Hello and welcome to Rs. 5’s coverage of the fourth day of the second test between England and South Africa. Our apologies for the eighteen minute delay – it was unavoidable. As always, all times are local (Pakistan Daylight Savings time).
4:19 p.m. So England are 55-2, down by 264 with six sessions to go on a pitch that’s acting a little funny against three excellent quick bowlers finally hitting their straps. The tables, it is fair to say, have well and truly turned. Cook is in with nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson with Ntini and Morkel bowling.
4:23 p.m. Michael Holding, as the camera pans to some cuties in the crowd (by British standards anyway): “Well, Beefy, not a lot of people at the ground today.” He waits a moment. “I have no problems with the ones who turned up, though.”
4:29 p.m. Ntini tries the whole “put a man back at deep square but then bluff with a fuller pitched ball to drive outside off” and Cook edges it (along the ground) to the cordon. By the way, why is that tactic consistently referred to by commentators as a “double-bluff”? Isn’t it just a plain old simple bluff? Wouldn’t a double-bluff be to put a man back at deep-square and then actually bowl the short ball? I mean, I’m not a poker player or anything, but that seems eminently logical to me.
4:32 p.m. Kallis into the attack, replacing Morkel, and immediately has Anderson fishing outside off.
4:35 p.m. Dude. Kallis is fat.
4:39 p.m. Anderson sets off on a suicidal run to a nudge in the covers – he would have been short by a yard or two – but gets five for his troubles with the overthrow. That one ball has more than doubled his strike rate from about 10 to 25. He’s moved on to 9 off 37, and England to 70-2.
4:46 p.m. These two keep taking off for dangerous singles, and the South African ring fielders keep missing the stumps, and the backers-up keep conceding overthrows. Smith looks quietly aggrieved.
4:52 p.m. Steyn into the attack from round the wicket. England have steadily moved to 82-2; the deficit is 237.
4:55 p.m. Steyn gets one to come back viciously at Cook from round the wicket but it’s too high for the LBW and too far from the bat for even Billy Bowden to think it was a nick. Meanwhile, we have a double change, with Harris in for the first time. David Lloyd thinks the spin could “confuse” Anderson, but he starts off with a fairly safe sweep.
5:04 p.m. After drinks, it’s my two favorite Sky commentators, Nasser Hussain and David Gower. My lunch is here too, so no updates for the next twenty minutes.
5:25 p.m. And we’re back. South Africa bowled well in that little period, but England are still trudging along. A bunch of milestones either just passed or are coming up: Anderson has now reached his highest score, England have moved on to 99, and the partnership on to 49.
5:28 p.m. Steyn hits Anderson on the wrist, missing the arm guard. Steyn is a 90 mph bowler. Anderson is flexing his arm and trying to see if he can get some sensation back in the fingers. Meanwhile, Morkel, Ntini and Steyn are having a mini-conference, taking advantage of the break in action to catch up on high school stories.
5:30 p.m. Next ball, Steyn hits Anderson on the grill. Two bouncers, two visits to the pitch for physio. As an aside, there is nothing wrong with these tactics whatsoever. Anderson came out at number four, which means he has to be treated like a proper top-order batsman. Too bad for him he isn’t, but that’s not Steyn’s problem. He (Anderson that is) looks pretty woozy though. Don’t know if he’s going to carry on. The super slo-mo replay shows the grill of the helmet smashing into his face and it doesn’t look too great a sight.
5:35 p.m. New helmet out for Anderson, as he looks to continue batting. Steyn should give him another one, right at the throat, and then follow it up with a Shoaib-style slower-ball-that-looks-like-a-beamer-at-first. Again, I have to emphasize: if he’s come out at number four, he has to be treated like a number four. There can be no sympathy because he’s a genuine tailender.
5:38 p.m. Two shortish deliveries to follow up, and Anderson is in solidly behind both of them. Steyn finishes up with a full delivery that just misses both Anderson’s bat and off stump by not much at all. Eventful over, and we’re still at 99-2, with England down by 220.
