Wednesday 26 April 2017

Cricket: Broad in dock as Smith forges on

Derek Pringle

England's cricketers were roasted beyond recognition at Newlands yesterday, spending most of the day chasing leather in 100-degree heat.

Most South Africans love a barbecue but there was something beyond mere appetite driving their captain Graeme Smith, as he compiled a momentous 162 not out, and it smelt like revenge.

Already subterranean, England's mood would not have been improved when South Africa later raised concerns with Roshan Mahanama, the match referee, about what they saw as Stuart Broad's inappropriate actions on the ball.

Broad was the batsman in question when England complained to the match referee in the first Test, after South Africa took a long time deciding whether to ask for a review, so there is probably an element of tit-for-tat about this.

Broad became involved in the controversy just before lunch when he stopped the ball off his own bowling with the spiked underside of his boot.

His actions, and what happened thereafter when he threw the ball to James Anderson, who twisted it in his hands before brushing off some dirt and pulling off a loose tag of leather, were interpreted as ball tampering by some local media outlets.

But if it was, it was a brand too primitive for the 21st century, something Broad and Anderson's collective figures of nought for 102 surely confirmed.

Political

The political side of modern sport should never be underestimated but it seems surprising that South Africa would want to distract attention from their captain's epic innings.

Smith has a history of making telling hundreds against England and this must rank as one of his best.

This latest effort was Smith's fifth in 17 Tests against them and having seen his team thrashed in Durban last week, he would have redoubled his efforts to make amends. The truly impressive fact is that all but one of his centuries have exceeded 150, the sign of a man motivated by the team good rather than the glory that three figures brings.

This one was special, though. To hit a hundred in 100-degree heat is a feat that deserves widespread recognition and Smith was cheered to the echo by the home fans and applauded heartily by England's.

His innings, and his partnership of 230 for the second wicket with Hashim Amla, who made 95, means South Africa have an overall lead of 330 with eight wickets and two days remaining.

It is a powerful position to be in -- a position that, after the team's implosion in Durban, many felt might be beyond them. But for all their faults, Smith's side are a team of scrappers.

With the heat belching in from the interior, it was a cruel day for bowlers, unless you were Morne Morkel with his double strike in the opening over of the day, a moment that killed off any chance of England taking a first-innings lead. Yet, as the visitors' attack wilted, Smith and Amla seemed energised.

Amla, whose bold, improvisational approach was crucial to snapping South Africa out of the doldrums just after lunch, deserved to join his skipper on three figures but fell five runs short. Graeme Swann was the bowler who dismissed him, his persistence with an in-out field bearing fruit when he had him caught by Alastair Cook at short leg.

Swann was England's sole wicket-taker and while you would expect the spinner to dominate through sheer number of overs when the mercury reaches three figures, the pacemen looked particularly toothless in the heat.

Anderson and Graham Onions scarcely beat the bat with the new ball while Broad, irascible as ever, hardly induced a false stroke. Playing four specialist bowlers allows you to pack the batting, but exposes you when the conditions turn as trying as these.

The heat informed everything England did, from the tactic of bowling Swann from the Wynberg End and rotating the pacemen from the other, to the ridiculous experiment with Jonathan Trott, whose five overs cost 30 runs.

But for Swann, England's perennial problem of being unable to find that bit of magic with the old ball when the pitch goes flat would have been exposed even more that it was.

With England conceding a first-innings deficit of only 18 after Matt Prior made 76, Swann's first wicket, when he had Ashwell Prince lbw for 15, got the tourists into the match. Trouble was, that had become a mirage by the time he took his second, four and a half hours later.

The review system gave Prince an early reprieve when he was mistakenly given out as caught off Anderson, but a second appeal was unsuccessful against his lbw off Swann. In contrast, when Smith was given out lbw to Swann, he challenged and won a reprieve -- but only after talking to Amla. It was yet another English ray of hope extinguished under the baking sun. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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