Andre Nel took three wickets and sparked a collapse by England on the first day of the third Test against South Africa at Edgbaston on Wednesday. He then thanked the contribution of the British media for building him up before the game.
England crashed to 231 all out after winning the toss and batting on an easy-paced pitch. They were cruising at 68 for no wicket before Nel struck twice in two balls and they never recovered.
South Africa were 38 for one at the close after Graeme Smith was dismissed by Andrew Flintoff.
“You guys helped me quite nicely,” Nel said of the media’s attention on him and his aggressive and sometimes impetuous alter ego ‘Gunther’ during the build-up to the Test. “You guys were talking about it so much in the newspapers I actually didn’t have to do that much.”
Nel was predictably the target of verbal barbs from the crowd but his bowling backed up his claim that he liked to get the crowd going.
He said he was disappointed the fans hadn’t got more involved.
“They only sang about three songs. They need to learn some more,” he said.
Nel took three for 47 and all-rounder Jacques Kallis three for 31 as England, trailing the four-match series 1-0, failed to post the imposing total sought by captain Michael Vaughan.
Replacing the injured Dale Steyn, Nel dismissed the first three men in the England batting order.
He could have done even better because he twice induced edges from Ian Bell which fell just short of the slips. Bell went on to make 50. Bell and Alastair Cook (76) made more than half their side’s total.
Nel made the breakthrough after Andrew Strauss and Cook had apparently drawn the sting from the South African bowling. Strauss stepped on his stumps as he played Nel to leg to be out hit wicket for 20.
Nel admitted it was a lucky break.
“I was about to shout at myself for bowling down leg side when all of a sudden Mark Boucher was running at me saying he’s out,” he said.
Vaughan pushed forward to the first ball he faced and was given out caught behind by umpire Aleem Dar in response to a frenzied appeal by Nel, even though wicketkeeper Boucher did not join in.
Vaughan looked surprised at the decision but replays indicated he might have got a faint edge to the ball. Three overs later Kevin Pietersen tried to play Kallis to leg and the ball looped off his pad to Ashwell Prince at backward point.
He was given out caught although the ball probably did not touch his bat. Ironically he could have been given out leg before wicket as replays showed the ball would have hit his stumps.
Cook made an impressive 76 off 125 balls before Nel had him caught low down by a diving Kallis at second slip. The rest of the batting crumbled, apart from a cautious stand of 39 off 115 balls between Flintoff and Tim Ambrose. The recall of Paul Collingwood at No. 6 was unsuccessful as he made only four off 22 balls before edging Kallis to first slip.
Flintoff showed his usual aggression after Ambrose and Ryan Sidebottom were out in quick succession but he had no sooner hit Makhaya Ntini for six and four off successive balls than the innings ended when James Anderson and Monty Panesar were run out off successive balls.