England collapsed to a 340-run defeat well inside four days as their batting failed embarrassingly once again in the second Test at Trent Bridge
The last word goes to Tom Adam. “Ahhh,” he writes, “that’s better. England are back.”
Thanks for your company. Tomorrow, it’s over to England’s women. They’ll show the blokes how it’s done, won’t they?
Mind you, it could be worse… For one thing, South Africa could have had AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada in their ranks. For another, they could have held one of those early chances offered by Joe Root at Lord’s, in which case they might well be 2-0 up with two to play.
An email from Andrew Benton. “The next Test will be the measure of Root’s captaincy. Can he make the changes necessary, and/or inspire the team? We should give him the series, only then can we pass judgement.” And even that might be a bit premature. I can’t see him losing the job before the Ashes, can you?
It’s an ill wind etc etc, as shown by this email from Smylers. “An upside of England managing to lose this Test inside four days is that tomorrow’s England Women’s World Cup semi-final against South Africa will now be live on the radio. After I complained about the men overshadowing the women’s exciting ODI against Australia, it seems only fair to credit Joe Root’s team with their swift improvement in this area.”
England only have four problem areas. First, the top order: they’re all left-handers, they’re all crabby, and with Alastair Cook’s form fading, they all struggle to deal with the stock Test-match delivery. In 12 innings, Cook, Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance have made 246 at an average of 20, which is one shaky set of foundations.
Second, Mark Wood. The quickest of England’s bowlers has also been the least incisive: he has one for 197 off 56 overs. Chris Woakes’s recovery from injury cannot come too soon.
On a day like this, we’re all armchair selectors. And some wise heads are already gathering for the meeting…
Jeremy Smith: “The reality is that England’s best number three is still Jonathan Trott, a 36-year-old who retired from international cricket two years ago on health grounds.”
A sharp point from the tireless John Starbuck. “Du Plessis now has only two Tests to knock the England captain from his perch. It must be a standard Saffer objective now.
“Still,” he adds, “Trent Bridge lived up to its reputation as another three-day Test ground. You’ve got to laugh.”
So England were awful, but isn’t this great for the series? There is nothing worse than back-to-back Tests producing an instant 2-0, especially when there are only two Tests to come. The series has ebbed and flowed already, which is the life-blood of Test cricket. There’s now a week off, and a chance for England to regroup.
The first thing to say is not that England were awful, but South Africa were vastly improved. They bowled well, batted resolutely, fielded smartly, and above all they were well led. My colleague Rob Smyth reckons the man of the match should be Faf du Plessis, on the John Abrahams principle, and although it’s unlikely to happen, it may well be right. He came on stage as a very modern version of a deus ex machina: the captain returning from paternity leave. At Lord’s, Joe Root faced another novice at the toss; here, he faced a battle-hardened pro.
Anderson goes first ball too, caught behind off Olivier, and that’s that. If you’re under 40, you now know what it was like to be an England fan in the last 20 years of the 20th century.
The first ball of Olivier’s spell is a golden duck for Mark Wood, who gets a short one and fends, almost apologetically, to gully. You couldn’t make this up. On the balcony, Root looks as if he’s about to be sick.
44th over: England 133-8 (Dawson 5, Wood 0) And so the dismal procession continues.
Our latest selector, ready to do a bit better than the real ones, is Anthony Hulse. “Picking up on the earlier discussion, it’s difficult to see what there is to lose by playing either of Morgan or Buttler. As has been pointed out, at least they have demonstrated the ability to get runs against international bowling attacks, under the sort of pressure which playing international sport brings. With modern run rates and batting approaches who’s to say there isn’t overall more in common between ODIs and Tests than there is between Tests and county cricket? I’m sure both of them are probably better at keeping out straight deliveries on a length than Gary Ballance is, although that’s not a desperately high bar to clear.”
Broad slog-sweeps, straight to deep square. David Lloyd, who is a kindly man, has one adjective for it: “abject”.
