Cow Corner

Maiden Test ton for Harper

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Congratulations to umpire Daryl Harper who compiled his maiden Test century on days two and three of the fourth Test between England and South Africa.

With the benefit of video replays and a stump microphone feed, albeit used by the Australian as background music, Smith should have been dismissed for 15 and AB de Villiers for 11 but Harper instead racked up an impressive ton to put England firmly under the cosh at the Wanderers.

Batsman Status Runs
GC Smith c MJ Prior b RJ Sidebottom 15
DJ Harper MASSIVE INCOMPETENCE 137
AG Prince c GP Swann b SCJ Broad 19
HM Amla c MJ Prior b SCJ Broad 75
JH Kallis c JM Anderson b RJ Sidebottom 7
AB de Villiers c AJ Strauss b GP Swann 11
JP Duminy c PD Collingwood b GP Swann 7
MV Boucher c IJL Trott b GP Swann 95
R McLaren not out 33
DW Steyn not out 1
TOTAL   423/7

The furore surrounding umpire Harper and his colleagues simply refuses to go away as yet another day was dominated by dubious decisions and frayed tempers inside the Bullring.

The day began as match referee Roshan Mahanama, holder of a 29.27 batting average from 52 Tests, backed Harper's decision to keep Graeme Smith at the crease on day two, by talking in purely IT technician terms: "Harper adhered accurately to the correct protocol from the guidelines in place." Quite.

In so doing, Mahanama effectively branded England team director Andy Flower a bare-faced liar when he revealed that the referee had told him Harper neglected to turn up the volume on his stump microphone.

But this was a new day and a fresh start, so it was only fitting that Harper provided a fresh reason for his position to be shrouded in doubt as he committed the cardinal sin of all umpires: falsely overruling a colleague, to leave the tourists incandescent with rage.

AB 'four lives' De Villiers was given out for attempting to touch the ball with every part of his padding including, crucially, his glove, as the ball was snaffled behind the stumps off the bowling of Graeme Swann, only for Harper to hastily overturn the decision as the spinner was left nearly inconsolable.

Harper accused all and sundry of Facebook-tampering after his profile was tinkered with overnight, and perhaps he was still salvaging his dignity online: withdrawing pokes and deleting wall posts when De Villiers was going through his full repertoire.

ECB chairman Giles Clarke confirmed that the tourists had asked the ICC if the 'grave blunder' with Smith on day two could be partially resolved in the form of a refunded referral, and said: "If the umpire is as deaf as a post and as blind as a bat at least it's the same for both sides." No wonder Clarke's email inbox remains empty then.

In a thoroughly tempestuous morning, umpire Tony Hill, determined to finally send De Villiers back to the hutch to restore some justice, again raised the finger to send the batsman on his way, but on this occasion Harper was vindicated in his overrule as Hawkeye saw the lbw appeal as a bouncer.

England were left to rue the absence of their restored referral as umpire Steve Davis joined the party with a clanger of quite epic proportions as De Villiers got a thick inside edge through to Matt Prior. The batsman had the audacity to shake his head vehemently, and looked up to see an identical response from the portly official as his wicket remained unscathed.

In what was an impeccable demonstration of how not to judge referrals: Swann was persuaded by Prior not to appeal a plumb lbw shout as Mark Boucher was rapped on the pads, but in his next over a review was called for after the batsman was struck well outside the line.

Meanwhile, there was a quite enthralling 'field-off' competition which ensued as a result of James Anderson's emphatic celebrations after he snaffled a stunner to send Jacques Kallis packing. Paul Collingwood, keen to restore order in the ranks, hurled himself about like Jack Russell after drilling six Weetabix, and even Ian Bell followed a sprawling dive with a doff of the cap to acknowledge his participation.

There was a comical moment when Collingwood's first delivery reared up viciously at Boucher, who wore the medium-trundler's dibbly-snorter on the neck to prompt a round of rather bewildered smiles. Colly informed the batsman that his off-cutters were clearly 'just the ticket on this wicket', but Boucher was distinctly unimpressed and swaggered on towards his ton.

The hosts' number seven was focused on one thing until he fell tantalisingly short of his first century since November 2008. Boucher unselfishly adopted the role of team player and did not cease to attack, but shovelled a short ball from Swann straight to midwicket and marched off in military fashion to a collective sigh from the Bullring faithful.

The South Africa wicket-keeper will be as resentful as anyone that his combative knock was overshadowed by a series of such inept decisions, but he will understand at least that cricket's 'transitional period' (www.iccbuzzwords.com) has everyone from the coaches to the tea ladies talking.

England imploded late on with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and debutant Wayne 'Pigeon' Parnell all making incisive blows into the tourists' top order as Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott formed the orderly procession.

Kevin Pietersen was uncharacteristically subdued at the crease as he caressed a couple of exquisite 'hold the pose' cover-drives, and even got off the mark without a Red Bull-single as he was accompanied by Paul Collingwood at the close. The pair will have to muster up a monumental effort to salvage a series victory for the tourists as a ruthless South Africa close in.

SHOT OF THE DAY: Ryan McLaren's sumptuous extra-cover drive for four with a flourishing, extravagant back-lift which would have made Brian Lara's look like a short-arm jab! Anderson's rueful smile effectively said to the batsman: 'Hell of a shot, son!" and the ensuing bouncer said "but don't ever do that again!"

STAT OF THE DAY: Boucher moved past 5000 Test runs as a wicket-keeper, a tally which puts him second behind only Australian Adam Gilchrist, who notched up 5570 over the course of his career.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: What is the point in blogs when you can just summarise a day in four pithy lines, as Soul.limbo demonstrates with distinction.

Technology - inadequate;
Umpires - incompetent;
England - inconsistent;
South Africa - inspired.

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