Harris has them in a spin

2009-12-19 00:00

IT was a day when the spinners thrived at Centurion — one with bat and the other with the ball — and by the end of play, the match was intriguingly set up with South Africa effectively 71/1 with two days to go.

The day had started off in charitable style, with Makhaya Ntini receiving a letter from a similarly popular man of Xhosa descent.

Nelson Mandela himself passed on his congratulations to Ntini, and he duly responded by sending Andrew Strauss back to the hut with a ball that kept worryingly low.

Ntini’s success meant that those who had come to the ground early were finally able to take advantage of SAB’s generosity, as they all received a free beer to mark Ntini’s special Test.

Once Strauss had gone, Paul Harris took centre stage for the Proteas. The English batsmen seemed determined to hit him out of the attack, and five of them perished trying to do so.

Well, four fell to what could be termed cricket strokes. Ian Bell, who always raises doubts as to why he is still in the side, didn’t even bother offering a shot to a Harris ball that did not turn.

It was the most curious and comical of dismissals, but Bell and the selectors were not laughing. It may yet cost Bell his place for the Boxing Day match, as England showed that they have plenty of batting anyway.

When he fell, the score stood at 189 for 5.

Stoic contributions from Kevin Pietersen (40) and Paul Collingwood (50) had kept the scoreboard ticking, but no one saw Graeme Swann’s blitzkrieg coming.

Swann and No. 10 Jimmy Anderson added a critical 106 for the ninth wicket, a record against South Africa.

But it was not the grim defence that Harris and chums had offered the previous day.

Swann was all swagger and style, and his 85 off just 81 balls changed the complexion of this game.

Graeme Smith would have been eyeing a handy lead of at least 120, but by the time Harris claimed his fifth wicket to end the tourists’ charge, the lead only stood at 62.

Yesterday’s turbo-charge saw the match rollick along, and the loss of Ashwell Prince gave England a glimpse of hope.

There may yet be a positive outcome in this match, but there is rain due today and tomorrow at Centurion.

And when it rains in that part of the world, it surely rains.

The last two times England have played there have been near washouts, so we really ought to be grateful for three days of sunshine.

It would be a shame if the elements got in the way of what is increasingly becoming a terrific tussle on a pitch that has a life of its own.

SCOREBOARD

South Africa first innings 418 all out

England first innings (o/n 88/1)

A Strauss b Ntini46

A Cook c Boucher b De Wet15

J Trott b Harris28

K Pietersen b Morkel40

P Collingwood c Kallis b Harris50

I Bell b Harris5

M Prior c De Wet b Harris4

S Broad lbw Duminy17

G Swann c Smith b Harris85

J Anderson c Morkel b Ntini29

G Onions not out4

Extras (8b, 8lb, 12nb, 5w)33

TOTAL (all out in 104.5 overs) 356

Fall of wickets: 1-25 (Cook 5.4), 2-98 (Strauss 28.6), 3-119 (Trott 41.5), 4-168 (Pietersen 54.5), 5-189 (Bell 59.5), 6-211 (Prior 69.6), 7-221 (Collingwood 71.6), 8-242 (Broad 78.5), 9-348 (Anderson 102.1), 10-356 (Swann 103.5)

Bowling: Ntini 23-4-78-2, De Wet 20-3-72-1 (6nb, 5w), Morkel 21-0-60-1 (6nb), Harris 37-10-123-5, Duminy 3-0-7-1

South Africa second innings

A Prince b Anderson0

G Smith not out6

P Harris not out2

Extras (1lb) 1

TOTAL (for 1 wkt in 4 overs) 9

Fall of wickets: 1-2 (Prince 0.6)

Bowling: Anderson 2-0-5-1, Onions 2-1-3-0

NELSON MANDELA HIMSELF PASSED ON HIS CONGRATULATIONS TO NTINI, AND HE DULY RESPONDED BY SENDING ANDREW STRAUSS BACK TO THE HUT WITH A BALL THAT KEPT WORRYINGLY LOW.

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