Ball One – Swanny to Amla in the fourth over of the day and England are in very tight to prevent the South African getting his fifty. Except KP at mid-on who is half way back and offering the easiest of singles. Which is duly taken. Why mid-on and mid-off are not placed on the one, I do not know. It’s certainly not just an England thing.
Ball Two – SA 150-1 and playing the brand of cricket in which they specialise – that which you hate when the opposition are at it and love when it’s your own applying foot to throat. Strauss has one slip and Ravi on for a bit of trundling. He’s waiting for something to happen and, against top class batsmen, he might be waiting a long time.
Ball Three – Tons for both Smith and Amla show that if the bowling looked undercooked on Day One, the batting is roasting hot on Day Three. Both have stayed true to their styles, Smith ugly and punchy, Amla fluent and classical and both have been willing to fight through the first hour examination to profit later. Test match batting of the highest order.
Ball Four – Every bowler has plans for every batsman these days, but there are times when thinking has to be done on the hoof. Over half a day without a wicket for England’s attack, yet there still appears to be a reluctance to bowl bouncers, yorkers, cutters, slower balls. There’s a parallel reluctance to do too much with the field – short leg largely absent, no man in the very straight silly mid-on position one sees from time to time. Amla and Smith have answered all the qustions so far, but have England stopped asking them?
Ball Five – South Africa 301-2. Last summer, in the battle for The Mace, India has eight batches on ten wickets to cross 300 and, despite Rahul Dravid’s admirable efforts, they never did. Different batsmen, though no less talented – but (possibly) the biggest difference is in motivation. The SouthAfricans appear to really want this and England have a fight on their hands to stay at Number One.
Ball Six – Hashim Amla’s superb innings requires no burnishing – it’s hard to imagine him playing better. It is a fine way to greet Islam’s most holy month, Ramadan, by the Muslim at the very heart of the Rainbow Nation’s team.
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