43rd over: England 130-7 (Dawson 3, Broad 4) Broad throws the kitchen sink at Philander and slices him just over the man at point for a streaky four. He also plays two better shots into the covers for no runs.
42nd over: England 126-7 (Dawson 3, Broad 0) Dawson plays out a maiden from his fellow slow left-armer.
An email arrives from Gareth Fitzgerald. “Looking forward to Root and Bayliss talking about batsmen ‘playing their natural game’ and all that cobblers.”
41st over: England 126-7 (Dawson 3, Broad 0) Well hello, and if, like me, you’ve just turned up, welcome to a horror movie. Stuart Broad at least sees out the rest of the over and avoids a king pair. Great stuff from Philander, who is vying with Joe Root and Hashim Amla for man of the series so far.
Anyway, I’m relieved to report that’s it from me; Tim de Lisle will join you in a second to call England home.
Stokes, again trying to get down the track, connects with a push and Philander, mid-follow-through, snaffles superbly round about his shins. Everything is going right for South Africa; everything is going england for England.
41st over: England 126-6 (Stokes 18, Dawson 3) Philander returns and Stokes takes a single, then Dawson gets off the mark with a pleasant tuck for three.
40th over: England 122-6 (Stokes 17, Dawson 0) Du Plessis rearranged his field specially for Moeen in the first innings, too, and shonuff Moeen obliged then. What happened to the man who mustered that tremendous rearguard against Sri Lanka in 2014?
Oh, sake; Moeen sweeps and top-edges straight to square-leg. On the one hand, he’s been playing shots; on the other, why play that one, then? Did he even know the man was there? It did not look like he did. “England, just giving their wickets away,” chides Athers.
40th over: England 122-5 (Stokes 17, Ali 27) We have a quick run our review as Moeen sweeps for two…
“Simon, you’ve got to change your decision.” Ouch.
Faf wonders if there’s enough evidence to overturn the decision, as there was a little murmur, but umpires have been told to look for a clear line.
Back-foot edge … Moeen reviews immediately.
39th over: England 120-5 (Stokes 17, Ali 25) Philander replaces Morkel, but the Radcliffe Road, not the Pavilion. Stokes is basically walking him down, trying to make Philander change his length; will De Kock stand up? Not yet; maiden.
38th over: England 120-5 (Stokes 17, Ali 25) A rare quiet over for South Africa, Maharaj struggling manfully to stem the flow of runs … then, after just a single ceded from the over, Moeen drives its final ball, Morkel keels over but can’t stop it properly, and after some tricklage, England add four more.
I’ve been sent a fair few messages checking that i was joking about Buttler and solidity – I can confirm that I was. “You can never be too sure these days; apparently Liam Dawson as a frontline spinner is deadly serious,” snarks Miles Dilworth. However, I would like to see Buttler given another go in Tests, and think the true tracks in Australia will suit him.
37th over: England 115-5 (Stokes 16, Ali 21) Morkel squares Moeen up, only for Moeen to edge and see the ball race away for four. So Moeen restores the karmic balance, going back then leaning forward to drive on the up through extra cover – that’s a lovely shot, and it brings four. I smell a bouncer – and Moeen will too, I shouldn’t wonder.
Here’s an email from Graham, harking back to the OBO community of yore: “Given that England are bound to lose this match before close of play, perhaps now would be a good time to give a shout out to Krakow Cricket Club. We’re always happy to host visiting teams and play on a lovely ground just by Wawel castle. This season we boast Jack Snape in the team, who won the village cup at Lord’s with Wimbledon not so long ago, and is a right big head.”
36th over: England 107-5 (Stokes 16, Ali 13) England are stepping on the gas! Moeen sweeps four, then drives four, then sweeps four! At this rate, England might just get home tonight! He adds a single too, and that’s 14 runs from the over.
35th over: England 93-5 (Stokes 15, Ali 0) Moeen is wearing a cable-knit tank-top to troll the Saffers, like when Derartu Tulu beat Elana Meyer in the 10,000m at the 1992 Olympics, wearing a t-shirt under her vest. Maiden.
