Of the two captains, Vaughan will be happiest – but only be a whisker. South Africa narrowly escaped losing 8 or 9 wickets on the first day, and although they ended 7 down at stumps it could have been worse. It should, though, have been better.
Smith won the toss and chose to bat – bucking a recent trend where SA have usually bowled first. The consensus was – a good toss to lose, if only because no one knew what to do. Smith was first out, from the 2nd ball of the series – a collossol psychological breakthrough for England. And to have done it so quickly made it even more vital – it made South Africa immediately vulnerable, and reminded him that this is a different team to the one he slayed in 2003.
Rudolf played well for 93, although I still can’t watch him for too long. (“paint” and “dry” come to mind). He was undone by Flintoff who out-thought him and, eventually, after the previous ball had been turned down, had him caught by Jones. A steep lifter – why didn’t Harmison try the same round-the-wicket tactics to the lefties? Steepling bounce around their necks – they don’t like it much there.
So overall, England’s day marginally. The exciting thing for England, and perhaps worryingly for South Africa, is they took 7 wickets quite easily for not many runs…and they’re not in form. Hoggard looked in great rythmn; Fred was just outstanding, but Harmison (and Jones in particular) were well out of sorts. Harmison will more than likely come good come T2, or even later on in this match, but the Jones saga continues….I shall post more on him later.
Just one final note I’d like to say. I haven’t seen an England side who are so obviously such good mates…a side who don’t begrudge their team-mate’s successes. It’s very clear they’re “in it together,” which couldn’t be said of teams in the 90s. Even if I wasn’t English, I’d find it pleasing to see a side gel together at last and perform as one. Let’s hope the Windies can sort themselves out one day, and start terrorising batsmen with 6’7″ giants again…