Heroes of Newlands
Anyone who says that test cricket is boring should be forced to watch a re-run of the final day’s play of the 3rd Test yesterday at Newlands (and indeed the final day of the Sydney test between Pakistan and Australia for that matter).
It was absolutely riveting stuff and like many others I was glued to the commentary on Test Match Sofa (or Sky or TMS) and as per cricket tradition did not move from my seat for the whole day’s play.
Unbelievably England performed their version of The Great Escape for the second time in this series and the third time in their last eight tests (Watch South Africa vs England Test Highlights here). Cape Town now joins its counterparts of Centurion and Cardiff in the Great Escape trilogy and in the annuls of England’s most memorable test matches.
Four heroes and two further unlikely ones emerged from the final day. Without further ado here is the roll of honour:
Revealing the Heroes…
Paul Collingwood– Collingwood has been the central figure and inspiration of all three rearguards and never mind the MBE, he should arguably be knighted for his heroism. Once again Collingwood arrived at the crease with England in a desperate position and once again he coolly set about his work. The doomsayers who were calling for his head after Headingley look rather stupid now. In the Great Escape trilogy his stats are 140 runs, 532 balls (88.4 overs) and 779 minutes (1 minute short of 13 hours) at the crease for twice out (like Cardiff he even got out near the end yesterday to make it interesting!). Incredible.
Ian Bell– If Collingwood was the undoubted foundation of yesterday’s heroics, England wouldn’t have escaped if others hadn’t also stood steadfast. Step forward the unlikely figure of Ian Bell. Despite having all the talent in the World, Bell does not have the reputation of someone you can rely on in a crisis. Indeed, all of his test centuries have come when at least one other colleague has also made a ton. But he was magnificent yesterday and hopefully this will be the inspiration he needs to go on and justify his talent. Arguably, he is the most talented of all of England’s batsmen but before yesterday also the mentally weakest.
Graham Onions– Lightning does strike twice. And just as at Centurion, Onions played out the final over with aplomb despite unbelievable pressure and tension. Once again Onions reduced the South Africans to tears with his bravery. Never in the history of cricket conflict has so much been achieved by such small knocks as Onions’ 1 not out and 0 not out at Centurion and Cape Town respectively. Graeme Swann also deserves plaudits but on this occasion his achievements rank below those of Colly, Bell and Onions.
Dale Steyn – There was a South African hero too yesterday. Steyn bowled his heart out all day and his new ball battle with Collingwood evoked memories of the famous tussle between Allan Donald and Mike Atherton at Trent Bridge in 1998. I’m not a big fan of the ICC rankings system, but Steyn really did show why he is ranked as the top test bowler in the World even if he was unlucky and unrewarded on this occasion.
The unlikely heroes
Umpire Decision Review System – Now those that read my post yesterday will know that like many I am not a supporter of the UDRS. And I am not the only one. As I exclusively revealed the ICC had unfurled a desperate scheme to justify the UDRS in this test match in the shape of Daryl Harper. But the UDRS saved England when Collingwood facing his first ball was given out to a catch at slip by Kallis off Harris. Collingwood immediately called for the review, which showed that the deflection had come off his hip. Without UDRS, Collingwood would have gone and with it England’s chances of saving the test. Maybe, just maybe, I am beginning to see the merits of the system now!
Paul Harris & the SA selectors – Maybe I am being a bit unfair, but never have I seen a test spinner who turns and spins the ball less (even Nathan Hauritz looks good in comparison). For the most part Bell and Collingwood were able to play him with consummate ease and Harris was even overshadowed by J.P Duminy, who is supposedly a part-time bowler. Maybe the South Africans will learn from this and Centurion that having a good spinner in your ranks is crucial to bowling out sides in the fourth innings of a match.
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