Tuesday, 5 January 2010

England. We just don't do ball tampering very well, Broadly speaking. And prepare for the decider at the Wanderers

SO NOW we know. England are very, very bad at ball-tampering. And South Africa are a very, very fussy bunch.

Tonight’s discussion after day three of the vital third Test at a blistering Newlands did not centre on the incredible heat, the record second wicket partnership between centurion Graeme Smith and the unlucky Hashim Amla. Nor even the way South Africa took a vice-like grip on the match.

No, it all came down Stuart Broad using his studded boot to stop a cricket ball. They showed it again and again on video, then the Seffeffrikens released a statement saying: "There have been several queries from the media about various video footage shown today, and certain allegations being made about the ball.

"We have raised our concerns with the match referee about it and we've left it to him to decide if any further action or investigation is necessary."

Great. They have a thing about Broad here. Too cocky. Too argumentative. Almost like a South African when he perceives a sporting injustice.

But hold on a moment. South Africa scored a mammoth 312 for the loss of just two wickets today... they’re 330 ahead with Smith unbeaten on 162 with the man mountain Jacques Kallis not out at the other end. Just how much ball tampering can a bloke get up to and still bowl all day in 40-degree heat without success? And is stopping a ball with your foot really worth bothering the match referee with?

England team director Andy Flower was left to defend the daft allegations: “I don't think it is a big issue. It was a long, hot day and he put his foot out and stopped the ball. All he did was stop the ball."

Quite rightly, Flower was blooming concerned with England’s fate. The Cape Town born Zimbabwean Test batsman admitted: "The South Africans played superbly today. It was very hot. A tough day for the boys. The wicket flattened out a little bit and there wasn't much movement for the seamers.

"We worked hard and Graeme Swann (who took the wickets of Ashwell Prince and Amla to take his series tally to 17) bowled well but without much luck."

"Tomorrow we have got to attack with the new ball. We have seen wickets fall early on all the days so far. We have definitely got to attack early.

"The first two days produced very difficult batting conditions, today was easier. We don't know what sort of conditions are going to arrive tomorrow. If it plays as easy as it has today, we have got a chance."

But not much of a chance. This one is going South Africa’s way with more record-breaking temperatures threatening in the morning, though a draw by an obdurate England is by no means out of the question.

Still, if we get to the Wanderers on January 14 with the series at 1-1, we’d have taken that before this series started against a side who needed to win 2-0 to go back above India as the world’s best Test side.

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