34th over: England 93-5 (Stokes 15, Ali 0) Stokes eases a drive past the dive of mid-off for four, so Maharaj tries a flatter, quicker one – he looks a fine, intelligent bowler I must say. But Stokes then stretches out to him, gets down on one knee, and flip-sweeps him around the corner for another four. England are stepping on the gas now.
33rd over: England 85-5 (Stokes 7, Ali 0) Stokes slaps a pull for one, the only run from the over.
By the way, sign up for this!
32nd over: England 84-5 (Stokes 6, Ali 0) Maharaj races through a taxing maiden; the fifth ball seems to catch an edge and fly up to the vacant backward short leg. A replay shows that it came off the pad, but a man is inserted there nonetheless.
31st over: England 84-5 (Stokes 6, Ali 0) Don’t know about droppings. Bairstow deserves banning for a match after that shot. Maybe England can stick Root at three, then bring Buttler in to give some solidity to things. Anyway, Morkel directs a vicious, spitting bouncer towards Stokes’ throat, rattling the glove of his top hand as he fences. Christ.
“Don’t know about droppings,” tweets SanMiguelMalaga. “Bairstow deserves banning for a match after that shot.”
30th over: England 84-5 (Stokes 5, Ali 0) This is developing into an ever-more vicious kicking.
It’s retro day again! Welcome to the 90s! Bairstow uses his feet to get to the pitch, looking to hit Maharaj over the top, and instead plops a catch directly to long on to enshrine a classic “that’s just the way I play” moment. Not when you’re 84-4 chasing 476, with five sessions left in the match it isn’t.
29th over: England 83-4 (Bairstow 16, Stokes 5) Morkel takes the ball and rams one into Bairstow’s thigh-pad. Bairstow then follows one around his pads, but can’t quite apply the edge that will send him on his merry way. Instead, he flicks the final delivery for four through midwicket.
“Root’s dislike of Rashid isn’t personal,” reassures John Starbuck, “it’s because he’s prejudiced against wrist-spinners, who leak more runs but take more wickets than the offies. As a batsman himself, the prospect of having to score more is unwelcome.”
The players are back with us. Morkel is vigorously warming himself.
A couple of years ago, I wondered if England should bring Eoin Morgan back into the Test side…
Eoin Morgan needs another go in the Test team. Discuss.
Eoin Morgan should be playing Test cricket.
Maybe 11 ODI centuries is as good an indication of international pedigree as scoring loads of runs against county attacks in April and May.
“On the Rashid/Root suggestion,” says Ian Truman, “I’d be interested just how much Root has played with Rashid over the last 5 years, I’d suggest he’s played with him more for the England ODI side (where we’d all agree Rashid has been pretty decent) than he has for Yorkshire. It just seems so odd given that Rashid is a good batsman in his own right as well.”
He’s played Tests with him too – presumably he didn’t like what he saw. Which isn’t to say that i get it.
“Well, this is going well,” says Guy Hornsby of
our proceedings. There was a really good stat on Channel 5 on the weekend showing how little England have bowled on the stumps. Now, I know that this doesn’t necessarily translate to wanting to nick batsmen off when shaping away, but surely Philander’s proved – like McGrath before him – that there’s simple value in making the batsman play. It’s death by a thousand cuts, as Atherton, Hussain et al will tell you when it came to the Ashes. Tall bowlers are all well and good but if you’ll never hit the stumps, where’s the pressure? Someone pass me the gin.”
Agree with a lot of this, but Morkel has been great so far this series. The difference in this match – in mine – has been the batting more than the bowling.
What a morning for South Africa! Philander was brilliant first up, then Morris and Du Plessis added fresh impetus before the initial impetus had even expired. Sometime this afternoon, this match will end, you’d reckon – join me after lunch to “enjoy” it.
28th over: England 79-4 (Bairstow 12, Stokes 5) Maharaj will bowl the final over before lunch, and he’s another who’s risen to the occasion – not just here, but at Lord’s. Bairstow uses his feet to take a single into the off side, which means three balls into the rough at Stokes – close by are two silly points. Stokes, though defends well enough, and thus ends another fantastic session for South Africa.
