsession with the reverse-sweep attracted mild derision during the CB Series in Australia, when he unfurled it with the same compulsion that Andrew Hilditch once reserved for the hook shot. But suddenly it was the shot that brought England back into the game, as he dropped to one knee and connected sweetly with a shot that sailed over point's head, to cue a rapturous fit of splashing in the England dominated paddling-pool.

Shot of the Day 2
Ravi Bopara's blazing square drive off the final ball of Lasith Malinga's spell. Nixon had just fallen, and the requirement had climbed to an uncomfortable 16 from seven balls, when Bopara latched onto the meagrest hint of width and screeched the ball to the backward point fence. It gave his side hope, as did his delicate paddle-sweep off Dilhara Fernando one ball later. Unnoticed amid the excitement, Bopara moved along to his maiden ODI fifty. He didn't deserve such a cruel denouement.

Slow starter of the Day
The match didn't begin at quite such a frantic tempo. Upul Tharanga grafted his way through the early part of the innings and managed his first boundary off the 79th ball he faced, lofting Monty Panesar over mid-off. Tharanga eventually finished with 62 from 103 balls. Suddenly the scoring rates of England's top-order didn't seem quite so torpid.

Fielder of the Day
Ian Bell has the misfortune of looking a little innocuous in everything that he does, but on this occasion it worked in his favour. Tillakaratne Dilshan's fierce cut into the covers looked like an easy single and probably more. But Bell, quick as a flash, pounced on the ball as it sped to his left, sprang back to his feet in an instant and, having taken a split second to size up his options, pinged down the stumps at the non-striker's end. Underestimate him at your peril.

Technological glitch of the Day
For the duration of this tournament, the umpires are experimenting with an earpiece wired up to the stump microphone. In theory, the equipment should help clarify marginal caught-behind decisions, but today Michael Vaughan suffered for a gremlin in the system. Chaminda Vaas speared one down the leg-side and, to the naked eye, Vaughan appeared to be nowhere near making contact. Unfortunately for him Billy Bowden's earpiece clicked as the ball entered Kumar Sangakkara's gloves, and up came the crooked finger.

Cataclysmic dismissal of the Day
Bell's run-out could be considered unfortunate, but Pietersen's departure five overs later, as so often, was the death knell for England's prospects. He had just got into his stride as well, slapping Muttiah Muralitharan for an extraordinarily forceful sweep through square leg. But two balls later his aggression got the better of him, as he chipped a leading edge into Murali's midriff. It was the pivotal moment in a collapse of 4 for 32, and for all the excellence of the recovery through Nixon and Bopara, England were never again in control of the contest.

Belated gesture of the Day
Even when they do the right thing, the ICC can't help but get it wrong. They've had ten days to size up the dismal crowds in Antigua and do something about it, and have persistently done diddly-squat. Until, that is, the 48th over of Sri Lanka's innings, when a press release arrived declaring that, as a "pre-Easter gift", local residents would be given free entry for the second half of the match. The timing of the announcement was barking, but even more ridiculous was the insistence that they wouldn't be doing the same for England v Australia on Easter Day itself. Wouldn't it be nice, just once in this competition, to have a packed stadium regardless of the coffers?