Rob Smyth

Author's details

Name: Rob Smyth
Date registered: October 27, 2014

Latest posts

  1. England build 216-run lead over South Africa on day three – as it happened — July 8, 2017
  2. ‘The nastiest match I ever played in’: England v South Africa, Headingley 1998 | Rob Smyth — July 4, 2017
  3. England beat South Africa in the third T20 international – as it happened — June 25, 2017
  4. South Africa beat England by three runs in second T20 match – as it happened — June 23, 2017
  5. Raymond van Barneveld: ‘I’m playing the best darts of my career … but keep losing’ — February 15, 2017

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Jul 08

England build 216-run lead over South Africa on day three – as it happened

The bowling of Moeen Ali and a gritty, unbeaten Alastair Cook half-century have put England right in charge of the first Test at Lord’s

6.21pm BST

So, as the last lot file out of Lord’s, this feels an appropriate time for me to sign off for the day. Jimmy A, who had a doze as Cook and Ballance battled through the last hour, says England will bat “the best part of two sessions” tomorrow to set up a big ol’ target. Bob Willis thinks they should tee from ball one on Sunday morning. Cavalier, is Bob.

Anyway, thanks for your company, emails and tweets today. Isn’t lovely to have Test cricket back? Have a lovely Saturday evening: if this is your bag, Vic Marks’s report from Lord’s, plus bits and pieces from Ali Martin and Barney Ronay, will be online before you know it. Thanks again, and speak soon.

Related: South Africa in deep trouble as England spin towards victory in first Test

6.18pm BST

Jimmy Anderson, talking to Michael Atherton, seems very satisfied with England’s position in the game, and the early throes of Joe Root’s captaincy. He’s just curtly corrected Athers on his age… Still got it.

This, by the way, is the number of runs Alastair Cook needs to overtake Sachin Tendulkar in the Test charts. #CatchinSachin

4803 to go.

6.11pm BST

So, England are right on top in this Test. If you were being super-picky, you could have asked for 50 more runs in that evening session, but they will be more than happy. 180 overs remain, it’s not going to rain, and they by 216. I won’t need to spell out what their strategy from here on in will be. For South Africa, the sight of Philander back on the field will bring optimism, but they have plenty more fielding to do.

6.03pm BST

51st over: England 119-1 (Cook 59, Ballance 22) Duminy to bowl the last, then. South Africa want to get out of here sharply. Ballance is watchful, then turns one round the corner and the single is greeted by some ironic cheers from what remains of the crowd. Everyone looks like they have had a really lovely day at Lord’s. Cook blocks the final ball of the day very firmly. England are right in charge, and Cook has ground them into a very fine position.

5.59pm BST

50th over: England 118-1 (Cook 59, Ballance 21) Here we are in the penultimate over of the day, and Maharaj is the man bowling it. We are going to be done just after 6pm, which is rare these days. Cook is watchful until he misses a big drive. Besides that, he’s riding the spin well, still getting right across to the offside.

5.56pm BST

49th over: England 118-1 (Cook 59, Ballance 21) This is the latest in a series of, well, quiet overs. Cook doesn’t look that fussed about getting after Rabada. The last ball is yorker-length and on leg stump, so Cook turns it through square-leg for one.

We were talking about revs per second earlier, and David Wall is wondering if it’s worth the bother. In terms of physics, I am now officially in over my head.

Is that actually much use as an informative statistic for viewers? It seems that the extent to which the ball moves depend perhaps more on the state of the pitch where it lands, and the part of the ball that strikes the ground, than on the speed that the ball is turning. And it’s not similar to the forward speed that bowler is delivering the ball, something that we all have a general grasp of. It sounds like an excuse to have something else to flash on the screen, and for the commentators to discuss during slow periods. And to wheel out some new device to measure it, and so justify a further hike in the subscription for the channel.

5.52pm BST

48th over: England 117-1 (Cook 58, Ballance 21) Maharaj had a brief rest, but he’s back now. Bowling over the wicket (still no leg slip) to Ballance, he is causing some trouble. One balloons off the pad to short leg, another sees a sweep totally missed. Calmly defends the last ball of a maiden. Three overs to go tonight.

5.48pm BST

47th over: England 117-1 (Cook 58, Ballance 21) Three dots begin this over, then Cook turns Rabada to leg for one. Ballance gets inside the line of a short one, then turns a rather surprising highish full toss through behind square for one. The lead is 214.

5.44pm BST

46th over: England 114-1 (Cook 56, Ballance 20) G-Ballz begins Duminy’s over by slicing a full toss behind square on the offside for two, then taking one through square-leg. Cook is defending, until the last ball, which he cuts out to deep point for one. There are five more overs tonight.

5.42pm BST

45th over: England 111-1 (Cook 56, Ballance 17) Ali Martin at Lord’s has emailed saying Philander can bowl straight away because his is an external injury, and therefore the time restrictions do not apply. Rabada serves up a very tidy maiden to Cook, who is just grinding England into a very strong position. No hurry, and David Shepherd would be in strife now.

Damian Clarke is suggesting I get myself one of these to ease my bladder woes, while Eddy Richards raises an interesting point. I reckon Broad won’t have to bat again in this game.

As an occasional number 9 (the occasion being when ether we are only playing with 9 men, or have children making up the numbers) I was pleased to see both Broad and Philander score 50s. I wonder how often this happens?

5.37pm BST

44th over: England 111-1 (Cook 56, Ballance 17) Duminy is replacing Maharaj, who bowled a lovely long spell. Ballance won’t mind that, I don’t reckon, and he trots down to the pitch of the second ball and pumps it over mid-on for four! Shot! England’s lead is 208. The penultimate ball of the over turns BIG, Ballance’s drive misses it, and it ends up in the hands of slip! No one out there is interested. Big turn.

This is 100% correct. The way he turns his wrist and pops round the corner makes him a grand old candidate.

@willis_macp It’s ridiculous not to have a leg slip to Ballance on a pitch that is turning like this. It’s where the anxious leftie hits it.

5.33pm BST

43rd over: England 107-1 (Cook 56, Ballance 13) I am suffering from a real OBOer’s nightmare: I need a pee and they are so obviously staying out there til the close. I’ve needed it since about half an hour after tea and you may have noticed my thinly veiled begs for a drinks break about half an hour ago. Anyway, suck it up Will, you’re an adult.

As I worry about my bladder, Cook clips Rabada hard through midwicket and gets an attractive four. Later in the over, there’s an edge that drops just short of Amla at first slip. Unlucky. Rabada bowling nicely.

Australia, 2009, 5th Test. Strauss, Cook, Bell, Collingwood, Trott. So that is 6 sets of double letters in the top five. Next in was Prior followed by Flintoff, so the average was one double letter for the top 7.

5.29pm BST

42nd over: England 103-1 (Cook 52, Ballance 13) Cook is doing OK to Maharaj without ever looking total comfy. He’s getting miles outside off and gets himself off strike with a fine swept one, possibly off the bottom edge. After this, it takes about four minutes to set the field because they want another helmet or something. Eventually, the final three balls were bowled. Ballance tries to reverse sweep the first! He misses. The next pops up off his pad behind square on the legside. Safe. And the last is swept hard for four! Very well played. Ballance is settling.

John Starbuck has a theory on Vern’s return, and he’s almost definitely right.

Philander has probably come back on the field so as to avoid silly regulations about his length of absence and ensure he can bowl first thing tomorrow. Someone is bound to correct this, but why else would he be keen instead of sensible?

5.24pm BST

41st over: England 98-1 (Cook 51, Ballance 9) Cook is struggling to time Rabada here. There’s a cut that doesn’t make it beyond point, but then a neat steer behind point for four! Well played. He has 48. And there’s his half-century! Rabada overpitches and Cook rocks onto the front foot (he doesn’t really rock, does he?) and he drives through extra cover for three! Vernon Philander, newly back, does well to haul it in. 127 balls, eight fours for Cook. Ballance ends the over by turning to leg for two.

Here, thanks to Thomas Bowtell, is Cook, Strauss, Trott and Bell in a top four together, in the wake of Textgate. James Taylor got run out going for the fourth in that game. A real I Was There moment.

So Jennings has made a negligible score at a run per over, but crucially he’s helped to play Cook in and take the shine off the ball – in other words exactly what Compton did before getting dumped?

5.18pm BST

40th over: England 89-1 (Cook 44, Ballance 7) My suspicion was correct. Cook hadn’t scored a run for 28 balls before that clothed pull. Anyway, it’s Ballance on strike now, and Maharaj is troubling him, on front and back foot, but Ballance is battling hard. A second successive maiden for the left-arm spinner.

5.16pm BST

39th over: England 89-1 (Cook 44, Ballance 7) Nice. Rabada is having a bowl from the Pavilion End, taking over from Morkel’s very fine spell which accounted for Jennings. He’s bowling over the wicket at Cook, who has been pretty slow since tea. He’s scored 11 in 70 minutes. He has a sort of wafty prod outside off, but misses. The over ends with a shortie from Rabada, and Cook pulls! He doesn’t even get half of it but the crowd go bananas (well, as bananas a Lord’s crowd goes) and they run two.

While I’ve got you, you should really read this. Vish, our man on the ground for the women’s world cup, on a huge game tomorrow.

Related: Heather Knight hopeful England can hit big to outsmart Australia in World Cup

5.11pm BST

38th over: England 87-1 (Cook 42, Ballance 7) SA have brought an extra catcher in for Maharakj to Ballance. Leg slip. After tracking and looking a bit ungainly for a dot, he sweeps hard and hits the poor bloke at short leg. He’s defending a long way forward again, and it’s a maiden.

Also after no hours of research, I reckon the double letter thing is more common than expected. Strauss, Cook, Trott and Bell must have been a top 4 for England at one point?

5.07pm BST

37th over: England 87-1 (Cook 42, Ballance 7) Cricket’s a great game, because England are well on top in the match but South Africa are dominating this little period. After a couple of probing balls, Ballance camps back and drives nicely through point for four, getting him off the mark. That’s the way he’s been batting all summer for Yorkshire. After a sturdy defensive stroke, Morkel comes round the wicket, and is driven through extra cover! They scamper three. Back over the wicket for Cook, and it’s angled across him and stays a bit low outside off. No sign of the drinks break I predicted. Lead is 184, and there are 14 overs left today.

Well, well, well. This’ll be good. Zafar is due to be coming on mine and Vish Ehantharajah’s podcast soon too. Great fella.

Hi @willis_macp There’s an int with Zafar Ansari @TPpodcast_ on focus, commitment, quitting, India. Worth a mention?

5.02pm BST

36th over: England 80-1 (Cook 42, Ballance 0) With the ball turning, Maharaj is bowling well, drawing Cook forward and pushing him back. He tries to sweep and doesn’t connect again, he’s struck on the pad outside the line and the ball nearly rolls back onto the stumps. It doesn’t, don’t worry. That’s the most exciting moment of a tidy maiden. I think they are going to bowl one more and then have a wee drinky.

Trivia time with Thomas Bowtell! I like this lots.