27th over: England 78-4 (Bairstow 11, Stokes 5) Stokes allows Martin to hit his face, running the ball through third man for four and reducing the target fro 400 and something to a far more manageable 300 and something. This is a fine spell from Morris, just when England might’ve thought themselves relative safe – his performance does not show Mark Wood in a favourable light. So, who comes in and who goes out for the Oval? I guess I’d keep Wood and Jennings but bin Dawson and Ballance.
26th over: England 74-4 (Bairstow 11, Stokes 1) Bairstow adds one with a sweep and then Stokes props forward tentatively, imparting an edge which cues strangulated shouts. Nasser points out that Stokes’ gloves are very low, inviting the ball to run up them for a catch when he should be booting it away. Silly point comes in, and a shove towards mid on averts the additional embarrassment of a pair.
“Not so long ago that Bairstow and Stokes added 399 against South Africa,” emails Peter Salmon; some of you might remember that he is in the pub. I’m not sure he’ll be getting served too many more.
25th over: England 72-4 (Bairstow 10, Stokes 0) Du Plessis has had a brilliant game here, from the moment he called correctly and was ballsy enough to bat. That bouncer was part of a plan he communicated to Morris last over, though the bowler did well to hold it back initially, then bowl it as quickly as he did. Wicket maiden.
Well done South Africa! They decide to go short at Cook, who opts to take it on. Then at the last second he tries to pull out, by which time the ball is in front of his helmet – it’s brilliantly straight. Cook succeeds only in swatting it down the leg side, where De Kock takes a superb catch. Expect England’s demise to accelerate from here.
24th over: England 72-3 (Cook 42, Bairstow 10) Bairstow twists one away against the spin, and it zooms for four through square-leg. Then, though, spooked by that one which flew in Maharaj’s last over, Bairstow presses forward tentatively and inside-edges onto his pad. That did not look secure, but it did the trick.
23rd over: England 68-3 (Cook 42, Bairstow 6) Root is now inside the dressing room and looking glum; on the bright side, perhaps Cook is playing his way into Test form, and as non-captain. Tangentially, where do we stand on the name Faf? Does it accord pleasing notoriety, or the further nickname Bum? Maiden.
22nd over: England 68-3 (Cook 42, Bairstow 6) When at the cricket, is it acceptable to drink fizz out of a pint glass? Asking for a friend, though at Lord’s last summer the kid in front cut out the middle man and just used the bottle. Maharaj is on and the ball is spinning, but without many close catchers; his final delivery pitches middle and leg, then pitches right across Bairstow! Dearie me!
“I prefer Rashid to Dawson too, but do find it telling that Root, who knows him well, would rather do without, emails Mark Gillespie, quoting me back to myself.
21st over: England 66-3 (Cook 41, Bairstow 5) Morris races in and Cook whacks him to square-leg – there’s a man there, so they only run one. On the balcony, Root looks pensive; he’s probably not found much difficult in his life, but here we are. Anyway, Bairstow adds a further single.
20th over: England 64-3 (Cook 40, Bairstow 4) Cook plays for Olivier’s outswing, driving through cover; WinViz says South Africa are 100% likely to win this match. Cook takes a single and the field is pretty spread for Bairstow; that’s a little strange, given his score of 0 and the 406 more runs England need. Anyway, the first of those issues is quickly resolved via four down the ground.
“I’m not for dropping Ballance,” emails Gareth Fitzgerlad. You just know Andy Flower will demand James Vince get another chance…
19th over: England 55-3 (Cook 35, Bairstow 0) There was nothing Root could’ve done about that ball – the tardiness of the swing meant that the shot he played was redundant. And the effect will not just be removing Root, but instilling fear into those who come after. As Phil Leotardo once said, “Decapitate and we do business with whatever’s left.”
What a ball this is! WHAT A BALL THIS IS! Full, fast, yorker-length, and straightening at the last second! Root plays inside it, the ball skirts his edge, and nails off stump! Morris celebrates like he means it, and South Africa know they’re nearly home!
