Friday, 15 January 2010

The three men trying to save the Test series for South Africa. And more about the knob in the umpires' room

Yes, here they are. The three men working hardest to save this Test series for South Africa, who have to win this final Test at the Wanderers to draw the four-match epic 1-1.
Between this trusty trio, who are propably paid less in a year than the cricketers get in a week, have been working feverishly to get rid of the water lying on the outfield after a cloudburst 58 minutes after lunch.
At 14.12 local time, so the scorer tells me, we were assailed by thunder, lightning, darkness and torrential rain. The wind drove the rain straight into the press box, we ran for cover, the internet crashed and play looked to be over for the day.
But then these hard-working sweepers and two Super Soakers got to work on the flooded outfield and, with the super-efficient drainage system here at Johannesburg's "Bull Ring", the ground was coaxed back into some sort of shape within two hours.
The umpires are out there at the moment, water splashing around their ankles. We could even see some play now, right at the end of day two - there's a second inspection at 5.15pm local time, with play getting underway at 5.30pm (3.30 in England), which is the scheduled end of play here. They're hoping to get half and hour in.
Though it would be good to have a go at Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla in these conditions, England might be happy to stay in the dressing-room after the morning they had.
Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, had a big swish at birthday boy Ryan Sidebottom just four overs into the days play after South Africa had restarted at 29-0 chasing England's paltry 180.
Sidebottom, 32, certainly though Smith - on 15 - had got an edge. So did the entire England team, including the catcher Matt Prior.
But umpire Daryl Harper, up in the television review box, only had his audio feed turned up to four out of 10 and couldn't hear a thing on the stump microphone. Not out and England reeled in shock.
Smith went on to get 105, effectively batting England out of the game. He was out shortly before the thunderstorm. We should be back on the slightly-soggy field here by 5.40 South Africa time, 3.40 British time.
England will hope to nick out a few South Africans in the final hour, but they'll also be performing traditional rain dances in their Sandton Hotel tonight.
And possibly thinking about a knob in the umpire's dressing room.

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