Cow Corner

Swann sublime as tourists toil

Cow Corner

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Graeme Swann was the golden boy as Andrew Strauss's tourists finally overcame an obdurate South Africa batting display and set about chipping away at their total.

England endured a frustrating second afternoon at Centurion as South Africa's lower order proved harder to dislodge than Ian Chappell's hairpiece.

Jacques 'no-double-hundred' Kallis again failed to kick on as Paul Collingwood took his fourth catch to send the rotund batsman on his way back to the marquee.

If that were not enough to cause Graeme Smith to slip on his Lonsdale vest and boxing mitts in disgust, JP Duminy departed as he warmed Colly's hands as Swann struck in his first over yet again.

Mark Boucher almost ensured that the hosts' lower order was a procession but, after Broad lured him into a shoddy pull shot, Graham Onions proceeded to 'do a Monty' down at fine leg and parry the ball over the boundary rope. Broad was apoplectic with rage as Onions offered a cursory acknowledgement of his error.

In came Morne Morkel who, clearly ill-advised or uniquely-coached, opted to trap a vicious bouncer from Onions with his lower jaw and was laid flat out on the deck like an inebriated Herschelle Gibbs.

Paul Harris swaggered in at number nine which prompted the scoreboard operators to remind everyone at Centurion Park, perhaps for sheer comedic purposes that the spinner had somehow popped up at the same number in the ICC world rankings. And there we were, all assuming that wickets against touring sides did not count.

Harris looked like he was trying to emulate Brian Close as the ball thudded into his rib cage time and again, but perhaps incompetence rather than bravery was responsible in his case.

There was a slight delay as Harris was forced, under the ICC's pedantic regulations, to have several minute logos on his pads taped up by the 12th man as play was held up for over five minutes. And everyone wonders why the likes of Ricky Ponting spend more money on over-rate fines than they do on backing over-rated horses.

England's response almost got off to the worst possible start (well, apart from if it had been Andrew Strauss instead), when Alastair Cook pushed airily at an innocuous ball from Makhaya Ntini, but AB de Villiers handed 'vice-skip' a reprieve with an inexplicable juggle and drop. It left everyone to ponder whether the Essex nurdler's nets work with Graham Gooch was more related to fishing.

Then came de Wet's introduction to the attack, and the seamer fired an atrocious half-tracker two feet down the leg side to begin in inauspicious fashion (or Stevie Harmison fashion, if you prefer). Strauss was left to lean on his bat disdainfully and wonder how many runs he was going to plunder, but the bowler settled well thereafter.

Besides a camp little skip at the top of his run-up, de Wet's other regular tendency is to glare at the batsmen with a chav-like thirst for confrontation after every delivery - a nuance which clearly unnerved Cook who was promptly caught behind.

South Africa squandered one of their referrals when Harris got the ball to turn 2.5mm and Trott was rapped on the pads, but the hosts vociferous appeal was rejected by both umpire Steve Davis and his tea-drinking 'yes man' Amiesh Saheba to leave England's second-wicket partnership unscathed.

The stage is set for England to build on the solid platform left by Strauss and Trott, with the enticing prospect of watching Harris toil away for an entire day sure to bring Centurion to a halt. One thing is for sure: the tasty indentations emerging on the green strip should make for an entertaining last three days.

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* A hefty side-note is warranted for belligerent West Indies batsman Chris Gayle, who finally adopted a new approach to his Test-cricket quandary.

Gayle received widespread criticism for his damning assessments of the longer form of the game and proceeded to play against England earlier in the summer as if in protest of its existence.

But the languid slogger then opted to simply play in Test cricket while imagining it were a twenty20: hence, his 70-ball century against Australia at Perth - the fifth fastest ton of all time.

STAT OF THE DAY: Collingwood snaffled more loose shots than most cricket clubs' nets as he joined the list of most catches in an innings for England with four...it's a long list, but Marcus Trescothick was the last to match that feat in 2003 against Zimbabwe at Lord's.

SHOT OF THE DAY: Watching Friedel de Wet bat on debut was no damp squib, and a lavish cover drive off Onions caused everyone to sit up and take notice, before sitting back down again after he played and missed at four successive deliveries.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: Umpire Steve Davis must feel as though his every move is being criticised and disrespected. Perhaps his decision to wear a sun hat should have been referred today? Daveydtour166 appeals to the players to show more reverence to the Australian pebble-counter.

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