18th over: England 55-2 (Cook 35, Root 8) Things have quietened down out in the middle; England daren’t give anything away in this period. Presumably Maharaj will be on soon, and that will be the next test; in the meantime, Root turns away a single and Cook escapes by missing a pull entirely, while Holding complains that there are too many fielders saving runs and too few catchers. Cook rams the point home by edging four, in the air, to close the over.
17th over: England 50-2 (Cook 31, Root 7) Cook has never scored more than 50 at Trent Bridge; you’d back him to beat that now. Morris is on, bowling to two slips and gully – “that looks a bit meagre to me,” says Mikey, far more melodically than I can type. root takes a single off the final ball of the over, playing it down into the off side and haring away.
“I think that bowling replacements are better,” emails Matthew Doherty, replying to Neil Harris. “Rashid and Roland-Jones, with Woakes to return.”
16th over: England 49-2 (Cook 31, Root 6) Philander is done for the now, and Olivier has the ball; he’s full and straight first up, so Root drives three to long-off; Philander has to chase to the fence. Small victories, people, small victories. Meanwhile, back in the middle, Olivier gives Cook one on his pads – you know the rest. Or, to put it another way, the next phase of the innings is upon us, and England daren’t lose another wicket. So they add four more instead, Cook onto the front foot to drive down the ground. He is in, and that’s drinks.
15th over: England 38-2 (Cook 23, Root 3) Third slip is so close as to be wearing a helmet but Root is yet to require his services, presenting the face to run three through mid-off. A good omen: his bat is New Balance – if only, etcetera – which connotes One Bryan Robson, the original Captain Marvel. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got; I take no responsibility for any dislocating shoulder.
“How many changes is too many? asks Neil Harris. “I reckon four are in serious danger of not playing the next test – Jennings, Ballance, Dawson and Wood. Cannot think of a case for keeping any of them.”
14th over: England 34-2 (Cook 23, Root 0) Cook sends a leading edge looping towards mid-off … and it drops just short. Philander has bowled 6.3 overs, of which 33 deliveries have landed in line with the stumps; he now has the best average of any bowler with 50 or more Test wickets. Cook then waves slightly away from his body, but makes decent enough contact, earning four to third man before tucking a couple off his hip. Huge over for England, six from it.
13th over: England 29-2 (Cook 17, Root 0) Cook nurdles a single to deep-square as in my head’s ear I hear the whooping and hollering that will greet the breaking of this partnership, like when an away team scores in a European football match. Root defends confidently and grins at Morkel; “what are you looking at, butthead,” comes back the reply. Next ball, Root edges, but with soft hands, such that it drops short of second slip; just imagine his bedroom sensitivity.
12th over: England 28-2 (Cook 16, Root 0) “The folly of having three left-handers at the top of the order against Morkel and Philander we can discuss for ever,” says Nasser, before elegising the brilliance of the bowling. As for Bazgaz, in his first 10 Tests he scored 1019 runs at 67.93; since then, in 13 Tests he has 479 runs at 19.16. Ahem.
Well that didn’t take long. Here we go with the partnership which was always going to decide how heavily England will lose. Philander gets so close to the stumps that the ball was going to clatter leg, and off goes BazGaz, probably not back to county cricket quite yet, but nearly.
12th over: England 28-1 (Cook 16, Ballance 4) Vern opens the over with one on leg stump and Cook doesn’t miss out, flicking off his hip for four to fine leg. He then finagles a single, Ballance takes another on the pad … they appeal … NOT OUT … REVIEW! I’ve got to say, this one looked dead to me.
11th over: England 23-1 (Cook 15, Ballance 4) UMPIRE’S CALL! NOT OUT! Clipping the top of leg bail.