After no hours of exhaustive research I’m glad to confirm that this is the first time England’s top four have all had a double letter in their name. (COOk, JeNNings, BaLLance and ROOt).

4.59pm BST

35th over: England 80-1 (Cook 42, Ballance 0) Just one ball remains of Morkel’s fine over and it’s Gary Ballance is the man facing it. He leaves it. For his dismissal Jennings’s bat was angled and his concentration gone. Sloppy way to end a decent innings.

4.57pm BST

Morkel is going over the wicket and angling it across Jennings. He looks unconvincing throughout the over (just defending and leaving), and then has a peculiar wafty nibble at the penultimate ball and feathers through to the keeper. They don’t drop them. Really good spell from Morkel with the ageing ball, this. Gone for 33, and the lead is 177.

4.52pm BST

34th over: England 80-0 (Cook 42, Jennings 33) Cook tries to sweep Maharaj, but it goes through everyone having taken the pad, and runs away for three legbyes. They ask whether Jennings has been caught off bat and pad, but he definitely hasn’t. There’s a legside single to get Cook back on strike, and he really doesn’t look that comfy. I’d be crowding the bat, but Elgar is happy with slip, short leg and a catching midwicket.

4.49pm BST

33rd over: England 76-0 (Cook 42, Jennings 32) England lead is becoming substantial, but it’s not growing that rapidly, which is fine. 173 at the moment. Morkel is bowling to Jennings with three slips and a gully, and Jennings is just defending. One takes the outside half of the bat and goes into the offside, but with no cause for alarm. He leaves the last well alone and it’s a maiden.

An optimistic email from Sachin Paul!

So if Jennings settles, we’d have England’s long sequence of settled lefty opening pairs continue – Butcher-Tres, Tres-Strauss, Strauss-Cook, Cook-Jennings. It’s beautiful how the junior left hander ages in front of our eyes and takes over the mantle of the senior for the incoming guy.

4.45pm BST

32nd over: England 76-0 (Cook 42, Jennings 32) Maharaj is bowling nicely to Cook, and the keeper and slip are umming and ahhing. The ball is turning and the bat is missing. The over ends with a sweep that he, err, misses. A maiden. Maharaj and Morkel could be a fun combo over the next few overs.

4.42pm BST

31st over: England 76-0 (Cook 42, Jennings 32) Morne is back! He started well earlier, but Elgar really has to vary his attack with Vern not bowling today. After a couple of decent balls, he gets one to take a thick edge off Jennings and it goes directly, at catchable height, between second and fourth slip, then runs away for four. Another man comes in to fill the gap. After a leave, Jennings has a defensive grope and it’s something of a play and miss. Perhaps we are seeing a bit of reverse swing? Be fun if so.

Graeme Carter has a question, and I have an answer:

Not relevant to Guardian … but what is the ‘RPS’ number that appears in the analysis line of the Sky Sports screen when I watch live Test matches? The only answer I can find is Rising Pune Supergiant from the IPL. Puzzling.

4.38pm BST

30th over: England 72-0 (Cook 42, Jennings 28) Jennings sweeps Maharaj. They run one. Cook’s sweeping too, and with more ambition. He top edges, and there’s a cry of catch it, but it gets nowhere near the fella on the fence. They run another one. Jennings mucks up his reverse sweep and they take a leg bye. The over ends with a dot, as Cook turns into the legside, but straight to the man at midwicket.

4.35pm BST

29th over: England 69-0 (Cook 41, Jennings 27) Oh, JP! Bit more flight and rag and Duminy rips on past Cook’s outside edge as he props forward! Tasty! The next one has him in a little trouble on the back foot, too. The rest of the over is calmer, but there’s no runs.

4.32pm BST

28th over: England 69-0 (Cook 41, Jennings 27) Jennings sweeps Maharaj very hard and rather uppishly (top edge?) and it flies past the man at backward square for one. Not sure the percentages are that high on that stroke. Cook wants to sweep too, and does so without really looking at the ball, but manages to make contact, but straight to the man. He then ends the over by popping the ball over the legside for one. Again, percentages, man. He survives.

4.29pm BST

27th over: England 67-0 (Cook 40, Jennings 26) Duminy is firing them in pretty swiftly. Not quite darts, but sharp and flat. Anyway, it’s another maiden but Cook isn’t really troubled. England’s lead is 164.

4.27pm BST

26th over: England 67-0 (Cook 40, Jennings 26) Good over from Maharaj to Jennings, who isn’t quite sure whether to be forward or back, and fluffs another reverse sweep. He doesn’t take a run from the over.

Lots of chatter about Simon McMahon’s cocktail party. First, Phil Sawyer:

I’ll be happy to go to Simon McMahon’s Cocktails and Cricket Bats Shed Party, especially if he’s mixing the MBMs (his recipe, not mine), Actually, what does he mix in an OBO?

Please thank Simon McMahon for the very kind invitation(s). My brother is currently driving back to the West Midlands after an open day at Southampton Uni (the joys of parenthood) but I am sure he would be delighted to bring a bottle (and possibly even a bat). The garden shack is actually genuinely impressive in a mid-life male crisis sort of way.

4.24pm BST

25th over: England 67-0 (Cook 40, Jennings 26) Duminy into his fourth over. Cook gets himself off strike midway through the over, with a powerful cut that point saves and they take the single. Saved three, cost one, I suppose. Jennings turns a cute sweep round the corner and they run two, then everyone acts like the over has ended, but it hasn’t. Back they come, and Jennings plays a similar stroke. They take just one this time.

Matt Emerson has been in my inbox, with chat about cricket, drink and drugs! What a combo.

Sitting watching the cricket and reading the OBO. I have a bad back so have taken a Tramadol, but that’s an entirely different thread of conversation…

On my stag weekend I was given a Baileys and Ginger Wine, which both looks and tastes disgusting on account of it curdling in the glass. It’s a more alcoholic version of a Cement Mixer – a combination of Baileys and lime juice. You may be surprised to learn that I wasn’t very well that night.

4.21pm BST

24th over: England 63-0 (Cook 39, Jennings 23) More Maharaj, more Cook defending. He tries a big sweep at the fifth ball of the over but it gets big on him and hits his body. Nice easy single ends the over. Cook keeps pinching the strike!

4.19pm BST

23rd over: England 62-0 (Cook 38, Jennings 23) Duminy continues. He’s started very tidily and five dots start the over. Cook happy to defend off front and back foot, but he’s getting over to the offside. Ends with a bad ball, though, and the full toss is flicked wide of mid-on, from where Morkel chases it down, for three. England are very well placed here, with the lead worth 159.

4.16pm BST

22nd over: England 59-0 (Cook 35, Jennings 23) Jennings is almost bowled behind his backside first ball of this over, but there’s a very emphatic reverse sweep next up. Through point, perfectly struck, and four! Point goes back to the fence in response. Bit defensive from Deano, I reckon. He’s defending for the rest of the over and there are no runs, or cause for desperate alarm. The ball is turning…

4.13pm BST

21st over: England 55-0 (Cook 35, Jennings 19) The spinners are doing ok here, and Duminy is causing Cook a bit of trouble early in the over. But the pressure is released by a beautiful cover drive, played very late out of the rough. That gets him four. He then tries to cut a short ball, but the contact isn’t great and the over ends with the firmest and forwardest of defences.

4.11pm BST

20th over: England 51-0 (Cook 31, Jennings 19) Interesting over, this. Jennings gets himself in a bit of a tangle a couple of times as the ball turns plenty. There’s also a reverse sweep, like before tea, and he gets decent contact in front of square and they run two. To confirm he wasn’t watching before tea, Shane Warne gets very, very excited by this reverse-sweep. The reaction was approximately akin to when he learns that the dirty rotten pizza is on the menu.

Speaking of the cocktail party, Simon McMahon’s been in touch again!

Somewhat remiss of me not to invite Brian too, and your good self. In fact, everyone’s welcome. Cocktails on me!

4.07pm BST

19th over: England 49-0 (Cook 31, Jennings 17) Spin from both ends! Duminy’s having his first bowl of the series, and he starts well, as Jennings leaves outside off to the umms and ahhs of the keeper, de Kock. He drives out to the offside sweeper, and they amble through for one. Ooph, is that a missed chance? It’s looped up round Cook’s pads and the batsman is on the move, thinking there are byes to be had, but there aren’t. De Kock doesn’t take it cleanly; if he had a stumping could have been on the cards. Alas.

4.04pm BST

18th over: England 48-0 (Cook 31, Jennings 16) Maharaj, who is going to be a busy boy this afternoon, I reckon, gets us going. Cook is watchful, defending into the legside and back to the bowler, and it’s a maiden. Cook’s spent rather a lot of time working with another South African spinner, Simon Harmer, this summer. Looks very comfortable.

Simon McMahon with a question that all of us are asking. Brian’s brother sounds like the perfect guest, doesn’t he?

Afternoon Will. Can Brian Withington’s brother come round to my house? I’m getting a new shed a week on Monday, actually it’s my first ever shed, and the thought of gin, cricket bats and the OBO is making me rather giddy.

4.01pm BST

Robert Wolf Peterson has been in touch!

Please wait until South Africa bat again before flexing your undoubtedly mighty jinxing muscles. Thanks for the Sussex update. Jofra Archer, eh? What a hero. Match figures of 7-81, and he still found time to monster 42 off 14 deliveries when Sussex were chasing quick runs. I want to be him.

3.58pm BST

About five minutes until they get going again at HQ, then. I appreciate it’s not for everyone, but there is something really lovely about watching Alastair Cook bat. I’ve had the good fortune to see him doing it a fair bit for Essex early this summer and he’s been in great order: unhurried, inelegant, methodical, and just generally very comforting. He has 31 and, after a shaky start, looked right in the groove before tea.

3.55pm BST

Brian Withington’s been in touch again, and now he’s operating right in my wheelhouse.

All these drinking references suggest there might be some interest in my brother’s excellent yet undiscovered back garden cocktail shack themed blog. He also likes cricket bats almost as much as his artisanal gins.

3.48pm BST


This one, from Martin Peters, poses a decent question. I think the golf one is closest: two up at the turn, maybe? In charge, but still time for plenty to go wrong…

Would it be fair to say that a 100 or so runs first innings lead is broadly equivalent to a 3-0 half time lead in football, or, say, a 12-3 advantage in rugby, or maybe being 2 up with 8 to play in matchplay golf?

Decided that it was better to keep it clean with the classical reference rather than ponder when Rabada might be tempted to treat the stump mic to another Rhapsody in Blue?

3.44pm BST

17th over: England 48-0 (Cook 31, Jennings 16) That’s better, Keaton Jennings. Rabada overpitches and he drives elegantly through straight mid-on for a couple, and a couple of balls later there’s a lovely flick through midwicket for four. The rest are defended, and that’s a very fine hour’s work for England’s openers. The lead is healthy, there have been few alarms, and South Africa are a man shy and have frittered away both their reviews…. Time for some tea.

A Vernon Philander update: He is unlikely to bowl again today, but his hand is just bruised, not broken. Might well bowl again in the game, by the sounds of things.

