Seldom has there been five days of cricket that have captivated and enthralled more than the last five that have just played out at Newlands in Cape Town. Test match cricket just keeps on showing us that it is still without doubt the Grand Daddy of this great game.
Starting in cool drizzly conditions on Wednesday, England won the toss and again elected to put the home side in and try get amongst their opponents with their impressive new ball exponents. Get amongst them they did as Prince fell cheaply and soon after Smith edged one straight to Swann in the slips who woefully put it down giving the S.A skipper a much needed lifeline. And so this set the trend for the test as it went back and forth much like a heavy weight title match.
With battle draughts poured , it was game on.
The greatest heavy weight of them all, Jacques ‘The King’ Kallis went on to record yet another superb century in rather trying conditions to end day one with honours pretty much even between the two sides.
On day two Kallis and Steyn strode out to the crease to build on a decent platform and help their team post a healthy first innings total. 19 balls later though S.A were suddenly all out for 291 after a devastating display of fast bowling by the English.
In came the visitors with bat in hand and Strauss was quickly back in the hut dismissed by Morne Morkel who was the star of the innings with the ball picking up an impressive 5 wicket haul, ably supported by back to form Dale Steyn who picked up 4.
In the process though England were able to muster up 273 runs with wicket keeper Prior top scoring. S.A ended up with an 18 run lead which should have been 50 if not for the stubborn resistance of Graeme Onions.
Onions - tricky
So with a first innings lead and a track which had become a batters paradise, the local boys returned to the crease to try and take the game away from the Poms on a perilously hot summers day where chasing leather was sure to lose you some kilograms.
Prince once again failed to impressive but Smith and Amla put the bowlers to the sword with a tremendous partnership which sadly ended with Amla perishing on 95. Still damage done and Smith went on to score an incredible 182 meaning come declaration time just after lunch on day 4 at 447/7, England had their backs to the wall like two good looking straight guys in a gay bar.
The target set for England was a little terrifying
The English resolve was strong however and a century stand by their openers meant the game was wide open. Then fell Cook, Strauss and Pietersen meaning at the close of play they were three wickets down and the target was purely academic. The smell of blood was rich in the air.
Day five started well with the fall of night watchman Andersen followed by local boy Trott who lost his off stump to a rampant Steyn. That’s where the smiles ceased though as Bell and Collingwood combined to bat for what seemed an eternity and with around an hour of the match left, all looked dead and buried as far as getting a result.
With every fairytale though, an unlikely hero steps forward. This time by the name of J.P Duminy who miraculously dismissed Collingwood and then straight after the first innings hero Prior. Change was in the winds and when girly boy Broad nudged it to Harris soon after the atmosphere had reached fever pitch. The umpire gave it not out and even though video footage suggested otherwise, his decision remained.
Everyone then took a deep breath as Harris then replaced Duminy from the Wynberg end with literally a few precious overs remaining. Harris threw some wasteful pies towards the feminine Broad and when all things looked lost suddenly he got one to jump of the pitch, find the glove and pop up for an easy catch – Piss off you’re out ! . But the wannabe WHAM back up singer decided to call for a referral which further embarrassed him as he blatantly gloved it straight to the fielder.
Broad was a bit deflated when he returned to the dressing room
So, with 3 overs remaining S.A needed 2 wickets for victory. Problem was that Bell was still on strike and looking invincible. Morkel then ran in, bowled it back of a length and would you believe it, Bell edged it straight to Smith at first slip. Victory was surely ours with just Graeme Onions to come and Swann at the other end.
Onions somehow lasted the next five balls, Swann then survived Steyn’s final over so it was back to Morkel to try and cut Onions down to size and win a titanic test match which England could only save.
After a few balls that didn’t really frighten the England no.11, Morkel then produced a ripper of a delivery which Onions masterfully swayed away from and again another ripper that went through to the keeper causing everyone to go up and Smith to refer to the video umpire. Sadly it only clipped the shirt.
Final ball and in raced Morkel, he released it but sadly it was outside the off stump going through to the keeper. Match saved – England rejoice.
Onions - layered resistance
Perhaps and injustice for the home team , but what a match, what a test and what a spectacle for cricket!
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