11th over: England 23-1 (Cook 15, Ballance 4) Morkel looks like he’s got a coathanger down his top as he lanks in again, squaring up Cook second ball only to see a leading edge fly away for four. Shot! Naturally, Cook moves on, driving beautifully through cover when the fourth delivery arrives into his slot; they run three. Morkel then persuades one to nip back into Ballance, hits the pad … NOT OUT … REVIEW! For what it’s worth, it looked high and going down to me.
10th over: England 16-1 (Cook 11, Ballance 4) Cook steers through backward point and staggers into that sprint; they add three. Next ball folds Ballance in half, lengthways; he defends well, then again, leaving, then leaves one perilously close to his off-bail. England have what, five more overs to survive before entering the next phase of the innings? In the meantime, this is menacing bowling and classically wonderful Test cricket. Whatever would we do without it?
“Isn’t a lot of this just ‘how it goes’?” asks paul Smith. “With a bit more good luck on the first morning, South Africa could have been 5 or 6 down. The game is England’s and everyone is saying Faf is moronic for taking on Anderson and Broad at Trent Bridge in those conditions. As it is, they survived and it was a brave decision.”
9th over: England 13-1 (Cook 5, Ballance 4) Cook is circumspect as Morkel flies in from around, before turning a single off his knee. Next delivery is short – he’s been full so far today – and the extra bounce lifts Ballance off his toes. He fingers the ball to the ground, a decent shot in the circumstances, and the physio comes out to deliver a painkiller.
“Watching the cricket at the pub,” boasts Peter Salmon who knows how to start the week, “and just want to make sure you stress that the delivery that Keaton Jennings missed WAS A DEAD STRAIGHT BALL ON THE STUMPS, WHICH DIDN’T KEEP LOW. He missed it. Dear Lord, he just missed it.”
8th over: England 12-1 (Cook 4, Ballance 4) Philander taxes Ballance as Warne argues that Root should be at three; Ballance then dangles half the face at a widish one which moves away, and gets him four. Shot!
“I’m not so disappointed in the wicket,” emails Richard O’Hagan. I’m very disappointed that the references to my favourite childhood books will stop. That’s definitely extremely ozard,”
7th over: England 8-1 (Cook 4, Ballance 0) Cook gets off the mark at the 22nd time of asking, taking two through midwicket and then two more towards the same area. But that was still a good over from Morkel, whose pace is up towards 90mph.
“Of current bowlers with 50 Test wickets,” emails yerman Rob Smyth, “only Dale Steyn (22.30) has a better bowling average than Vern (22.34). And that might not be the case for long.”
6th over: England 4-1 (Cook 0, Ballance 0) That was a great over, straight, quick enough, and consistently taxing.
Great bowling, great captaincy. The field change turned Jennings into Darbishire, who timidly pushed at two in a row. The first just misses third slip, and the second jagged back in to hammer off-stump out of the ground. Gary Ballance will now open the innings.
6th over: England 4-0 (Cook 1, Jennings 3) Jennings presents the full face to Philander’s first delivry and they run two; Du Plessis removes the bat-pad man, Bavuma, and puts him at short cover. Next up, Jennings waves outside off, edges, and the ball just drops shy of Du Plessis at three…
5th over: England 1-0 (Cook 0, Jennings 1) Warne reckons the pitch will also be quicker today, as Morkel pushes his first delivery wide of off and Jennings leaves it alone. Has anyone noticed how he looks like friendly Biff? Any more for any more? Anyhow, relief for Jennings, whose initials aren’t JCT – one can only hope his nickname is John Christopher Timothy – he pulls uppishly for one to get off that pair.
Morne Morkel has the ball; Keaton Jennings has the half-pair.
Everyone is in agreement that these are the best batting conditions of the match. I’m not entirely sure how that tallies with the up-and-down movement and growing rough for Maharaj, but there one goes.
Out comes everyone.
“Test cricket is the best isn’t it – do you think Zimbabwe can pull off a minor miracle and beat Sri Lanka though, Daniel? asks Kevin Wilson – presumably not of Chelsea. “Is the Test at Trent Bridge still going?”
They look like they’re going to, don’t they? What a result that would be. The Lankans are 71-1 chasing 388 to win, with a minimum of 23 overs remaining today and a minimum of 90 tomorrow.