3.38pm BST

16th over: England 42-0 (Cook 31, Jennings 10) Cook begins Maharaj’s over with a delightful turn through midwicket, and they run three. jennings, perhaps relieved to not be facing Rabada, goes for another big reverse-sweep and scuffs it, but they take one. Cook is careful for the remaining four balls.

3.36pm BST

15th over: England 38-0 (Cook 28, Jennings 9) Jennings is struggling to get Rabada away. There’s a drive which is well fielded at cover and a couple of leaves, as well as some forthright defence. Another maiden, the fourth from his six overs. Two overs ‘til tea, I reckon.

Phil Sawyer gets us back on the booze, with an email simply title “Drinking”. Sounds like he is having a very fine day indeed.

Apologies, Will, I think it may have been me that started this drinking thread, Having over indulged last night keeping up with the Blast, I’m having a day of abstinence today. However, I’ve just been out in this scorching sun and now have a large supply of strawberry splits to recover with. By my standards, this is winning.

3.33pm BST

14th over: England 38-0 (Cook 28, Jennings 9) 10 minutes until teatime. Cook tries to sweep Maharaj a couple of times but the legside field is busy and he finds the man. But the last ball is too full, and with only nine fielders available to Elgar, there’s no man at cover. Cook sends it through there for four. Easy game, this.

I’m an hour into my stint and we have had a reference to Elgar’s musical surname! Classic! It’s from Brian Withington, with whom I agree: the composition of Elgar’s attack isn’t quite right…

Elgar’s bowling options are looking a mite limited. Who else is wondering if he can possibly compose some [groan] enigmatic variations in his field settings?

3.30pm BST

13th over: England 34-0 (Cook 24, Jennings 9) Here’s Rabada replacing Morkel, then. He’s bowling to Jennings, who looks increasingly keen to score (couple of drives straight to fielders). He doesn’t score, though: it’s a very tidy maiden. There’s a man in the stands wearing a cycling helmet, seemingly to protect himself from the sun. Odd.

Agree with this; reckon Edgbaston is going to be utterly glorious if the weather is nice for the day-night Test next month. Finals Day is always great fun.

@willis_macp About the drunken singing I know that Lords is mecca of cricket but I love that raucousness that you get at Edgbaston..

3.26pm BST

12th over: England 34-0 (Cook 24, Jennings 9) Maharaj to Jennings, then. He’s defending, but reverse-sweeps the third (that’s one of his shots, as you’ll remember from Mumbai), but he hits it straight to backward point. Then he edges wide of slip and they run one. Cook is getting miles across outside off (as that review last over showed) and he’s defending very carefully under his nose.

3.23pm BST

11th over: England 33-0 (Cook 24, Jennings 8) Keats leans into a cover drive off Morkel and it runs away down the slope only to be hauled in at the very last moment by Kuhn, who looks a very fine fielder to me. They sprint three, then Cook squirts to third man with an open face for four more! And then he does exactly the same again, just prodding forward, rolling his hands, and using the pace. Four! Time to put a third man in? That has gone directly between second slip and gully, so the latter moves to third slip. There’s a pantomime cheer when an attempt at a third dab merely finds backward point. And there’s 11 from the over – the lead is 130.

3.18pm BST

10th over: England 22-0 (Cook 16, Jennings 5) Time for some spin! South Africa are short on options, and Maharaj replaces Rabada, who may well be swapping ends. From over the wicket with a slip and short leg, Cook gets in a bit of a tangle outside off but no real cause for alarm. The next is a full toss that he sweeps hard, and it beats the man in the deep to the boundary for four!

Eesh, Cook might be in trouble here. This one has absolutely ragged back, he’s tried to cut and it’s hit him on the pad. Umpire says no, but after what feels like an eternity, Elgar reviews! That’s their second, and they have run out for the next 70 overs! It’s turned a mile but has hit him outside off stump, so not out. he responds by driving a half-volley through the covers for four! Eventful over.

My 5.30 start being richly rewarded with a great day’s play. And this bit is wonderful – old style Test cricket with cautious openers, accurate aggressive bowling and the Lord’s hum, no drunken ‘singing’.

3.13pm BST

9th over: England 14-0 (Cook 8, Jennings 5) Morkel seems to have decided to bounce out Jennings from round the wicket. Ramiz Raja always says round the stumps and, for no real reason, that really gets my goat for no real reason. Anyway, the two bouncers he begins with are very benign and Jennings barely needs to duck. He’s fuller thereafter, and Jennings shows no desperation to score, and therefore doesn’t score. He’s a nice loud caller, Jennings. No run!

For batting distractions, KP and Broad remain in a class of their own.

KP would have been distracted by Spidercam if it were at The Oval and he was batting at Lord’s @willis_macp

3.08pm BST

8th over: England 14-0 (Cook 8, Jennings 5) Runs! In consecutive balls! Cook squirts Rabada down to third man along the ground off the open face for four, then flicks through midwicket for a couple. He’s in the groove! Oh wait, he’s beaten outside off from round the wicket next ball. The rest are respected, and that’s a very fine end to the over probing on fourth stump.

The world knows of my ability to jinx, and I care not how many Test runs the victim has. No one is immune.

waiting patiently for you to jinx Cook buddy

3.05pm BST

7th over: England 8-0 (Cook 2, Jennings 5) Morkel’s round the wicket and Jennings is driving him to mid-off. After that it’s a very steady maiden, the fourth of the innings. England’s batting order is very mullet, isn’t it? Sensible up front, party at the back.

Spidercam has been up to no good, delaying us and all, and m’colleague Tom Bryant has been in touch from Lord’s moaning. He’s not even a moany sort of guy, Tom, so it must be really annoying.

Can report from Lord’s that spider cam is a menace. Constantly distracting and frequently parked right in blooming front of me. Certain people at top of grandstand trying to fire champagne corks at it.

3.01pm BST

6th over: England 8-0 (Cook 2, Jennings 5) Rabada gets his first look at Cook this series. There’s an ugly cut outside off that he misses, then a wafty drive that he misses too. Steady, Chef. The drive one was a lovely ball actually, just nipping away a touch, and perfect for Cook: nice and full. The last is left, which is sensible.

Ian Copestake’s on about drink, and I’m feeling a touch queasy.

As you know, Will, cricket is almost as big in Russia as drinking. However, the Russian OBO toxic drinking thread never goes beyond one email that simply says “Vodka”.

2.56pm BST

5th over: England 8-0 (Cook 2, Jennings 5) This over is delayed by a bit more confusion with the sightscreen, because Morkel is swapping to over the wicket to Cook. When we get going, there’s a big appeal for lbw! Cook’s been pushed back and squared up a bit, but Paul Reiffell isn’t interested. South Africa review! Looks like it pitched outside and, sure enough, it did. It passed the no bat test, but failed the pitching in line one. Fallen at the second hurdle. Amid the leaves and the defending that follow, there’s one run from the over, an extremely Cook squirt down to fine leg. That’s his 1,000th run against South Africa! Taken him 16 Tests and he actually only averages 34 against them.

On the county blog I have developed quite a reputation for a peerless ability to jinx, and Lee Smith is in my inbox reminding me of this. He writes:

I’ve seen the damage you can cause during a round of county matches and as this is the 1st test of the summer it wouldn’t do to reduce the England 2nd innings to ribbons.

2.50pm BST

4th over: England 7-0 (Cook 1, Jennings 5) South Africa, you sense, are going to be really stretched here, without Vern, who is having an x-ray on a hand that got hit earlier. Maharaj is going to have to do a lot of bowling, and some of the part-timers – Duminy, Elgar, Bavuma – too.

Anyway, for now it’s KG Rabada and Jennings can’t get him away, until he strays onto the pads and is flicked away for four. That is about as elegant as Jennings gets. Ah, KG, don’t do that: next ball he oversteps and has to do it again. The end of the over is much tidier: Jennings leaves, then defends sternly.

2.45pm BST

3rd over: England 2-0 (Cook 1, Jennings 1) Morkel stays round the wicket to Cook, and the first isn’t that pretty. Down legside. He’s better afterwards, and challenging the batsman, but it’s another maiden. Neither batsman nor bowler will mind that.

On toxic beverages, there’s this number I’ve seen consumed called a Woody-Bowyer, for reasons that we needn’t go into, but involve a pair of former Leeds and Newcastle footballers. It’s basically loads of mixed alcopops and some extra vodka served in a pint glass. Very sugary, very unpleasant.

2.42pm BST

2nd over: England 2-0 (Cook 1, Jennings 1) It is indeed Rabada from the Nursery End. He starts very nicely at Jennings, who tries to squirt him away but only finds gully. He returns to defending and leaving thereafter, and the over is a maiden. Good start from SA.

An email! From Robert Scott!

Back in the late 80s as a Goth/metalhead/punk hybrid, I used to frequent the Studio on Plymouth’s Union Street as a Student. They were having a clear out of the beer cellar and had three crates (of very out of date) Cherry B, Snowball and Pony respectively. I would get one of each (30p each) and have them in a pint glass, topped up with Lemonade. Great to drink and looked horrific under UV. No one pinched it ever.

2.38pm BST

1st over: England 2-0 (Cook 1, Jennings 1) So, Morne. What you got? Cook’s defending the first two, both full probing and straight. For the third, Morkel goes round the wicket and that predictable Lord’s delay to sort out the sliding sightscreen follows. He pokes into the offside for one. He remains round the wicket for Jennings, and that’s a decent nut that the bat is just drawn inside the line of. Eesh – that’s a risky single! Pushes into the offside and sets off but Kuhn is all over it at cover and his shy misses by a whisker. Would have been miles out with a direct hit. The last is calmer: left along by Cook.

Afternoon Stuie! Stuie is a stalwart of the county blog that I often look after. The lead is 99…

@willis_macp afternoon will! Build on that lead

2.33pm BST

Big news: Vernon Philander, last man out for a very handy 52, is off for an x-ray on his hand at that hospital on Wellington Road.

Morne Morkel to get us going from the Pavilion End. Rabada from t’other. How angry is he going to be today?

2.31pm BST

Hello! Will Macpherson here, taking over from Smyth on this fine Saturday afternoon. 53 overs in the day, and England’s second innings – their lead is 97 – not far from kicking off. In fact, it’s so imminent that the umps are on their way out.

2.27pm BST

That’s it from me. Please be upstanding for Will Macpherson, who will tell you whether England get the third-innings blues. Thanks for your company, bye!

2.26pm BST

Five South African players were dismissed between 48 and 59, which will frustrate them. Moeen was comfortably the pick of the England attack: 20-7-59-4.

2.23pm BST

Moeen Ali returns to the attack and ends the innings quicksmart. Philander, on the charge, was bowled via inside-edge and pad to end a fine innings of 52. Moeen finishes with four for 59 and England lead by 97.

2.20pm BST

104th over: South Africa 361-9 (Philander 52, Morkel 2) Morkel gets away with a feckless heave off Dawson, with the ball dropping short of deep midwicket. A thick edge for three takes Philander to a very good fifty, his seventh in Tests and his second at Lord’s. “And the best news about this fifty,” says Shaun Pollock on Sky, “is that Nasser Hussain owes me five pounds!”