5:44 p.m. Anderson is definitely backing away to square leg against Steyn. No doubt about it. He gets one to third man, and misses the fuller one outside off next up. Definitely backing away.
5:45 p.m. Done and done. Steyn pins Anderson back, and then bowls it up and straight, beats him for pace, and has him plumb in front. That’s the value of a guy like Steyn – fast, accurate, with a plan and stamina (ahem). Just a great exhibition of fast bowling. Yes, he was working over a tailender, but it was great bowling for about three overs that got that wicket. England three down, Pietersen in, and this (Steyn v. Pietersen) is the battle to watch.
5:48 p.m. First up goes for the yorker, misses by a few inches, and Pietersen comfortably glances it to fine-leg for four. Some reverse swing there.
5:48 p.m. Reverse swing, shemerse shwing. Pietersen smashes a perfectly acceptable ball down the ground for four more. He’s on 8 off 2.
5:51 p.m. Kallis overpitches outside off, and Pietersen hits his third boundary in his first four balls. I predict he will be getting out pretty soon – I am always wary watching really talented players get off to a flyer, because they are more liable to get overconfident or lose their concentration than less gifted players.
5:51 p.m. I swear upon my unborn child’s life that I really did think of that last entry before Pietersen nicked the next one to Boucher. England four down and still 196 behind, and South Africa’s morning suddenly looks a lot better. Ian Bell in.
6:00 p.m. I would like to stipulate for the record that Steyn just bowled seven overs on the trot. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem, ahem, ahem. I don’t know why, but I seem to have something struck in my throat today. You could say my throat is Akhtaring up, but then I would make fun of you for making an extremely lame pun. Anyway, it’s lunch. We’ll be back in forty, unless you want me to blog about Pommie Mbangwa.
6:42 p.m. And we’re back. During lunch, Farooq texted me a request: “Credit the following quote to me: ‘the waves of resolute defense crashed against the bedrock of SA’s bowlers accompanied by a raging torrent of boundaries by KP. But, suddenly, the tide receded. And the river of SA’s discontent changed course.’” Farooq is clearly feeling the aqua-based metaphors today.
6:49 p.m. Michael Atherton, Sky’s third man for the day, puts together a great series of clips on the noise at the wicket, with the appealing, the constant chatter, and the oohs and aahs. I love that part of the game. It’s great. Anyway, England are 137-4, still 182 behind. Cook on 51 and Bell new to the crease. Morkel and Kallis bowling.
6:56 p.m. South Africa are really one wicket away from possibly opening the floodgates here. Presumably Flintoff would be in next (I don’t think the “Ambrose at six above Flintoff” experiment is going to last longer than one innings) and while he’s extremely useful with the bat, he’s not going to stick around for a day and a half to save a test – at best, he’ll make an enterprising 30 or 35, and then throw away his wicket. Ambrose isn’t going to do anything. And while Broad has looked solid in this series, if England are 5 of 6 down with him in, and Steyn and Morkel steaming in, he’s not really going to hang around. More than anything, I say this because England look a tired team, both mentally and physically. They’ve basically been in the field for all but four or five hours over six days of cricket (the last three at Lords and the first three here). It shows.
7:04 p.m. Well, this one was out. A.B. de Villiers takes an absolute stunner at gully off a backfoot push/cut from Bell of a rising delivery from Morkel. It’s crazy how life works sometimes, isn’t it? He lets the crowd know it too, pointing a finger at them like an umpire would giving someone out.
7:06 p.m. Hahahaha. Ambrose comes out above Flintoff again. I give him fifteen minutes.
7:13 p.m. Holding breaks down Morkel’s action, and explains why, when bowling round the wicket, he would struggle both to get it on a good line and manage to get off the danger area on the pitch in his follow through. Quite illuminating. I am so not missing Rameez Raja’s “avoided the fielder” and “middle of the stick” right now.
7:27 p.m. Dude. I’m pretty sure Cooked nicked that one from Kallis. I definitely heard something. Why didn’t anyone appeal?
7:27 p.m. DUDE. The replay shows a slight deviation too. That was out, I’m telling you.
