Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Matt adds gloss but it's too hot for cricket. Too hot for England.

ENGLAND were finally dismissed for 273 on a burning-hot day three of the third Test in Cape Town this morning. South Africa will bat with a lead of 18 but the far greater advantage will be the 40-plus temperatures at Newlands as this series comes neatly to the boil.
Matt Prior ensured a brave last stand which lasted six overs this morning, ending with 76 not out off 118 balls and adding a couple of lusty blows to close the gap after England had resumed on 241-7 this morning.
It could have been a lot worse as Morne Morkel struck twice in the first over of the morning to register a magnificent five-fer. Graeme Swann lasted just three balls and Jimmy Anderson popped out and got a first baller. First golden duck of his Test career. Clearly he wasn't wearing sun-cream. The excellent Titans seamer Morkel, more at home at high altitude, had gone from three wickets to a magnificent five in four balls.
And England, just like South Africa on day two, have proved this strip is lethal in the early overs, even without the "table cloth" of cloud rolling over neighbouring Table Mountain.
Clouds? Not a sign of them today. We are talking 40-plus temperatures and it's not even 11am here. Serious sun-stroke territory.
And England, thanks to Swann and Anderson, have sentenced themselves to a long day in the sun here as they attempt to defend their 1-0 lead in this four-match series.
To be fair, Morkel has been bowling well all series. He deserves all the accolades. The ball that got Swann was unplayable, steepling off a length, catching a glove and flying to captain Graeme Smith at slip.
Anderson, who avoided a duck for 49 innings as a tail-ender and nightwatchman, got something very similar and Smith gleefully took his second catch in as many balls.
It was left to Prior and Graham Onions, who survived nine balls for four runs, to push England closer to the South African total of 291. This low-scoring match is headed for a result, and it may not be the one England were hoping for.
Still there are consolations. The two South African batsman pictured above by my faithful photographer (A Mrs Tracy Collins) will soon be with us.
Ashwell Prince (or the batsman formerly known as Prince) and JP Duminy (also known as Crash Test Duminy), both local lads, will have the heat on them today after a poor start to this series with the bat. They spent a considerable time in the nets yesterday.
But for England, this could well prove to be the endless day. Watching them warm-up (yes, warm-up in this heat!) several are carrying strapping and bandages.
Anderson's knee, Onions' calf, Paul Collingwood's back and finger, Stuart Broad's shoulder, Alastair Cook's leg... and we saw Kevin Pietersen getting treatment on has back in the middle on day one here.
These are worrying signs for a side about to face endless heat on a vital day.
And we could well end it with South Africa moving towards a result which will tie-up this series at 1-1 and send the sides to the Wanderers for a fourth Test decider on January 14.

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