AB’s clanger spoils Ntini’s day

2009-12-18 00:00

WITH each passing day, the battle of attrition at Centurion looks likely to end in a stalemate. England ended the day on 88/1, still well behind South Africa’s 418 all out.

South Africa’s total will look better and better as the match — or should that be the Centurion pitch — wears on.

The most excitement yesterday was saved for Makhaya Ntini’s dash with the ball in the afternoon. To mark his 100th cap, the sponsors (SAB) had offered a round of beers to the entire crowd when Ntini took his first wicket.

When the Mdingi warhorse induced an edge from a nervy Alastair Cook in the first over of the English innings, most of Centurion was already halfway to the bar. After all, the new cherry was hurtling straight to AB de Villiers, a man with the second safest pair of hands in Pretoria — after Victor Matfield!

But, to the absolute horror of the parched masses, De Villiers let the leather slip past him, leaving thousands of throats to dry in the Highveld sun.

Cook departed soon after though, to debutant Friedel de Wet, but Ntini’s fans will turn up this morning desperate for the “golden” wicket.

And they may not have to wait too long, for the pitch is hastily taking a central role in proceedings.

Already there have been ominous signs of inconsistent bounce, and England will be keen to get as close as possible to the total set by the Proteas.

There is also rain predicted over the weekend in Pretoria, which adds to the likelihood of this first rubber ending all square.

It’s been grinding, gritty stuff thus far, and most of that can be put down to quality sets of batsmen against two attacks that are a bowler light.

No one wanted to go one-down in this tightest of series, and South Africa’s pedestrian crawl over the 400-run mark has suggested a team more eager not to lose than one hellbent on winning.

Jacques Kallis and JP Duminy resumed yesterday with a plan to bat for as long as possible.

As it was, Kallis only added eight to his overnight 112, as he was undone by a fine Jimmy Anderson delivery. Kallis, like three other team-mates, was caught by the highly impressive Paul Collingwood. A fine fielder in the covers, Collingwood is simply lethal in the slips for England.

While Kallis departed, Duminy carried on and battled through a strong examination of his technique. And his temperament.

The tourists, convinced that the delightful left-hander lacked the mongrel to survive a barrage of the short stuff, gave Duminy little in his half.

In reply, South Africa’s find of last summer didn’t give an inch either.

For those who doubted his temperament or his technique, Duminy provided a stern reply.

His ability as a strokeplayer has never been in doubt — just ask the Aussies present at the MCG a year ago — but in scoring a fighting 56 in three and a half hours, he showed that he likes a scrap, too.

Duminy found a similarly doughty companion in Mark Boucher (49), and between them they took the Proteas to the relative safety of 350-plus.

If England had designs on a hasty wrap of the Proteas’ lengthy tail, Paul Harris and De Wet’s defiant hanging about would have been infuriating.

They simply hung about — with relative ease, too — as the tiring tourists went through the motions.

Harris made 38 in two hours, while De Wet chalked up 20 in his first contribution in Test cricket.

Cook’s early demise was not down to standing in the sun for an hour longer, but it certainly didn’t help.

The relative ease with which Jonathan Trott and Andrew Strauss negotiated the final hour will worry Graeme Smith.

De Wet, after the nerviest of first balls, was expensive. Morné Morkel was solid, but not spectacular.

So it’s all on Ntini, and he will be hoping that AB can give him a hand when he most needs it.

After all, there is a lot of beer going to waste!


Toss: England

South Africa first innings

G. Smith c Prior b Broad0

A. Prince c Collingwood b Swann45

H. Amla c Collingwood b Onions19

J. Kallis c Collingwood b Anderson120

A. de Villiers c Cook b Swann32

J-P. Duminy c Collingwood b Swann 56

M. Boucher c Cook b Swann49

M. Morkel c Prior b Onions13

P. Harris b Onions38

F. de Wet lbw b Swann20

M. Ntini not out4

Extras (b-2, lb-15, w-5)22

Total (all out, 153.2 overs) 418

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-51, 3-93, 4-159, 5-283, 6-316, 7-341, 8-377, 9-414, 10-418.

Bowling: Anderson 37-9-104-1 (w-1), Broad 32-8-74-1 (w-2), Onions 30-5-86-3 (w-2), Swann 45.2-10-110-5, Collingwood 7-1-18-0, Trott 2-0-9-0.

England first innings

A. Strauss not out44

A. Cook c Boucher b De Wet15

J. Trott not out18

Extras (lb-1, nb-5, w-5)11

Total (for one wicket; 23 overs)88

Fall of wicket: 1-25.

Bowling: Ntini 7-1-18-0, De Wet 7-0-46-1 (nb-3, w-5), Morkel 4-0-12-0 9 (nb-2), Harris 5-2-11-0.

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