7:28 p.m. Ok, well, this one is definitely out. Cook tries to work Kallis through midwicket to one that straightened from round the wicket, gets a leading edge, Amla pouches it in the covers, and that’s the end of that. Pretty tame dismissal in the end. England six down and in comes Freddie. Gower describes the situation for England as “forlorn”. I’m absolutely not missing Rameez’s “smart operator” and “dented and damaged confidence” right now.
7:43 p.m. A bit of a lull in the action here, with nothing really happening. And it’s drinks.
7:55 p.m. England have scored 26 runs in 16 overs in this session. Surely Flintoff isn’t going to keep poking and prodding for long, is he? I know Beefy’s pretty miffed at all this. Flintoff plays another maiden off Steyn. The domestic staff from a number of houses on my street are playing outside my house right now, and I’m positive their game is more entertaining than this.
7:58 p.m. David Lloyd tells us that the stump mikes picked up one of the South Africans reminding Ambrose that two keepers scored hundreds in domestic cricket on the weekend. Give him credit, he’s stuck out there for almost an hour now.
8:03 p.m. For the record, Flintoff is 2 off 22 and Ambrose is 2 off 33.
8:04 p.m. Ooooooh. One from Steyn stays low, and Flintoff just gets his bottom edge on it. Good thing, too, because he was going to be trapped right in front. Anyway, Flintoff plays yet another maiden off Steyn. The partnership is 5 off 52 balls.
8:07 p.m. Ambrose tucks Ntini behind square for one, the first runs off the bat for five overs.
8:11 p.m. Harris comes into the attack, giving Steyn a break. I guess the new ball is probably due in about 10 or 15 overs, which is when Steyn will presumably come back.
8:12 p.m. Nasser Hussain informs us the new ball is due in ten overs at the end of this from Harris. The new ball will probably coincide closely with tea, giving the quicks some more valuable time off. Anyway, Harris starts his spell with a maiden to Ambrose.
8:14 p.m. So much for my Steyn-is-resting theory. He replaces Ntini from his end.
8:17 p.m. A veritable flurry here. Flintoff and Ambrose get singles off successive deliveries. By the way, Holding just said that while reverse swing was well-known among bowlers in his era, there were no true great exponents of it – some guys just managed to do it well occasionally. Um, what about Imran Khan? He was the first true great exponent of it, and he definitely qualifies as part of Holding’s era, doesn’t he?
8:32 p.m. This partnership has finally begun to get some rhythm to it. They’re not racing along or anything, but they have started picking up runs more regularly. A boundary here, a couple of singles there, and they’re up to 176-6, now down by 143.
8:40 p.m. Ambrose pulls a Morkel bouncer in front of square for four. What do you know, they’ve managed to survive until tea. We’ll be back in twenty.
9:00 p.m. And we’re back. South Africa could have more than three hours at England in this session if it takes them that long – they have to make up time from previous days, and their over-rate has been pretty shabby all day. Flintoff charges Harris the second ball after tea and tries to hit him for six straight over his head, miscues, but evades a retreating Smith from mid-off.
9:04 p.m. Kallis is bowling from the other end.
9:10 p.m. South Africa take the new ball as soon as it’s due, and Steyn comes into the attack. Three slips, gully, and a short leg.
9:11 p.m. A little bit of shape away straight away for Steyn. I know this is stating the obvious and all, but he really is a great bowler. As I was telling AKS the other day, if he stays fit – a big if with quick bowlers these days – he could have a better career than both Donald and Pollock.
9: 14 p.m. Ambrose drives, edges, and just gets it past a diving gully. Four to third man, and England move on to 190-6. Thirty more runs and they get the deficit below 100. Ntini to share the new ball with Steyn.
9:17 p.m. Flintoff is 12 off 67. He has no boundaries. I’d love the Statsguru guys at Cricinfo to find out how many times Flintoff has played that many deliveries without hitting a four or six. Ambrose at the other end clips one off his pads for four more. He looks pretty assured now actually, after a fairly scratchy start.