2.16pm BST

103rd over: South Africa 355-9 (Philander 48, Morkel 0) Philander moves closer to his second Test half-century at Lord’s with two thumping extra-cover drives off Wood.

2.11pm BST

102nd over: South Africa 347-9 (Philander 40, Morkel 0) Dawson could end with three fairly cheap wickets, despite a modest bowling performance. He beats Morkel with a ball that goes straight on.

“Your correspondents who were gifted the benefit of a university education went about their cheap drinking in completely the wrong way,” sniffs Andrew Battershill. ”My housemates and I spent many weeks working out the ‘pissed for pence’ value of our local supermarket offerings, and ended up with many nights of drinking Tesco own brand extra sweet sherry – about 18% and under a pound a bottle in the late 80s. Oh the joys of making it to college in the morning only to rush out of lectures to be sick in the toilet. We also worked out the cheapest Bloody Mary was to be made by wringing the contents of a can of chopped tomatoes through a handy teatowel…”

2.08pm BST

101st over: South Africa 346-9 (Philander 39, Morkel 0) Philander plays another cracking stroke, forcing Wood behind square on the off side for four, and then top-edges a hook over Bairstow for another boundary. These are useful runs, which take South Africa to within 112 of England.

“Hi Rob,” says Geoff. “Surely there must be a role somewhere with the Mac Millings XI for Garfield Sobers? Designated driver (puller and cutter) perhaps?”

2.02pm BST

100th over: South Africa 337-9 (Philander 30, Morkel 0) “I’m at Lord’s with my wife celebrating our eighth anniversary, in the cheap seats quaffing prosecco,” says Will West with justfied pride. “However, last week, at a dinner party, I discovered the winning combination of Gin and Um Bongo. Still no word on whether this particular cocktail is popular in the Congo.”

2.01pm BST

Maharaj survives an LBW shout from Dawson by virtue of being a long way down the pitch. England review, as much as anything because they have two left – and Hawkeye shows it was hitting off and middle. Maharaj was miles down the pitch, and there are some who will not particularly care for that decision.

1.56pm BST

WATCH: @BazMcCullum delivers a batting and captaincy masterclass in The Zone: @ShaneWarne @WardyShorts #ENGvSA

1.55pm BST

99th over: South Africa 334-8 (Philander 28, Maharaj 9) Wood’s pace is in the low 80s, which is surprising/disappointing/worrying/the end of civilisation as we know it. He’s still fast enough to beat Maharaj’s leaden-footed cut stroke.

“The twilight of Jimmy’s career is a bit like that of Teddy Sheringham,” says Dave Adams. “Never relied on pace anyway, and so guile, nous, and technique are keeping him at the top. Jimmy’s seam position through the air remains a thing of beauty.”

1.52pm BST

98th over: South Africa 334-8 (Philander 28, Maharaj 9) Dawson gets one to burst at poor old Vern, whose right hand has taken some punishment in this innings. Beautifully bowled.

“Just seen Mac Millings’ XI,” says Shaun Clapperton. “There’s actually a Wetherspoons in Ashington called the Rohan Kanhai.”

1.49pm BST

97th over: South Africa 334-8 (Philander 28, Maharaj 9) Philander is struggling with his right hand, having been struck by Anderson before lunch, though you wouldn’t know it from that handsome pull over midwicket for four off Mark Wood.

“During my book club in Frankfurt yesterday the talk turned to cricket,” says Ian Copestake, “and I was asked if any particular food is associated with it, just as in German sausages are so strongly linked to football as to make ‘stadionwurst’ (stadium sausage) a thing.”

1.44pm BST

96th over: South Africa 327-8 (Philander 21, Maharaj 9) Liam Dawson starts after lunch. His first bal- hang on, Liam Dawson starts after lunch? His first ball is short, wide and cut for four by Maharaj. Shane Warne has a persuasive theory, which is that Joe Root is trying to give Dawson one or two tail-end wickets to get his confidence up for the fourth innings, when spin is likely to play a big part.

“A pint of the snakebite at the Coven nightclub in Oxford was mysteriously cheaper than either a pint of cider or a pint of lager,” says Miranda Jollie. “Still not a great excuse for drinking the stuff.”

1.03pm BST

95th over: South Africa 323-8 (Philander 21, Maharaj 5) The last over before lunch, bowled by Anderson, passes without incident. The wicket of de Kock in his previous over makes it a decent session for England, who lead by 135 in this interesting Test match. See you in half an hour for the afternoon session.

12.58pm BST

94th over: South Africa 318-8 (Philander 20, Maharaj 1) “Bob,” says Mac Millings. “With all this talk of boozy reminiscences, please allow me to present my All-Time Booze XI:

Wally Hammered

Graham Hooch

12.56pm BST

93rd over: South Africa 314-8 (Philander 17, Maharaj 0) Jimmy Anderson turns 35 this month. It’s no age for a fast bowler, yet he is still producing figures like these: 18-6-39-2. He’s the wise old don of world cricket.

12.52pm BST

Anderson makes a huge breakthrough. de Kock slices a drive towards square cover, where Stokes swoops to take an extremely good low catch. That was also good captaincy from Root, his first effective bit of funky field-setting.

12.50pm BST

92nd over: South Africa 313-7 (de Kock 47, Philander 17) Moeen replaces Broad, whose four overs with the new ball went for 35. It’s just a different setting on the bowling machine to the relentlessly attacking de Kock, who swaggers down the track to lift Moeen high over midwicket for four – and repeats the stroke later in the over to reach a Gilchristian half-century from just 36 balls.

12.45pm BST

91st over: South Africa 305-7 (de Kock 43, Philander 17) A maiden from Anderson for Philander, who is still wringing his hand in pain from time to time. South Africa have batted quite brilliantly against the second new ball; de Kock on the attack and Philander in defence.

“Hi,” says Paul Ward. “Reidy’s cocktails have passed into legend, especially in Football 365’s ‘Football people on TV’ series.

12.41pm BST

90th over: South Africa 305-7 (de Kock 43, Philander 17) Stokes, Broad and Root have a pow-wow betwen overs. They probably didn’t agree that Broad would bowl his first ball on the pads so that de Kock could skim it behind square for four; that’s what he has just done. A wider delivery is rifled through mid-off for another boundary, which brings up the fifty partnership and the 300. De Kock is playing beautifully, and another boundary through midwicket takes him to 43 from 30 balls. He has deposited Broad all round Lord’s.

“Rum and barley wine was my 1970s favourite, mainly because of the name: Dragon’s Blood,” says John Starbuck. “Nowadays it’s either various single malts or a Gimlet (Gin and Lime Juice) showing that tastes do indeed change, if not always mature.”

12.36pm BST

89th over: South Africa 293-7 (de Kock 31, Philander 17) Three from Anderson’s over. As usual he’s been very economical: 16-4-39-1.

12.32pm BST

88th over: South Africa 290-7 (de Kock 30, Philander 15) Batting looks pretty comfortable, even against a new ball and, in Philander’s case, with a sore bottom hand. This pair have added 42 in eight overs, and South Africa trail by 168. If they can shave another hundred off that we could have a very interesting match.

“Afternoon Rob,” says Dave Adams. “Not sure whether the tendency to drink more moderately as we age is down to growing up, having more cash, or the physical decline that means it takes days rather than hours to recover. My own shameful favourite was to drink a bottle of gin mixed with Lucozade when travelling for football. In hindsight, not one of my better life choices.”

12.27pm BST

87th over: South Africa 287-7 (de Kock 28, Philander 14) Anderson gets another one to rear at Philander, who pulls his right hand off the bat in a hurry. This pitch might not be much fun to bat on by Monday.

“Maybe you’re not a Chippendale, Rob,” says Mac Millings. ”But drop a letter from your name here or there, and I’d definitely be tempted to bring a stack of dollar bills to a performance by Bobbi Myth, Exotic Dancer.”

12.21pm BST

86th over: South Africa 283-7 (de Kock 26, Philander 12) Philander back cuts Broad confidently for four. He’s a decent lower-order batsman, with a batting average in the mid-20s, and actually his runs were a big part of South Africa’s victory in that seismic Test on this ground in 2012.

“Rob,” says Michael CM. “I’m trying to work out the best music compliment to listening to TMS/following the OBO. I’m thinking some sort of Brian Eno ambient stuff or some “post-rock” like Godspeed You Black Emperor. Thoughts? I’m aware this has probably been discussed before.”

12.17pm BST

85th over: South Africa 276-7 (de Kock 26, Philander 5) Philander is being worked over by Anderson. An outswinger goes past the edge; an inswinger climbs to rap Philander nastily on the glove. He wolfs down a couple of painkillers before resuming his innings, and gets off the mark with a touch to the fine-leg boundary. He’s not entirely comfortable, and as the blow was on his right hand it may have an effect on the rest of the match – and maybe the second Test as well.

“Quinton de Kock has to do a Sangakkara doesn’t he and give up the gloves?” says Gary Naylor. “He is a No4 a team that really needs one now AB de Villiers is not available. It’s a no-brainer isn’t it?”

12.10pm BST

84th over: South Africa 271-7 (de Kock 26, Philander 0) Broad beats de Kock with two of his three deliveries; de Kock hits the next three balls for four! Excellent stuff. The dead-eyed counter-attacking of de Kock is so reminiscent of Adam Gilchrst. He has 26 from 17 balls.

12.01pm BST

83rd over: South Africa 259-7 (de Kock 13, Philander 0) England take the second new ball. Anderson’s second delivery is an unplayable seaming grubber to Philander, who would have had no chance had it been straight. He is beaten in more traditional fashion by two gorgeous outswingers later in the over.

“Currently singing ‘Bavuma Rabada’ to the tune of Hakuna Matata,” says Sam in Kent.

11.57am BST

82nd over: South Africa 258-7 (de Kock 13, Philander 0) Quinton de Kock would counter-attack if the score was nought for seven, never mind 253 for seven. He moves to 12 from his first seven deliveries with a classy back-foot drive for four off Moeen.

“I was pleased to see Liam Dawson selected ahead of Adil Rashid,” says Gary Naylor. “The Yorkie has nine wickets this season at 50 and is ‘enjoying’ an economy rate of over 4.5 – hardly a compelling case. Dawson, being left arm, complements Moeen’s right arm, working any rough that might appear and this pitch is spinning and will only spin more – last Saturday, dear old Samit was turning it square two pitches up the slope.”

11.54am BST

81st over: South Africa 253-7 (de Kock 8, Philander 0) A bit of rubbish from Dawson is pulled for four by de Kock. Moeen will have at least one more over, you would expect.

11.51am BST

80th over: South Africa 248-7 (de Kock 3, Philander 0) That was the last ball of the over. The second new ball is available but England will continue with spin for now.

11.50am BST

Terrific bowling from Moeen. Bavuma was on the back foot playing for turn, understandably so after recent events, and the ball skidded on to take the edge. It hit Bairstow and flew to slip, where Stokes took a smart catch. Moeen has his third wicket and Bavuma has gone for a very good 59.

