After a horrible moment of acrimony that might have marred the series, England gleefully hauled themselves back into the first Test yesterday. The third day was threatening to turn bleak when Stuart Broad was, correctly, given out after a review of an umpiring decision that took too long to request.
Broad appeared to argue with the umpire, Aleem Dar, as he left the field and such incidents can leave bitter aftertastes. But Graeme Swann then played an innings of such unfettered joy, scoring 85 in 81 balls and making mockery of the stately progress hitherto, that England were able to forget their self-imposed agonies. He and his darts-playing buddy, Jimmy Anderson, shared a ninth wicket stand of 106, a record for England against South Africa. There was touching of gloves and best mate hugs all round as ball after ball was struck to the boundary.
"It was good crack," said Swann, "especially when he cracked that six over mid-wicket. He was telling me shots that I wasn't allowed to play next ball which I obviously then did and then so was he." Swann and Anderson unquestionably put England in the game after it seemed they were to go down the tubes at 242 for 8, still 176 behind. Thanks to their unexpected hitting that deficit was cut to 62.
Broad was given out following the review of a rejected lbw appeal by JP Duminy. South Africa took an estimated 34 seconds to ask for the re-examination of Dar's decision amid suggestions that they might have been tipped off by their dressing room.
"It was the amount of time it took to refer the decision," said Swann. "We didn't know what was happening and we were just checking they hadn't seen anything from the dressing room. To be fair the replay showed it was out so maybe the review system does work. We're not pointing the finger, but there are issues that need ironing out." It was mature reflection on an incident that could have caused ructions to last an entire series. Broad, who walked over to Dar after finally being given out, will be fortunate to escape official censure.
Paul Harris, who took five wickets for South Africa when he had Swann caught at deep mid-wicket, said there was no dressing room advice to Graeme Smith, their captain. "Graeme just made a late decision," he said. But it was Swann who took the heat out of the incident.