Outstanding Smith deserves his success
Saturday's play at Edgbaston featured one of the finest examples of a captain leading from the front that you will see in Test cricket.
To score an unbeaten 154 batting last on this wearing surface was a superb achievement - not least because Graeme Smith was close to withdrawing from the Test with a bad back!
Curiously, he survived what was only a polite enquiry on 85 for caught behind off Monty Panesar which replays showed had flicked his glove. It was not an easy decision for Umpire Aleem Dar because the glove and pad were so close together and the fact that Panesar did not give one of his pogo stick appeals probably swayed his mind.
The contest between Smith and Panesar was fascinating. Panesar really struggled before tea to get his length right to the big left-hander, but then dropped the ball beautifully into the rough outside the off stump after the break. The ball reared and turned, but although Smith looked rather ungainly at times, he was able to protect his wicket with his body. I wish Panesar had tried a few overs from round the wicket.
The main talking point was undoubtedly the dismissals of Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis who both failed to pick up full balls from Andrew Flintoff. The delivery to McKenzie struck him full on the boot as, frozen to the crease, the batsman turned his head away.
Kallis had problems with Flintoff on the second evening in poor light and I wonder if this, coupled with McKenzie's dismissal, preyed on his mind because almost immediately Flintoff hurled down a low full toss which struck Kallis - who again did little more than flinch - on the thigh. I don't think I have ever seen a batsman angrier when given out (correctly) than this.
There were accusing stares in our direction behind the sightscreen at the Pavilion End, but nothing has changed up here for years. Let's not forget that none of England's batsmen had problems when facing the equally tall Andre Nel or Morne Morkel - it was all very strange.
Once again, technology came to a batsman's assistance when an appeal for a low catch was referred to the third umpire. Ryan Sidebottom was the beneficiary this time when AB de Villiers appeared to take a clean catch at grass height in the slips. Most commentators agreed that the catch seemed to be legal, but not all - and that reflected the benefit of the doubt that was, as always, given to the batsman.
England's selectors will name their team for The Oval on Sunday, and given the way their team has been playing, they could consider that having a dead game is a luxury. If changes are to be made, this is the time to do so - with the main consideration being how they can accommodate a fifth bowler when, of the batsmen, the captain looks the most vulnerable.