9:18 p.m. As soon as I finish typing that, Ntini gets one to bite and jump off a good length, beating Ambrose all ends up. That was close.
9:26 p.m. A push through the covers from Ambrose for two brings up the 50 partnership, off 146 balls. Flintoff has contributed 18 off 73. Next ball, Ambrose edges it through the gap in the slip cordon, and suddenly it’s not inconceivable that we might go into a fifth day here. England down by 112.
9:36 p.m. Flintoff is playing some shots now. A couple of boundaries in the last one or two overs, and this partnership, dare I say, is gathering momentum. The lead is finally below 100.
9:41 p.m. As Nasser and Botham talk about Botham (and Willis’) test in 1981 against Australia (the heroic comeback and all that), Nasser asks Botham if he thinks Graeme Smith might be getting twitchy or worried. Next ball, Ambrose nicks Steyn through to Boucher. So no, I don’t think Smith is worried. Stuart Broad in next.
9:43 p.m. Ok, Nasser needs to let it go. “The comparison continues,” he says. In 1981, he informs us, the game turned when a tall left hander (Graham Dilley) joined Botham at the crease. Now, another tall left hander (Broad) has joined another talismanic all-rounder (Flintoff). By the way, Boucher just took his ninth catch of the match. One more, and he breaks his (and Dave Richardson’s shared) South African record for dismissals in one game.
9:49 p.m. Flintoff smashes Steyn for four through the covers. That was the hardest hit, if not best, shot of the day. He tries to pull the next one but miscues for two more. His strike rate is up to the high 30s from the mid single digits earlier in his innings.
9:52 p.m. Eventful over, as Steyn has Broad hopping and fending, getting it just past the short leg.
9:52 p.m. You know how I said Flintoff’s cover drive was the hardest hit shot of the day? Well it isn’t anymore. He hits Steyn past him and it went to the boundary, as Ravi Shastri might say, like a tracer bullet. Next up Steyn bowls a slower ball yorker, and exchanges stares and words with Flintoff. Over called, and things heating up at Headingley.
9:56 p.m. Well, that’s that. Flintoff edges Morkel playing a nothing shot, and Kallis takes it easily at second slip. Remember how I said Flintoff would make an enterprising 30 or 35 and then get out? He made 38. I also correctly predicted the Pietersen dismissal. I hope all the naysayers with respect to my fortune-telling ability are looking on with interest. Monty in.
9:58 p.m. Nasser Hussain: “Well, it was fun while it lasted, the comparison to all those years ago.” Actually, Nasser, I don’t think anybody in their right mind was comparing this game to that one except for you. Ian Botham had 14 hundreds in 102 tests, Flintoff has five in 67 (in an era of bigger bats, smaller boundaries, and easier pitches). He – Flintoff, that is – simply isn’t that type of player with the bat. He’s not going to score match-saving or match-winning hundreds for you against good bowling teams.
10:06 p.m. It really is quite amazing the extent to which England have been outplayed in this match. I’m trying to think of a single session they haven’t lost in this test, and I can’t, not off the top of my head anyway.
10:08 p.m. Some Cricinfoing reveals that, if one is being charitable, then England could be said to have not lost the post-tea session on the first day (South Africa scored 110 for the loss of three wickets after England were bowled out for 203 on the stroke of tea). But that’s about it. Just a thorough overall ass whipping – they’ve dominated from beginning to end.
10:21 p.m. Steyn cleans up Monty. His third of the innings, and now the only question is: who’s going to be South Africa’s man of the match? The contenders are Steyn (7 in the match so far), Morkel (six), Prince (big hundred), and de Villiers (ditto). If Kallis had made even a decent contribution (60 odd), he would have been right in that discussion, because he’s taken some important wickets and catches, but he didn’t, so he’s not. I would give it to Steyn but I am almost positive they’re going to give it to de Villiers (redemption narrative and all that). Let’s see. Anyway, Darren Pattinson in.
