Unable to sleep in anticipation of two Boxing Day tests I awoke at 3-30 and watched the World Series of Poker until cricket time rolled around.
The first surprising news of the day was that the 2nd test between Sth Africa and India would be Jacques Kallis’ last. A huge surprise with an Australian tour just one month away.
The second surprise was that after winning his fourth successive toss Michael Clarke elected to insert the English. Why go away from something that had worked in the first three tests?
Sure the pitch had a tinge of green but enough to bowl first? Shania Watson’s lovechild Rulebook Ashwood reckoned it was to practise batting second before South Africa. Whatever the reason, in my mind it was a mistake. It was like handing back the momentum built in the first three tests.
England made two enforced changes Panesar and Bairstow in for Prior and Swann. Still no sign of the 7 footers Tremlett and Rankin who were apparently brought on tour to exploit the bouncy Australian wickets. In the first ten overs there was little sign of movement and England progressed easily to 0 for 30. Cook was the aggressor mixing cut shots and drives while Carberry was more circumspect. Harris had bowled well as always with a few play and misses and a dropped chance at third slip by a sprawling Smith. Johnson and Siddle for a change provided little threat. Nathan Lyon was on in the first 45 minutes which was the first sign of Clarke admitting he had made a mistake.
Tubby Taylor would never have bowled first and all the signs were that Clarke had given England some much needed life.
Cook then played a very loose shot and was caught at first slip off Siddle for 27. Carberry and Root then saw England through to 1 for 71 at lunch: advantage England.
After lunch England crawled and it was the aforementioned Shania Watson who clean bowled Carberry shouldering arms. Carberry was one good score away from a good tour but with starts in every innings there is still a question mark there. Root inevitably then fell wafting outside off stump to Harris for a scratchy 24
Pietersen and Bell was set to be the defining partnership of the day. Pietersen was struggling to hit the ball of the square again and when Harris lured him into a false hook shot it seemed all over. However sub Coulter -Nile whilst taking the catch easily misjudged his proximity to the boundary and stepped over gifting Pietersen life. Bell also fell caught behind to Harris who bowled superbly again taking 2 for 32 of 20 miserly overs. Surely he must be put on ice after this test for the Proteas.
Johnson picked up Stokes and Bairstow late in the day to finish with 2 for 59 off 20. Siddle finished with 1 wicket Lyon with none and Shania Watson with another injury. Pieterson survived another chance to remain not out on 67 at the close.
At 6 for 226 the first hour tomorrow will be pivotal to the result of this match. Bring it on.