Comment: Vaughan's chance to shine
Friday 01 August 2008
After Thursday evening's heroics, Andrew Flintoff drew a blank in his four overs with the ball this morning - but England managed to finish off South Africa in any event, although with a lead of 83 there is no pretending that the tourists do not still have the upper hand.
The threat posed by Ashwell Prince was relatively short-lived, thanks to a rash loose drive from the man who made centuries at Lord's and Headingley, Ryan Sidebottom claiming the first wicket of the morning at the end of the second over.
But Mark Boucher's 40 off 49 balls could prove to be pretty important, however, and Sidebottom might have been rather more vociferous in his reaction to a dreadful dropped catch by Monty Panesar at fine leg had the South African wicketkeeper not hit him for three boundaries in the same over.
It was a classic "wish the ground would open up" moment for Monty, Boucher's hook on 37 going straight in and out of the left-arm spinner's stiff fingers. Sidebottom, who had given his hapless chum a regal volley the other day after a misfield, confined himself to a rueful seen-it-all-before scowl and a shake of the head this time, any curses kept largely to himself.
Fortunately for Monty, it was hardly any time before Boucher, looking to hit virtually everything, went inside out to James Anderson with a big smear towards the extra cover fence, only for the blow to be intercepted by Michaal Vaughan, who took a terrific, diving catch and, happily, scrambled to his feet with dodgy knees still apparently in working order.
That wrapped things up. Anderson had also accounted for Morne Morkel, trapped leg before, while Sidebottom could console himself with the lovely inswinger to Andre Nel that took out middle and off.
There has already been rain here - but, sensibly, the players have taken an early lunch. It will be a big afternoon for those in the England dressing room, with most pressure on Vaughan to stand up and be counted with the bat. Paul Collingwood and Tim Ambrose will be willing him to make a big innings, if only in the hope of keeping the spotlight off them for a while.
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