10:28 p.m. Broad can absolutely bat by the way. He hits Kallis for fours square on both the leg and off sides and England move on 276. If England are so reluctant to bat Flintoff at six, they should move him up there and Ambrose down to eight. That would seem to be a more meritocratic order than the one they have right now.
10:29 p.m. Steyn is in the ninth over of his spell. Ahem. Ahem, ahem, ahem, ahem. I guess some Ferraris can be used as something other than a weekend car.
10:40 p.m. This is dragging on, isn’t it? Somehow Pattinson and Broad are hanging around. The deficit is down to 30.
10:50 p.m. Bloody hell. Why am I still here? Come on, guys. Finish this up. Broad, by the way, just reached his fifty playing some gorgeous shots. He really could be a top-class all-rounder if he puts his mind to it; him and Flintoff in the same team give England tremendous flexibility, should they choose to use it going forward.
10:59 p.m. It’s been a great session of cricket, whichever way you look at it. A run rate of nearly five, with three wickets falling too. The deficit is down to 10.
11:01 p.m. Broad short-arm jabs it off his hips for four, and Ntini looks perplexed. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Broad has easily – easily – been England’s best batsman in this innings. Hell, this innings is probably England’s best in the match.
11:02 p.m. Four more, with Broad smashing a full toss is past mid-off, and the fifty partnership is up. Pattinson has contributed 5.
11:05 p.m. Pattinson gets into the act, with an ungainly slog sweep off Harris for four, and South Africa will have to bat again. England lead by 3.
11:06 p.m. Pattinson repeats the dose. Make that 7.
11:07 p.m. You really have to respect England’s fight here. No one is under any illusions that England have a shot in this game, but they’re still playing hard. I know for a fact Pakistan would have folded about 70-90 minutes ago in a similar position, with Kaneria doing something incredibly daft in particular. Anyway, Morkel into the act, looking quite stiff and unwilling to bowl, with the field spread far and wide for Broad.
11:11 p.m. Botham: “Who knows what happens here?” Nasser replies dryly: “Six all out, chasing eight?”
11:12 p.m. And that’s that. Morkel cleans up Pattinson, and South Africa will have the monumental task of scoring nine runs to go up 1-0 in this series. Morkel and Steyn evenly share 14 of England’s 20 wickets in the game, and have shown England (and us neutrals, no doubt) that their pace attack is no joke. They keep coming at you, none of them are particularly erratic or prone to be expensive, they’re all quick, they all have good variations, and they’re all different types of bowlers (always a strength).
11:20 p.m. The hero of England’s innings (well, England’s hero anyway) is opening the bowling. Broad to Smith, with three slips and a gully.
11:23 p.m. Smith pushes one through the covers, and South Africa have knocked off a third of their target.
11:24 p.m. McKenzie pulls Broad in front of square. Botham: “Well, that’s your theory gone, Nass. ‘All out for six?’” Two more needed.
11:25 p.m. Another pull from McKenzie, this time for one. Scores level. Pattinson to share the new ball and bowl the last over of this test.
11:26 p.m. McKenzie knocks it right in front, takes off, and we’re done. South Africa go one up in the series with two to go. Just a brutally dominating performance from the Saffies – they looked almost Australian in this game (circa 2000). Where do England go from here? Well, not to sound facetious or anything, but they have to bowl better and bat better next time. The commentators keep going on about the selection of Pattinson (a head-scratcher for sure) and other off-the-field issues, but honestly, England didn’t get beaten because they selected Pattinson. He bowled about as well as anyone else in that first (and only) innings. They simply got outplayed, and didn’t have enough firepower with the ball to bother what is looking like the most impregnable, if not best, top six in the world. With McKenzie, Amla, Kallis, and Prince they have four grinders in their top five. de Villiers and Smith have shown, in this test and the first one respectively, that they can buckle down and put a price on their wicket. What that means is that this team is difficult to beat in test cricket – you really have to play well for five days straight. Now granted teams always look better than they actually are when they play as well as South Africa have played in this game, and the gap certainly is not as wide as “ten wickets with more than a day to spare”, but make no mistake: England need to pick it up.
That’s it for me. Good night.