Friday, 18 December 2009

Broad fury as he falls to the electronic finger

STUART BROAD’S brave resistance was ended by Hawkeye at Centurion today as the controversial Umpire Decision Referral System left England reeling once more.

Umpire Aleem Dar gave the Nottinghamshire paceman not out when he was rapped on the pads by the innocuous slow bowling of JP Duminy with England teetering on 242-7.

The South Africans had a chat and 34 seconds later, they decided to appeal – and despite the ball appearing to pitch outside the line of off-stump, Broad was given the electronic finger. Furious, he appealed to the umpires but high in the stands, it was television official Amiesh Saheba who needed a talking to.

And Broad did exactly that – we’ve just seen him walking out of the television replay room here. His dad Chris, of course, is a well-known match referee and former Test opener. Broad jnr apparently feels the South Africans had been given a signal from the dressing-room, which is against the rules.

By then, England’s hopes of reaching parity with South Africa were all but over. At 281-8 with Graeme Swann (a startlingly confident 29) and Jimmy Anderson (a nearly as good 18) battling on, they are still 141runs behind thanks to a very average spinner and aided by the suicidal efforts of Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

There were snorts of derision when Bell left a straight one from Paul Harris, assuming he might actually turn the ball. It just went straight on and bowled him. Harris has 4-90. And he’s more Phil Tufnell than Muttiah Muralitharan, this fellow.

The once-docile first Test pitch, which allowed the home side to plod along to 418, has given way to a day-three demon which claimed captain Andrew Strauss just seven overs into the morning session, having added just two runs to his impressive overnight 44.

It was drinks all round as Makhaya Ntini, on his 100th appearance, got one to zip through low beneath Strauss’s desperate defence to rattle the furniture. Sponsors Castle lager are offering a free beer to everyone in the ground when Ntini takes a wicket. The Barmy Army were first in the queue, despite their chronic disappointment.

Suddenly the ease with which Strauss and Trott added 63 in 17 overs last night was forgotten. Ntini ran to sun-soaked fans, arms raised. His 389th wicket puts him one closer to Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 Test victims. Not a bad morning for South Africa’s first black cricketer, who had earlier received a congratulatory letter from Nelson Mandela, the former President who brought peace to this nation and added colour to their sports teams in 1993.

Following Johannesburg-born Strauss’s departure, Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen came out to join Cape Town-born Trott. The only non-South African on the field? Harris, born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, now known as Harare, Zimbabwe.

Pietersen got a remarkably gentle welcome from the Centurion fans. The lack of boos was probably down to the free-flowing booze being handed out to the gathering of about 5,000.

Trott and Pietersen did their best to handle the conditions, surviving the odd shooter but looking distinctly uncomfortable until the arrival of the very ordinary spinner Harris.

Then Trott made the mistake of thinking Harris could turn the ball. He charged down the pitch, took a huge heave allowing for spin... and the ball simply kept dead straight and caught the top of his leg stump.

Just as Pietersen was getting into his stride. Morkel got one to nip, got an inside edge... and Pietersen was bowled for 40.

Worse was to follow. Ian Bell, who should have made way for all-rounder Luke Wright or seamer Ryan Sidebottom here, chose to shoulder arms to. Once more he must have assumed Harris actually turns the ball. It didn’t deviate, it just went straight on into the stumps. Incredible.

Harris must have thought Christmas had come early when, after facing 34 balls and scoring four runs, Matt Prior finally decided to have a go and popped one into the hands of Friedel de Wet.

And Harris’s tally went to four when, an over later, he actually turned one and Jacques Kallis took the catch at first slip to dismiss Paul Collingwood (above) for a fine 50 off 87 balls as England slumped to 221-7.

The review system put paid to Stuart Broad’s resistance. Despite the ball pitching outside off-stump, he went for 17 and JP Duminy, another average spinner, had his first wicket. It’s painful to watch. But Swann and Anderson were soon showing the so-called batsmen how to go about it, plundering late runs and closing the gap as day three drifted to a sweaty close.

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