Five-fer: Day five, Headingley

Blog Opinion

Five talking points from day five of the second Test between England and South Africa.

So, the second Test ends in a draw and we head to Lord's with South Africa still leading the series 1-0. Here are five talking points after an exciting final day at Headingley.

<b>1) Selectors Under Pressure</b><br>It's pointless to dwell on the 'what ifs', but had the rain not ruled out so much play in this Test, England might've been left to rue their decision not to include Graeme Swann in the playing XI.

Granted, Swann is nursing a niggling elbow injury that has hindered him from performing at his best, but with three left-handers in South Africa's top and middle-order, he'd probably still have been effective on a tacky surface that took turn from as early as the second day.

On that day, Kevin Pietersen struck with his second ball of the match to have Jacques Rudolph narrowly stumped after ragging one past the left-hander's outside edge, and this after Rudolph had stubbornly clung to the crease and resisted the English fast bowlers in extremely testing conditions. Pietersen was at it again today.

On the stroke of lunch, Strauss brought him on and Pietersen once again removed Rudolph with his second ball. The South African had already notched up a neat half-century, and the recurring rain had already ruled out a result, but Pietersen's performance still points to an error in England's selections.

Pietersen then went on to add Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla to his collection, which, amusingly, made him the top wicket-taker for England (at that stage) in the series, with the best average with both bat and ball.

Last year at Cardiff, in similar conditions, England ran through Sri Lanka on the fifth day to set up an innings victory. Swann took four quick wickets that day, including two left-handers. What if it hadn't rained in Leeds, and Swann had been in England's XI?

<b>2) Broad Appeal</b><br>Stuart Broad has not looked himself this series. He has been slower than usual, surlier than usual (if that's possible), more wayward than usual and there was serious discussion by the pundits that he should be left out of the next Test at Lord's.

Then, just before tea today, he found the magic, possibly inspired by Kevin Pietersen's wickets ('If he can get three, then surely I can!'). Admittedly, the first two LBWs to AB de Villiers and JP Duminy were rather suspect, and would probably have been overturned if the Proteas had any reviews left.

But the third, to Vernon Philander, was plumb in front and an excellent piece of swing bowling. The ball had been moving for him all afternoon, and the extra injection of pace made sure that the movement counted for Broad.

The icing on the cake was the delivery that got rid of Jacques Kallis. Jakes is not a man to shy away from shorter deliveries, but the pace Broad had been generating put the world's best all-rounder in two minds. He took his fourth wicket in 20 deliveries by forcing Kallis to sway backwards, and instead of dropping his hands, the ball skimmed the gloves on the way to Matt Prior.

Broad's sheer joy at taking that wicket, and making sure his name remained on the team sheet for the final Test, was evident for all to see. He bagged his five-for with the final ball of the innings, getting Morne Morkel caught by Cook and South Africa promptly declared.

<b>3) Umpire Under Review</b><br>After the first innings in which umpire Davis made a number of errors, his performance on day five was vastly improved and instilled a confidence in his calls. There were two excellent decisions, both reviewed, that vindicated his choices.

The first was Rudolph's dismissal, which he gave as out initially. Rudolph thought the Kevin Pietersen delivery had pitch outside leg stump, but it hadn't and it would have gone on to hit middle stump, so Davis was more than correct.

The second, also off Pietersen's bowling (see point one again), saw Davis turn down the appeal. KP and Matt Prior were convinced Graeme Smith had nicked a sharply turning delivery, but Davis said not out. Reviews showed clear daylight between bat and ball, and Snicko didn't even wobble, so Smith stayed put, his score on 52.

The skipper wasn't as fortunate a few deliveries later, when KP finally got his man. Davis said 'on yer horse' after Biff seemed to get a bottom edge and get caught by James Taylor at short leg. It went for a review, and Asad Rauf agreed, though the ball seemed to hit Smith's gloves on the way out to Taylor. Either way, he had to walk.

Of course, no-one is perfect. The decision to give AB de Villiers out LBW was incorrect, as it was going far down leg side, but the Proteas had no more reviews left. In the England innings, Imran Tahir was unlucky to be denied, as the 'umpire's call' light lit up against Cook, who was struck in line but it was too close to overturn Davis' not out decision.

<b>4) Slipping up</b><br>AB de Villiers was dropped with his score on 24, nicking KP to James Anderson in the slips for a regulation catch, but the fast bowler was caught napping and it went to ground. This was not the first time it happened on day five, let alone in the match.

England's slip fielding has not been as good as it usually is, and one can also add Swann's exclusion to this dilemma as he has a very safe pair of hands in the cordon. First Alastair Cook and then Anderson and Strauss were all short of the mark, whether catching or not standing close enough.

It is often the case that when something goes against you, everything goes against you, and the slip fielding was case and point. Stuart Broad and Anderson both found themselves short of a wicket when the cordon stood too far back and the edges dropped short, or the ball just-just went to hand and couldn't be bagged. Anderson had two go to hand today alone, and both hit the ground.

The number of runs scored through the slips and begin square in this innings was 52, and the South Africans were just as unlucky in this regard, with Morkel and Steyn inducing a number of edges during the evening run chase. Should have paid less for the bat and just bought the edges…

<b>5) Brave skippering</b><br>The decision by Graeme Smith to a) bat aggressively and b) declare after tea were as interesting as they were risky, and if he'd lost, he would have been hauled over the coals by all and sundry. As it turned out, the decisions made the final day exciting when it could have been a snooze.

This was Smith's second brave declaration in two Tests, and when Kevin Pietersen's wicket fell early, some may have dreamed of a thrilling ending with 35 overs to go, either with SA taking all 10 wickets, or England pulling off a mighty run chase.

Speaking of KP, it was also unlike Strauss to make an out-of-the-ordinary decision, as he sent the big-hitting batsman to open for the first time in a Test. He obviously wanted to treat the rest of the game like an ODI, and if KP's hitting had come off, South Africa would have been in heaps of trouble.

England had one last