“Overcast conditions and two bowlers, Broad and Anderson, with tremendous records both at that ground and under those conditions. Yeah, I would’ve bowled first,’ chides Richard O’Hagan.
I dunno. Knowing that conditions were going to improve, it seemed to me that all South Africa had to do was tough-out that first session, and that England were basically gambling control of the match on getting four wickets before lunch. That didn’t seem the most likely route to success, in mine; better to rack-up the runs, then rely on scoreboard pressure to replace favourable conditions.
“England selectors are awful,” equivocates Alistair Maiden. “Why don’t they get more stick? They do not appear to be able to ‘spot’ whether a player has the technique, temperament or ability to succeed at Test-level, thus threatening return to the dark ages of the 80s and 90s. The touring side to India was the biggest selectorial cock up in recent memory, with Ansari the worst player to represent England in a test match since the 90s. They have been faffing around with an opening batting slot since Strauss and no.3 since Trott. No frontline spinner to replace Swann. With Anderson’s departure imminent we should be worried. It is clearly evident that Balance is not a Test match number 3. He may be a 5 or 6 but not a 3. I don’t understand the logic in promoting Bairstow, because you can’t really play a specialist batsman at 7 and it means fiddling Dawson* at 8. Jennings, Cook and Balance are too similar which makes them easy to bowl to. There must be a decent right handed top order player somewhere in the land and we should be trying out an Overton or two and a Footitt, before touring Aus where medium pace gets smashed.
*Non-specialist who would not be selected on merit for either bowling or batting.”
Stokes says he struggled for six or seven weeks trying to find out what was stopping him get into rhythm while bowling, and he and Otis Gibson recently realised that his arm was going away from him in his action. This was taking the ball towards leg side, but in attacking Amla with bouncers yesterday, he felt regrooved.
He then talks about doing whatever suits the team best at the time, a point that needs to be drilled home through every skull.
“We just need to bat,” says Ben Stokes. “If we bat for the full two days we’ll probably be close to where we need to be.”
“Ready for England to grind out a slightly less depressing defeat than we really deserve? Good”, rhetoricises Stephen Brown.
“So, I have a theory that to win a Test match, you need to average about 350 each innings. That probably splits 400/300 in 1st/2nd innings. To do this, a simple formula involves your top 5 scoring 250 between them. South Africa have gone very close to that this match and look odds on favourite which I think conclusively proves my theory right.
Nasser reckons the bounce will get lower and slower, and that will be the danger if England can see off the new ball. I wonder if it will bring the stumps into play when Morkel bowls.
OK – so at risk of further lampooning myself… they’re now using the heavy roller. Thoughts @Grassjunkie ?
A better point, I’d say, is the one which comes next: England did not bowl well enough on Friday morning. Even so, Joe Root saying he’d have bowled eve if he’d won the toss; really? Really?
Ian Botham reckons England will have days like Saturday, given the way that they play. Er, I don’t recall Steve Waugh’s Australians having too many of them, which is to say that they were aggressive but not reckless. And they were really, really bloody good.
Weather in Nottingham is glorious, which is a small victory for England: it’s a day on which you’d want to bat, not bowl.
“We just need to give Faf a bit of his own medicine,” tweets Gary Naylor, linking to that phenomenal Adelaide rearguard.
The problem, of course, is that conditions and attack are less friendly – and England’s most likely hero is an opener, so will be facing fresh bowlers and a new ball.
There’s no way, is there? Is there? Is there!
It’s Monday morning, so let’s be real. Sometime soon, probably sometime today, South Africa are going to win by miles and England are going to lose by miles. We know this.
Exce-ept, England have Alastair Cook and Joe Root, both of whom are capable of batting all day today. And Cook looked doughtily focused in seeing away some brilliant bowling last night, while Keaton Jennings, Barry Gallance, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and the rest are also capable of obstreperous obstruction.
Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/live/2017/jul/17/england-v-south-africa-second-test-day-four-live