11.46am BST

79th over: South Africa 248-6 (Bavuma 59, de Kock 3) The new batsman is the brilliant, dangerous Quinton de Kock, who has a Test average of 51. It’ll be interesting to see whether Root gives Dawson another over or takes the new ball straight away. Nasser and Bumble think he should continue with the spinners against de Kock for a few overs.

11.42am BST

Liam Dawson (8-1-45-0) will have one over before the second new ball. So far it’s been a very bad game for Joe Root the selector. Dawson has plenty going for him as a limited-overs cricketer but it was hugely disappointing to see him selected ahead of Adil Rashid.

Erm, as I was saying! Dawson has taken his first wicket, with Rabada caught behind. He went back when he should have been forward and got a thick edge that was beautifully taken by Bairstow. That’s an extremely good bit of wicketkeeping.

11.40am BST

78th over: South Africa 244-5 (Bavuma 58, Rabada 26) Moeen almost skids one through Rabada, who decides that attack is the best form of defence and mows the next ball over midwicket for four. That wasn’t quite where he intended, but whatever.

“Love the detention concept,” says Brian Withington. “Could be very effective means of combatting slow over rates if everyone was kept behind for an hour after close. Maybe Geoffrey Boycott could supervise with a helpful lecture on how things were better in his day?”

11.38am BST

77th over: South Africa 238-5 (Bavuma 57, Rabada 22) Rabada is doing a fine job here, taking time out of the game. And occasionally swishing and missing, as he did just then at Wood. This is quiet period in the game, as is often the case before the second new ball.

“Morning Rob,” says Phil Sawyer. “Things I don’t miss about being young: drinking Copperhead cider from LiquorSave (4 cans for £2!) with the aforementioned side order of self-loathing. Now I drink high class swanky time artisan cider. Oddly, the self-loathing seems to remain about the same.”

A reminder from @AWSStats that Ben Stokes is on 3 disciplinary points (as was Rabada before this game) so one misdemeanour away from a ban.

11.33am BST

76th over: South Africa 237-5 (Bavuma 56, Rabada 22) Moeen comes into the attack, replacing Stokes. His first ball spits viciously at Bavuma, who gloves it just wide of Ballance at short leg. After three years of oddjobbery, England have found the perfect role for Moeen as No7 and attacking second spinner.

11.29am BST

75th over: South Africa 236-5 (Bavuma 54, Rabada 22) A mixed over from Wood. He beats Rabada with a jaffa but then lets slip a full toss that is carved for four.

“The Rabada thing,” begins John Starbuck. “’Demerit points’ sounds very public school. Can you get ‘Housepoints’ for applauding an opponent’s fifty?”

11.26am BST

74th over: South Africa 232-5 (Bavuma 54, Rabada 18) Bavuma square-drives Stokes for four to reach a classy half-century. As Mike Atherton says on Sky, he looks a much better player than his average (33.25) would suggest.

“Slightly surprised that Moeen isn’t tossing a few up to Rabada while Ben Stokes invites him to mind the windows,” says Gary Naylor.

11.20am BST

73rd over: South Africa 224-5 (Bavuma 49, Rabada 17) Two from Wood’s over, again with a hint of reverse inswing to the hitherto strokeless Bavuma.

11.16am BST

72nd over: South Africa 222-5 (Bavuma 48, Rabada 16) Rabada is quite stylish for a lower-order batsman, with a hint of Stuart Broad in his Garry Sobers days (see the last paragraph here). Stokes hits him on the collarbone with a terrific bouncer from around the wicket; Rabada times the next ball beautifully through mid-on for four. This is an excellent duel between two players who don’t like each other. I don’t think there have been any words between them yet.

11.12am BST

71st over: South Africa 217-5 (Bavuma 48, Rabada 12) A wide grubber from Wood to Bavuma hits Bairstow on the shin, forcing him to hop around in pain. Joe Root shows that captaincy won’t change him that much by failing to stop a fit of the giggles. That was a lovely moment of infectious, affectionate schadenfreude. There is a hint of reverse swing for Wood, with Bavuma digging out an inswinging yorker. Another maiden continues a good start from England.

11.07am BST

70th over: South Africa 217-5 (Bavuma 48, Rabada 12) The timing of the rugby – and the availability of gin at Lord’s from the early hours – means there will be some lively hangovers tonight, never mind tomorrow morning. I must say, one of the things I definitely don’t miss about being young is having a beer headache at teatime, especially when it comes with a side order of self-loathing.

Ben Stokes starts at the other end, and almost slips a classy yorker through Rabada. A maiden. It’ll be interesting to hear what Stokes says if he dismisses Rabada; presumably something like “Off you go Kagiso, it’s an early ice bath for you!”

11.02am BST

69th over: South Africa 217-5 (Bavuma 48, Rabada 12) The Saturday of the Lord’s Test is one of the great occasions of the summer, yet there is a slight after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-Show feeling because of that epic rugby. Anyway, Mark Wood opens the bowling to old dirty mouth, who drives pleasantly through extra cover for two. Presumably Wood, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali will bowl until the new ball is available in 11 overs’ time.

10.59am BST

Did anyone see the T20 last night? Tom Curran bowled a sensational last over to win Surrey’s match against Essex. He looks a serious prospect, particularly in limited-overs cricket.

10.49am BST

Talking of Nasser, on Monday he met Kagiso Rabada for this terrific interview. On Friday, Rabada was banned for flinging the F-word around at the Home of Cricket. Interesting.

10.42am BST


Rob I’m struggling against a 65 mph medium dobber who bowls a bit like Damien Martyn do you have any advice ??Thanks Nasser from Chelmsford

10.30am BST

Rugby? Bloody hell.

10.15am BST

Some more pre-play reading

Related: Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad put South Africa’s Lord’s record under threat

Related: Liam Dawson takes tentative steps from England’s spin conveyor belt | Barney Ronay

Related: The Recap: sign up for the best of the Guardian’s sport coverage

9.08am BST

I won’t tell you the Lions score, in case you plan to watch it on delay. But if you want to get the latest news, you can so do by clicking here.

12.51am BST

The real Lion comes out when the last tackle is needed, when someone is needed to make the last pass to make something happen. When it’s like that, when you think you have nothing left, you become a Lion.

Sir Ian McGeechan’s famous speech on the 1997 Lions tour came to mind at Lord’s yesterday evening. When the ball is old, the partnership is established and the legs are heavy; that’s when you become a champion bowler. Jimmy Anderson’s late dismissal of Theunis de Bruy n was worth more than one wicket, as it has significantly changed the mood of the match. At 214 for four, South Africa were right in the game; at 214 for five, with the second new ball due in 12 overs, England have a chance of dismissing them for under 300.

Related: South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada suspended for second Test against England

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Jul 04

‘The nastiest match I ever played in’: England v South Africa, Headingley 1998 | Rob Smyth

That was captain Mike Atherton’s verdict on the decider to a Test series that caught the national imagination and culminated in a battle for the ages in Leeds

When England last won a Test series at home to South Africa, the Spin wasn’t even a glint in the Guardian’s eye. Life was pretty different in 1998: cricket was on the BBC, there was no DRS and elite sport was still a place where male hormones could run riot. England’s 2-1 win over South Africa was less a Test series, more a testosterone series; an unyielding arm-wrestle between two tough yet fragile sides with more in common than they would ever admit at the time.

Related: When one-day cup’s September spot provided all the narratives needed | The Spin

Related: Misbah and Younis did more than serve Pakistan – they served cricket

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Jun 25

England beat South Africa in the third T20 international – as it happened

The debutant Dawid Malan struck an exhilarating 78 as an experimental England side won the series decider by 19 runs at Cardiff

5.55pm BST

20th over: South Africa 162-7 (Phehlukwayo 27, Morkel 5) After a few lusty swings from Phehlukwayo, who has had a good series, Chris Jordan completes England’s victory. That’s an impressive win for an experimental side, with plenty of encouragement for England’s future in all forms of the game. Mason Crane’s dismissal of AB de Villiers was the feelgood moment of the series, while Dawid Malan batted like a veteran debutant to make 78. Thanks for your company, bye!

Related: Dawid Malan stars on debut as England win series against South Africa

5.49pm BST

19th over: South Africa 145-7 (Phehlukwayo 16, Morkel 0) Curran finishes another very impressive performance with figures of 4-0-22-1. The variety and relish of his death bowling are particularly encouraging with the 2019 World Cup and 2020 World T20 in mind. South Africa need Daan van Bunge to bowl the first over; they require 36 from six balls to take the match into a Super Over.

5.48pm BST

Mosehle heaves a full toss to Billings at deep midwicket to give Curran a wicket with his last delivery. The third umpire checked the height but it was fine.

5.43pm BST

18th over: South Africa 138-6 (Mosehle 31, Phehlukwayo 15) Mosehle decides to pay a little tribute to Carlos Braithwaite, clouting Willey’s first two deliveries down the ground for six. Willey goes around the wicket to restore order, with four from the last four balls. South Africa need 44 from two overs.

5.37pm BST

17th over: South Africa 122-6 (Mosehle 18, Phehlukwayo 12) Tom Curran looks like a man who enjoys glory, and he’ll grab plenty of it over the next decade if he bowls like this. He beats Mosehle with consecutive deliveries, a slower leg-cutter and a fast yorker, and though Mosehle wallops a slower ball for six, England will be very happy with seven from the over. South Africa need 60 from 18 balls.

5.33pm BST

16th over: South Africa 115-6 (Mosehle 10, Phehlukwayo 12) The reliable Plunkett returns to calm things down with a canny, boundaryless over that is summed up when he sees Phehlukwayo making room and spears a wide yorker through to Buttler. Plunkett ends with figures of 4-0-22-1. He is very, very good these days.

5.29pm BST

15th over: South Africa 111-6 (Mosehle 10, Phehlukwayo 11) South Africa are going down swinging, with 18 from Willey’s third over. Mosehele flips six over fine leg and then Phehlukwayo creams consecutive deliveries down the ground for four. They need 71 from five overs.

5.26pm BST

14th over: South Africa 93-6 (Mosehle 3, Phehlukwayo 0) “And in your wisdom,” says Rob Lewis, “which of those mentioned (over 12) will go on to great things?”

There are too many variables to predict with any certainty what young players might achieve – Billy Kenny and all that – but I’d say Hameed is a banker. I really like all the others too, especially Crane and Jennings.

5.22pm BST

South Africa are done here. Their death hitter, Morris, was pushed up the order and they don’t have the firepower to score 14 an over. They are also running of wickets. Behardien hooks Jordan’s short ball high to deep square, where Billings takes a nonchalant catch. After a bad day on Friday. Jordan has bounced back superbly and has three for 10.

5.20pm BST

13th over: South Africa 88-5 (Behardien 2, Mosehle 0) Behardien is beaten by four consecutive deliveries from Crane. That is an outstanding comeback from Crane, who turned figures of 2.3-0-34-0 into 4-0-38-1. It’s impossible not to be seriously excited about how good he might become.

