Saturday, August 16, 2008

Proteas ruin the English summer party!

The English summer was topped by the tour of South Africa after the summer solstice in a 4 match test series to be followed by the one-dayers. The English side were on the brink of creating history of fielding the same side for 6 consecutive times. Michael Vaughan's place in the side was in jeopardy due to his downslide in batting form, though he has been captaining the side well for the past few months. Andrew Flintoff was ready to catch an opportunity with both hands if there was to be even a key-hole of a space to get in, he was looking in the best health off late.

So, the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy kicked off in stlye, at the Lords'. England batted first on a good batting wicket. The openers started slowly but, didn't lose any wicket in the morning session. The openers put on a brilliant 100+ stand for the first wicket. Then, the tall seamer, Morne Morkel got rid of the openers while Steyn's "Ripper" will be another episode of Vaughan's nightmares. Then on, KP and Bell played on and on and on. After KP's brilliant knock, Broad showed some class to give Bell some company. Vaughan was waiting for Bell to reach his double centure to call back his team, but, Bell, who wanted to get things done fast, got out due to a possible lapse in his concentration when he was out caught and bowled to Harris on 199. Oh boy! What a score to be frozen at! Anyway, the knock will remain very important in the context of the game. The Proteas stepped in...and stepped out pretty sooner than expected. Had it not been for Prince's calm and superb century, South Africa might've been in a very bad situation. Nevertheless they were forced to follow on. Now, the flavour of ecstacy. This is what I called saving a match. The top 3 South Africans each scored hefty centuries to deny England what looked like possible victory one and a half days ago. Smith was aggressive, while Amla and McKenzie were stuck to defensive basics of best order. The SA batsmen were just a shadow of what they were in the first innings.

So, the second test match ended the 6 match streak of England playing the same 11. Now, Freddie Flintoff made an entry back into the side in place of Collingwood and the comlpetely unknown medium pacer Darren Pattinson came in for the rested/injured Sidebottom. Steyn and Morkel ripped apart the English order and the South Africans, after initial hiccups, piled on excess of 500 with contributions coming in from the blade of Prince and AB de Villiears. With a near-similar performance by the South African seamers yet again, England avoided innings defeat! They took a lead of paltry 8 runs which Smith and McKenzie swept away in the blink of an over. South Africa thus took the all important 1-0 lead, at Leeds!

Vaughan was losing more ideas than hair... He knew Pattinson didn't work out the way anyone would've expected. It took some time for Lloyd to find out that he was a roof-tiler and Harmy realised that he ws dozing while Pattinson bowled in the match played between them. Nevertheless, Broad and Pattinson were replaced by Collingwood and Sidebottom, who still wasn't 100% fit. Nel replaced injured Steyn, a big blow to SA.

The Edgebaston match started off not-so-well for England, as only half centuries from Cook and Bell took England to a meagre 231. Nel and Kallis contributed well with 3 wickets. The see-saw battle continued as Fred announced his return in style and picked up 4 crucial wickets, his ball swinging and dipping in more than what the batsmen anticipated. Ryan toiled hard for 3 wickets. Collingwood and KP then lead the english fightback and gave england a reason to fight for when they took the field for the 2nd time. Needing 281 for victory in both the match and the series, the SA openers started steadily. But, then, with a combined effort from Jimmy, Flintoff and Panesay, SA were reduced to 93-4 with Smith still at one end but losing partners very quickly. But, in the presence of de Villiers and Boucher, Smith raced to a big century and won the match for South Africa. This was a big moment, as both Vaughan's batting form and captaincy were in very poor form, though he maintains a very good overall track record in both aspects.

This was followed by Vaughan stepping down from captaincy and Collingwood denying the post. Vaughan stayed away from the 4th match. KP was named the captain and Steve Harmison made a comeback too.

The English seamers wated no time in getting rid of the whole SA batting order in no time and SA ended up with just 194 on board without even a single half-century. KP then stamped authority with a brilliant century before Harmison showed his skills with the bat. A sad period of play was when Harmison was on the non-striker end on 49 when Anderson padded up to a Harris arm ball and was out lbw. A few hundred seconds later, Harmison set off for a quick single but, Monty was a tad late to respond and was run out to leave Harmy stranded on a very important knock of 49! South Africa made a decent 2nd inning score, thanks to de Villiers and Amla. Broad chipped in with 3 wickets. England top order had things going easy and without much effort, they won the unconsequential match in style...when Flintoff hits a six to win the match with a six, its gotta be in style!

So, SA will take home the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy which was dramatic in many ways. I can't forget the moments when Morkel was out but walked off to some random place on the boundary, quite far from the dressing room, had to go past the advertisement boards and then a ground staff security personnel had to escort him to the dressing room past the spectators. Darren Pattinson was the surprise elemwnt, a surprise that awaited both the sides! A new English captain emerged, emerged victorious the first time he led his side. Old war horses Flintoff and Harmison cane back into the sides. McKenzie and Amla were at their best. Prince and de Villiers and Captain Smith were in good touch too. Steyn was at his aggressive best and Ntini proved the world that age doesn't bother him!!!

So, now, its time for the ODI series. Let the best side victor. Only time'll tell!!!

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