“Glasto rumours,” says Ben Parker. “I heard MC Corbyn is gonna rap the whole of the Labour manifesto. Rumours, rumours…”

5.16pm BST

12th over: South Africa 86-5 (Behardien 0, Mosehle 0) A superb over from Jordan – just four from it – leaves South Africa needing snookers. I know potential is often gobbled up by life, but bloody hell England have got some exciting young talent at the moment. Hameed, Crane, the Currans, Livingstone, Lawrence, Foakes, Jennings and others.

5.13pm BST

England are in charge now! Miller chases a wide, short delivery from Jordan and snicks it through to Buttler.

5.11pm BST

11th over: South Africa 82-4 (Miller 3, Behardien 0) That was such a lovely moment. He’s 20 years old and his first international wicket is the greatest white-ball batsman of all time. That’s not supposed to happen to English legspinners.

“Still following from Glastonbury, Rob,” says Tim Woollias. “Another wait for a secret gig, this time outside the John Peel Tent, where about 15,000 people are expecting the Killers, if it’s Steps we could see a very fast exodus.”

5.09pm BST

What a moment for Mason Crane! This is spine-tingling stuff. AB de Villiers walloped him for 16 from the first three balls of the over, including two huge sixes, but Crane kept his nerve and struck when de Villiers swept a flighted delivery to Hales at deep backward square. He took another beautifully judged catch to send Crane off on a celebration full of joyous disbelief. That is wonderful stuff.

5.04pm BST

10th over: South Africa 64-3 (de Villiers 18, Miller 2) This is the key partnership, between the two best batsmen in the team. After a flurry of singles, South Africa need 118 from 10 overs.

5.01pm BST

That’s superb bowling from Liam Plunkett. He saw Smuts moving to leg, followed him with the short ball and was rewarded when Smuts top-edged a blind hook to Malan at long leg.

4.59pm BST

9th over: South Africa 59-2 (Smuts 29, de Villiers 15) de Villiers decides it’s time to bully Crane. Nothing personal, just business. He flashes a one-bounce four over extra-cover, is beaten on the slog sweep and then clouts one not far short of deep midwicket. Crane stood up really well to that mini-assault, inducing false strokes from the last two deliveries of the over.

4.56pm BST

8th over: South Africa 50-2 (Smuts 27, de Villiers 8) Plunkett has had a lot of joy at Cardiff this summer, particularly with the short ball. He rams one past Smuts’ attempted cross-bat clout, the highlight of an excellent over that goes for three. South Africa need 132 from 12 overs.

4.52pm BST

7th over: South Africa 47-2 (Smuts 25, de Villiers 7) The young legspinner Mason Crane is coming on. He had an impressive debut in the first match, though the dimensions of this ground aren’t so spinner-friendly. Smuts sweeps the first ball for four; that’s the only boundary of a decent first over.

4.49pm BST

6th over: South Africa 38-2 (Smuts 19, de Villiers 4) Smuts survives a big appeal for caught behind when he attempts to pull a cross-seamer from Plunkett. England were sure it was out, and there was a noise at the right time, but the umpire Tim Robinson disagreed. No reviews in DRS. Smuts certainly gets bat on the next two balls, beasting a six over long on and driving four move over extra cover.

4.45pm BST

5th over: South Africa 26-2 (Smuts 8, de Villiers 3) The new batsman is AB de Villiers, who is playing his last innings of the tour. He is taking a break from Test cricket at the moment. An AB special might be in order because, after an excellent start from England, the required rate is now above 10 an over. He cuts his first ball confidently for three.

4.42pm BST

This is a big wicket for England. Morris pulls the new bowler Jordan towards the square-leg boundary, where the leaping Hales takes an excellently judged catch.

4.39pm BST

4th over: South Africa 21-1 (Smuts 6, Morris 8) Morris clunks Curran over extra cover for three; then, later in the over, he makes room to cut over backward point for four. That was a clever stroke, and this guy is a dangerous customer. Meanwhile, on the subject of Liam Livingstone, I’m with Gazza.

4.36pm BST

3rd over: South Africa 13-1 (Smuts 6, Morris 1) If Morris bats 30 balls, South Africa will probably win this game. He has started with intent, missing an attempt to deposit Willey out of the ground.

“Let’s not forget the ODIs led to the phrase ‘Boring Middle Overs’ which may not be quite true anymore but does tell you something,” says John Starbuck. “On telling people something, I was at a 10th wedding anniversary bash yesterday and a bloke walked up to when I was not dancing to tell me I had egg on my chin. I hadn’t eaten anything remotely eggy and it took a while to figure out he meant my fly was open. Why he couldn’t say so I don’t know. We are some way on from the days when women said ‘Charlie’s dead’ to indicate an underskirt hem showing.”

4.32pm BST

2nd over: South Africa 11-1 (Smuts 4, Morris 0) That was the last ball of an excellent over. Chris Morris and his deadly long handle have been promoted to No3.

4.31pm BST

Tom Curran has graduated to the new ball in only his second match, and he has taken a wicket in his first over! Hendricks, who was hit in the breadbasket earlier in the over, drove tamely to Plunkett at mid-off to spark Curran’s increasingly familiar aeroplane celebration.

4.27pm BST

1st over: South Africa 8-0 (Smuts 3, Hendricks 0) There is some early swing from David Willey, though that isn’t always a force for good: he swings one onto the pads of Smuts and away for four leg-byes. It’s a good over apart from that, with only three runs off the bat.

4.23pm BST

The consensus from the keyboard achievers, incidentally, is that Liam Livingstone should never be allowed to play professional cricket again.

4.12pm BST

South Africa need 182 to win the series. See you in 10 minutes.

4.12pm BST

20th over: England 181-8 (Jordan 0, Curran 1) Paterson doesn’t get the hat-trick but he does ends with figures of four for 31 after a fantastic last over. South Africa may have found one there; his death bowling in this series has been exceptional.

4.09pm BST

Paterson is on a hat-trick for the second time in two overs after bowling Willey with a perfect yorker. “This is an exhibition in death bowling,” says Nasser Hussain, and he’s not wrong.

4.08pm BST

Buttler’s cameo comes to an end when he skies a short ball to backward point. This is some very good death bowling from South Africa, and there are three balls remaining.

4.06pm BST

19th over: England 179-6 (Buttler 31, Willey 0) That was the last ball of the over. The batsmen crossed, which means Buttler won’t be on strike for the start of the final over.

4.05pm BST

This is a cracking little contest between Buttler and Phehlukwayo, who is going through all his variations of pace, length, line and cut. Buttler takes two off each of the first three balls and then waves an astonishing six over cover from an almost immaculate wide yorker. AB de Villiers applauds the shot, one genius recognising another.

It’s high-octane stuff, this, and Plunkett falls to the last ball of the over when he heaves to cow corner. Miller took another excellent catch.

4.00pm BST

18th over: England 166-5 (Buttler 18, Plunkett 0) That was a great over from Paterson – five dot balls, two wickets and one six.

4.00pm BST

Livingstone goes first ball, bowled by a full toss when he misses an attempted ramp from outside off stump. In a sense that was admirably selfless; in another it continues an inauspicious start to his international career. We’ll see more of him, don’t worry.

3.57pm BST

Billings sweeps a full toss from Paterson over square leg for six but then clonks one straight to de Villiers at extra cover.

3.55pm BST

17th over: England 160-3 (Buttler 18, Billings 5) Billings struggles to lay wood on Phehlukwayo’s wide yorkers, taking just a single from the first three deliveries. When Phehlukwayo misses his yorker length, Buttler reminds us of his genius by launching a stunning blow over long-off. Then he swats a slower short ball to cow corner for four, and finally Phehlukwayo dupes him with a slower leg-cutter. That was a brilliant over of T20 cricket.

“It was put to Eoin Morgan that paying customers may feel hard done by not seeing the established stars of English white-ball cricket,” says Adam Roberts. “They weren’t robbed by seeing Malan, were they?”

3.50pm BST

16th over: England 149-3 (Buttler 8, Billings 5) Buttler survives a huge LBW appeal from Tahir (aren’t they all?) by virtue of being a long way down the pitch. Replays show it would have hit middle halfway up. There are no reviews in T20, at least not yet, and England get the bonus of four leg byes.

Not liking the new 20-over shirt England are wearing,” says Dave Tole. “Anyone else think they whiff of Rugby League? Wigan maybe?”

3.46pm BST

15th over: England 139-3 (Buttler 3, Billings 4) Buttler misses an attempt to flap Morris’s short ball onto the camera gantry, like he did here against New Zealand in the Champions Trophy. An excellent, boundaryless last over from Morris, who ends with 4-0-24-0.

“Everything I write seems to make it into OBO,” says Adam Roberts. “Just the ten of us following the OBO, Rob?”

3.41pm BST

14th over: England 134-3 (Buttler 1, Billings 2) A drifting googly from Tahir to Buttler beats off stump on the full and goes through Mosehle for four byes.

3.40pm BST

Dawid Malan’s exhilarating debut innings comes to an end when he drives Tahir to long on. He smashed 78 from 44 balls and played with exceptional control and authority. Only three greats – Ricky Ponting, David Warner and Hiral Patel – have made a higher score on their IT20 debut.

3.36pm BST

13th over: England 123-2 (Malan 74, Buttler 1) The new batsman is Jos Buttler, who is quietly having a bit of a rough trot. Malan has moved to 74 from 41 balls.

“I see Dawid Malan was born in Roehampton, where I grew up,” says Rob Lewis. “Can’t claim to have had anything to do with it though, as I left aged 13.”

3.33pm BST

Hales falls to a brilliant catch from David Miller. He smashed Phehlukwayo towards cow corner, where Miller ran in and dived forward to take a very difficult low catch with the minimum of fuss. Hales made 36 from 28 balls.

3.30pm BST

12th over: England 116-1 (Hales 35, Malan 69) Hales is starting to loosen up – both his knee and his arms. He mows Paterson down the ground for a flat six and then takes a dodgy single to de Villiers at mid-off. He has to dive to make his ground and ends up demolishing the stumps and falling over. His innings is turning into a Charlie Chaplin sketch. Malan’s innings, meanwhile, is turning into a mini-masterpiece. He walks across to daintily scoop Paterson for four and pulls the next delivery to the same boundary.

“Which format I like to watch does depend on whether I’m at the match or not,” says Matt Emerson. “If I’m there, then it’s Test, ODI, T20 – this merely because ODIs last longer so you can spend more time eating pastry-based products, drinking pints of Shame Inducer & talking rubbish with fellow attendees. If I’m watching remotely then I’d put T20s ahead of ODIs as I’m rarely able to spend all day in front of the TV, but I may be able to sneak a whole T20 in. Clearly several overs of Test cricket beats both hands down. Also, does anyone else record an entire day’s play if at work and then watch on +30 rather than look at the highlights? No, just me then…”

3.26pm BST

11th over: England 99-1 (Hales 27, Malan 60) Morkel is going to bowl out here, such is South Africa’s need for a wicket. Hales snicks an attempted yorker wide of the diving Mosehle for four, then Malan thumps yet another boundary through mid-off. This is one of the more impressive debut innings for England in white-ball cricket. Since you asked, nobody has scored a hundred on their IT20 debut.

3.22pm BST

10th over: England 88-1 (Hales 21, Malan 55) Hales monsters a full toss from Tahir over cow corner for six – and then Malan manufactures a scoop for four to reach a tremendous half-century on debut. That shot was a bit close to Morkel at fine leg for comfort, but for the most part he has played with striking authority. He’s faced 31 balls, hitting seven fours and two sixes, and is the first England batsman to hit a fifty on his T20 debut.

“Rest of the world now discovering what Middx members/supporters have known for years; Morgs is not the only excellent one-day/T20 batsman in the Middlesex side,” says Ang Gilham. “Better late than never for Dawid.”

3.18pm BST

9th over: England 73-1 (Hales 14, Malan 47) Malan drives Morkel for a thumping straight six to move to 47. “What a shot that was!” says Eoin Morgan in the Sky commentary box. This is exhilarating stuff, and it’s now the highest score by an England batsman on their T20 debut, beating Paul Collingwood’s 46 on a giddy afternoon in Hampshire 12 years ago.

“Heartened to see – having looked up his profile at the other place – that Dawid Malan’s nickname is ‘AC’,” says John Foster. “Class. I think I’m developing a man-crush.”

3.13pm BST

8th over: England 65-1 (Hales 13, Malan 41) Imran Tahir comes into the attack, and Eoin Morgan comes into the Sky commentary box. “We recognise the series is a big opportunity to have a lot at our younger players,” he says. “That’s a really important part of our development. Our success in the last two years has been down to the strength in depth we have, and that’s very important for our development down the line. It’s unfortunate that I hae to miss out but this is the rotation system we have. We remain very confident we can win and put on a show with the team we have. It is a big call but we haven’t been shy in making big calls.”

The man who has replaced him, Malan, is doing just that. He pulls Tahir very hard down the ground for four and bottom edges another past short third man. He has 41 from 23 balls and is five away from the highest score by an England batsman on their T20 debut.

3.07pm BST

7th over: England 54-1 (Hales 11, Malan 32) Morris returns, perhaps with a view to sorting out Malan. He should at least dismiss Hales – but Phehlukwayo drops an absolute dolly at mid-on. Malan bleaches the wound by helping the next ball round the corner for four to move to 32 from 19 balls.

“Morning, Rob,” says Adam Roberts. “I’m surprised you rank T20 above ODIs. I don’t mind 50-over games – they resemble the real game to an extent. I love Bumble’s unquenchable enthusiasm for everything; it livens up a Sunday morning.”

3.02pm BST

6th over: England 46-1 (Hales 9, Malan 27) Hales is going to continue, though he’s limping like Tony Blundetto. He winces a single to mid-on. and then Malan, who is playing majestically, walks across his stumps to drive Paterson over midwicket for four.

“I am in town for the cricket, but unfortunately it is not the same town as the cricket is being played in,” says Ian Copestake. “However the view of the motorway from my Travelodge is being transformed by your word pictures.”

2.58pm BST

5.3 overs: England 41-1 (Hales 8, Malan 23) Paterson replaces Morkel, who bowled two excellent overs. Hales drags the ball onto the inside of his knee and collapses in a heap. “That is as sore as it gets,” says Shaun Pollock, who has clearly never been to my dentist. Hales is receiving treatment, and this might be a problem: he’s struggling to walk, and he can’t have a runner. He might need to retire hurt while his knee loosens up.

2.53pm BST

5th over: England 39-1 (Hales 7, Malan 22) Your friend and mine, Gary Naylor, has been going on about Malan for the best part of a decade so he will be even chattier than usual today – especially if Malan carries on like this. He back cuts the new bowler Phehlukwayo’s first ball for four and wallops another pull to the fence. He has 22 from 13 balls. “I like the look of this guy,” says Shaun Pollock on Sky. This, I suppose this is the advantage of making your debut in your late 20s – you know your game like the back of your bat and are much more comfortable expressing yourself straight away.

2.48pm BST

4th over: England 26-1 (Hales 5, Malan 12) Malan plays another confident pull stroke, this time for a couple off Morkel, before being duped by consecutive slower balls. The first went past the edge, the second hit him in the arm.

“Am I the only OBO reader who can’t get into this T20 business?” says Andrew Benton. “It’s all over far too fast – which is probably good for the telly, which I don’t have, but not so good for written or spoken commentary. Those need time to build momentum. Roll on the Test series, I say, oh yes.”

2.43pm BST

3rd over: England 21-1 (Hales 5, Malan 7) Madon! Dawid Malan has hit his second ball in international cricket for six with a storming pull stroke off Morris. “World’s gone mad,” says Bumble. “It’s his second delivery!”

2.40pm BST

2nd over: England 12-1 (Hales 4, Malan 0) “Just watched the Roy interview on Sky and wondered what you thought?” says Ben Parker. “I thought his answers re: the lbw referral and his last dismissal were very enlightening.”

Ach, I missed it as I was

in the kitchen, faffing
doing my pre-OBO finger exercises. I have taped it though. I like Roy, and also the culture of accountability that Eoin Morgan seems to have created.

2.39pm BST

Morne Morkel trampolines a delivery past Hales’ attempted hoick. This is a slightly frenetic start from England, and Hales edges the next ball over the leaping slip fielder for four. And now Roy has gone! The ball after a quite gorgeous whip through midwicket for four, he tried to limbo dance and steer a short ball over the keeper’s head – but it followed him and kissed the bat on the way through to Mosehle.

2.35pm BST

1st over: England 4-0 (Roy 4, Hales 0) Chris Morris, whose rage brought South Africa back into the series on Friday, bowls the first over. This is a fresh pitch with a striking green tinge, so this might be a decent toss to win. Crikey, Roy has been dropped third ball. He slogged the ball miles – miles – in the air towards fine leg, so much so that the cameraman had no idea where the ball was. The keeper Mosehle ran 30 yards to get there, only for it to burst through his gloves. I know this because of the magic of action replays.

2.12pm BST

Some pre-match reading

Related: Pink balls at night may not be every batsman’s delight | Vic Marks

Related: Tom Curran determined to build on confident start in England decider

Related: Heather Knight the first of four run-outs as India shock England in opener

Related: Steve Harmison: ‘I didn’t want the public to know about my depression’

2.04pm BST

England Roy, Hales, Malan, Buttler (c/wk), Billings, Livingstone, Plunkett, Willey, Jordan, Curran, Crane.

South Africa Smuts, Hendricks, Mosehle (wk), de Villiers (c), Miller, Behardien, Morris, Phehlukwayo, Morkel, Paterson, Tahir.

2.02pm BST

Jos Buttler captains England, with Eoin Morgan surprisingly rested. Dawid Malan makes his international debut. Craig Overton does not, despite the earlier suggestion that everyone in the squad would get at least one game. Plenty of fuel for keyboard warriordom there.

11.07am BST

Let’s try that one again. England made a mess of winning the series on Friday, their complacency reacting with South Africa’s furious pride to produce an unexpected twist, so now we have a decider at Cardiff. The match does not exactly scream C-O-N-T-E-X-T, yet it’s a chance to see how England’s young players fare in the heightened circumstances of a winner-takes-all match.

A victory would take South Africa above England in the spandex-tight T20 rankings. There is also a sense that, if they win this series after such an abysmal start to their tour, it will significantly empower them going into the first Test at Lord’s next week. Never mind rankings and series wins, that’s probably the most important context of all.

Continue reading…

Permanent link to this article:

Jun 23

South Africa beat England by three runs in second T20 match – as it happened

An angry spell from Chris Morris inspired a tremendous South African fightback that ended in a three-run victory at Taunton

9.57pm BST

Related: South Africa edge thriller as England count cost of Jason Roy dismissal

8.31pm BST

20th over: England 171-6 (Dawson 7, Plunkett 0) Phehlukwayo slips a wide yorker through Dawson to secure a superb comeback victory for South Africa. England will feel they threw it away – they were 125 for one in the 14th – but South Africa, roused by an angry spell from Chris Morris, bowled excellently at the death. It means we have a series decider at Cardiff on Sunday, and also that we’ll be hearing plenty about Jason Roy’s controversial dismissal for obstructing the field. It was a brilliant game and an absolute triumph for Somerset. Thanks for your company, goodnight!

8.29pm BST

Well bowled Andile Phehlukwayo!

8.28pm BST

19.5 overs: England 171-6 (need 4 from one ball) Dawson nails a superb one-bounce four to long off. England need four to win or three for a Super Over.

8.27pm BST

Oh dear. Livingstone tries to steal an imaginary second to keep strike, Dawson isn’t watching and South Africa have all the time in the world to run Livingstone out.

8.26pm BST

19.3 overs: England 166-5 (need 9 from 3 balls) Just a single again. This is brilliant from South Africa.

8.26pm BST

19.2 overs: England 165-5 (need 10 from 4 balls) Just a single.

8.25pm BST

19.1 overs: England 164-5 (need 11 from five balls) If the scores are tied we’ll have a Super Over. It’ll be pitch black! Phehlukwayo will bowl the last over, and Dawson takes a single off his first ball.

8.24pm BST

19th over: England 163-5 (Livingstone 14, Dawson 1) The game was scheduled to finish at 8pm, so the light is a significant factor now. England need 12 from the last over.

8.22pm BST

Morgan has gone! He hit a low full toss towards mid-on, where de Villiers took the catch even though he couldn’t see the ball! He put his hands straight over his face in relief that a) he caught it and b) he didn’t wear it. Incredible stuff.

8.21pm BST

18.3 overs: England 157-4 (Livingstone 14, Morgan 2) Paterson will bowl the penultimate over. Livingstone, who has played a scratchy innings, misses three consecutive deliveries outside off stump – but the last two are called wide, to the consternation of South Africa. I wish there was a playercam on Chris Morris right now. Livingstone then crunches a yorker down the ground, breaking his bat in the process. Pieces of his bat flew everywhere! There’s a delay while a new bat is brought out. England need 17 from nine balls.

8.16pm BST

18th over: England 154-4 (Livingstone 13, Morgan 1) England need 21 from two overs. The light isn’t great now, and there are no floodlights. That may be a factor.

“Hi Rob,” says Michael Hann. “Much as I was enjoying Jason Roy’s innings, I am genuinely pleased to see him being given out obstructing the field, for crossing the pitch to run between the stumps and the throwing fielder (the thrown ball hit him, and he was given out). Some of you may recall the incident between England and New Zealand in 2008, when NZ were furious that Grant Elliott was given run out after colliding with Ryan Sidebottom, leaving him unable to make his ground. I suggested on a Guardian cricket thread at the time that Elliott should have been given out, but not run out – for obstructing the field. He looked up, and clearly and deliberately ran into Sidebottom’s path, to prevent him getting to the ball. People were outraged at my suggestion. I was always taught the batsmen run on opposite sides of the strip, but in recent years they have engaged in gamesmanship by both running on the side the ball is being fielded – it’s clearly trying to obstruct the field. Glad to see umpires doing something about it. Have a look at the Elliott incident.”

8.14pm BST

Beautifully bowled! Phehlukwayo takes care of Buttler with an immaculate yorker, and England need 22 from 14 balls.

8.10pm BST

17th over: England 146-3 (Livingstone 7, Buttler 8) South Africa were right to bowl out Morkel and Morris – doing so got them back into the match – but it means they are down to the change bowlers for the death overs. Paterson returns to the attack. A couple of you have mentioned that he has an interesting action, and I see what you mean. Buttler works him for four and then survives an LBW appeal by virtue of being outside the line. Livingstone then mishits a pull that lands short of long on. He’s not playing fluently; he may have been a bit unsettled by all that jazz with Morris.

Was there 100% proof that Jason Roy obstructed the field on purpose? On field umpire gave soft decision of not out? #controversial

#GrenfellTower Please support our game with @HouseofCommons on Tuesday:

8.06pm BST

16th over: England 135-3 (Livingstone 7, Buttler 0) The new batsman is the returning hero Jos Buttler. Chris Morris is playing the villain. He rams a superb bouncer past Livingstone before attempting to establish once and for all whether looks can kill. Livingstone charges Morris’s last delivery, with the ball ending in the hands of slip. South Africa thought it was off the edge; the umpire Rob Bailey thought it came off the shoulder. Morris is fuming – and you can understand why, because Ultra-Edge suggests there was a top-edge onto the shoulder as Livingstone tried to deposit him towards Glastonbury. Morris ends a brilliant spell with figures of two for 18. England need 40 from 24 balls.

8.00pm BST

Morris has pretty much told AB de Villiers that he will be bowling this over. He wants another crack at Livingstone. The first ball brings an appeal for obstructing the field against the non-striker Roy, and they are going upstairs. He was sent back by Livingstone and swapped over to the other side of the pitch to get in the line of the throw. I think he’ll be out here. And if he’s not, Chris Morris is going to go postal!

Here comes the decision … he’s out! There are boos around Taunton but that’s an understandable decision. Roy played a fine, important innings of 67 from 44 balls.

7.56pm BST

15th over: England 133-2 (Roy 67, Livingstone 6) Shamsi has bowled pretty well and has avoided significant punishment. Six from another boundaryless over, so England need 42 from 30 balls.

7.53pm BST

14th over: England 127-2 (Roy 65, Livingstone 2) Liam Livingstone has been promoted ahead of Eoin Morgan. He’s a tall batsman who gives the ball some almighty hammer. Morris gives him a serve, and then another, and then a third at the end of the over! No idea what that’s all about but Morris is stomping around with murderous intent. Great stuff.

“Is there anyone at Taunton reading a Band-by-Band (BBB ….. did i just invent that?) Report about Glastonbury?” says Alan Smith. “I think we need to be told?”

7.50pm BST

Bairstow falls three short of fifty, driving Morris to mid-on. That was another splendid innings, 47 from 37 balls.

7.47pm BST

13th over: England 124-1 (Roy 64, Bairstow 47) A good over from Shamsi – four from the first five balls – is tarnished when Bairstow pulls four round the corner. This is turning into a run-stroll for England rather than a run-chase. Meanwhile, the Gaffer speaks sense, as always.

Well batted @JasonRoy20 Back doing what he does best. Let’s not forget “form is temporary, class is permanent”

7.43pm BST

12th over: England 116-1 (Roy 62, Bairstow 41) Morkel is no-balled for disturbing the stumps during his bowling action. Bairstow crashes the free hit through extra cover for four. Morkel has bowled pretty well yet ends with grisly figures of 4-0-43-0 after consecutive boundaries from the increasingly fluent Roy. He has 62 from 37 balls and has played tremendously.

“It may be many years before the ground hosts another game, but Taunton will always have a special place in Indian hearts thanks to THAT partnership between Dravid and Ganguly against Sri Lanka at the 1999 World Cup,” says Dileep Premachandran. “After the recent coach fiasco, both men are centre stage again for various reasons. You think back to that sunlit day, and realise just how rapidly an era has passed.”

7.38pm BST

11th over: England 102-1 (Roy 54, Bairstow 36) The left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi is coming into the attack, presumably with a bit of trepidation. Roy almost drags the first ball onto his stumps before reaching an excellent fifty with a huge straight six. That’s his first fifty of the international summer. As Roy Keane used to say to Dwight Yorke: welcome back.

“Re: over 9,” begins Ian Stewart. “Don’t tell Tim Woolias that Steps have reformed.”

7.33pm BST

10th over: England 92-1 (Roy 45, Bairstow 35) Morkel returns to the attack, with South Africa desperate for a wicket. A sizzling short ball beats everyone and goes for four byes, and then Bairstow nails a thrilling flat pull for six. He is a beast of a batsman.

7.29pm BST

9th over: England 80-1 (Roy 44, Bairstow 28) Loads of runs, a fast pitch and a great atmosphere: today has been a triumph for Taunton. The left-arm spinner JJ Smuts comes into the attack, and Bairstow hits consecutive boundaries down the ground. He has 28 from 23 balls. Bairstow isn’t in the form of his life; this is his level, the one he’s been at for a couple of years.

Meanwhile, we have a reader at Glastonbury! “Evening Rob,” writes

David Beckham
Tim Woollias. “I’m at the Park stage waiting for a ‘surprise’ act that is rumoured to be Elbow, the Killers, the 1975 or just about everyone.”

7.25pm BST

8th over: England 68-1 (Roy 42, Bairstow 19) It’s not easy to get on top of the short ball on this pitch but Roy manages it, walloping a pull through midwicket for four off Phehlukwayo. Bairstow then hits consecutive boundaries down the ground, a classical drive followed by a ferocious tennis shot. An eventful over concludes with a very good shout for LBW when Bairstow walks across the stumps and misses. Rob Bailey says not out and there are no reviews in T20. Replays show it was shaving leg stump and would have been umpire’s call.

7.20pm BST

7th over: England 55-1 (Roy 37, Bairstow 11) Paterson zips a short one past Roy’s attempted tennis shot, with just four singles from the over.. South Africa have taken to a difficult task with admirable relish.

7.16pm BST

6th over: England 51-1 (Roy 35, Bairstow 10) Roy drags the new bowler Phehlukwayo towards cow corner, where Hendricks does superbly to save the boundary. England are well on course, even though their progress hasn’t been smooth against some lively pace bowling.

“David Beckham’s at Glastonbury at the mo – wonder what the chances are of him making an impromptu appearance at the County Ground,” says Andrew Benton. “Does Johnny Depp know what cricket is?”

7.11pm BST

5th over: England 45-1 (Roy 31, Bairstow 8) The right-arm seamer Dane Paterson replaces Morne Morkel, goes for 10. Roy pulls round the corner for four, which takes him to his highest international score of a difficult summer. He looks well on the road to recovery now. Bairstow then gets his second boundary, flicking Paterson just over the leaping Morkel at short fine leg.

“Rob,” says John Starbuck. “If anyone is actually at Glasto and reading the OBO can they let us know please?”

7.06pm BST

4th over: England 35-1 (Roy 27, Bairstow 4) Morris rips a lovely delivery past Bairstow’s outside edge, part of an exceptional over that is tarnished only partially when Bairstow laces the last ball through extra cover for four.

“Is Wood injured, or rested? Why in earth was he risked in a T20 in the first place?” says Tom Van der Gucht. “Surely they should’ve swaddled him in cotton wool and bubble wrap upon completion of the Champions Trophy to avoid any injury risk. If he is crocked, the England bowling line-up for the Tests could look pretty green! With Woakes, Broad and Anderson all racing for fitness, it would be interesting to see who the selections would plump for. A bit like in the India series in 2007 when Anderson, Sidebottom, Tremlett and Panesar all had to step up to the plate.”

7.02pm BST

3rd over: England 31-1 (Roy 27, Bairstow 0) Jason Roy takes four fours from Morkel’s second over! The first two were fortunate, inside-edged past the stumps, but he followed those with two terrific shots through midwicket and the covers.

6.58pm BST

2nd over: England 15-1 (Roy 11, Bairstow 0) “Rob,” says Dan Silk. “I’ve not been privileged to see Tom Curran close up before, and so the exciting hairstyle on display is new to me (photo presently atop the OBO). Is it actually the skin of some unfortunate animal, perhaps a small otter? And does this mark the start of a new trend, so we can expect to see Root wearing a hedgehog, Stokes probably part of a ginger wolverine, and indeed the Aussie team in assorted home marsupials? Or am I reading too much into this and it will go the way of the Dernbach?”

Inspiration, yeah?

6.57pm BST

Chris Morris’s opening delivery bursts past Roy’s attempted cut. There is lovely pace and bounce in this pitch, and later in the over Roy inside-edges an on-drive over square leg for four. This has been an encouraging start for South Africa, who need wickets if they are to win this match – and now they’ve got one! Billings mispulls Morris towards mid-off, where Miller slides to take a comfortable low catch.

6.51pm BST

1st over: England 5-0 (Roy 4, Billings 1) South Africa need early wickets to undermine England’s runchase. They have a stronger attack today, not least because of the return of Morne Morkel. He gets some extravagant bounce in his first over, with Roy missing a swipe at a ball that trampolines past the top edge. No boundaries in the first over.

“Watching T20 cricket is the only way I get to experience modern music,” says Ian Copestake. “I do think though a miserablist playlist for T20 might work. A wicket falls so bang on Love will Tear Us Apart.”

6.32pm BST

20th over: South Africa 174-8 (Morkel 0, Paterson 4) Paterson smacks his first ball, the last of the innings, expansively over extra cover for four. That means England will need 175 to win. It’s a sizeable target, but on this ground they are favourites to win. See you in 15 minutes for the runchase.

6.30pm BST

Behardien turns down a single off the first ball to keep the strike – and justifies the decision by lifting a full toss over square leg for six next ball. Those are his last runs, however, and he is plumb LBW to the penultimate delivery of the innings from Jordan.

6.26pm BST

19th over: South Africa 164-7 (Behardien 26, Morkel 0) Tom Curran ends a really encouraging debut with figures of 4-0-33-3. Before the wicket of Phehlukwayo he was belted for six by Behardien. The much maligned Behardien has played well today, making 26 not out from 16 balls. Morkel turns down a single off the last delivery so that Behardien can keep strike.

6.24pm BST

Have some of that! Curran gets his third wicket with a cracking yorker that batters into Phehlukwayo’s off stump.

6.21pm BST

Another wicket for the impressive Tom Curran, with Morris clouting a slower ball to long on. Curran has been excellent, particularly in this second spell. On this evidence, he has about 48 different slower balls.

6.19pm BST

18th over: South Africa 156-5 (Behardien 18, Morris 12) Morris hoicks a full toss from Jordan to deep midwicket, where Livingstone drops an absolute sitter. Oh my, that didn’t look good. A good over for South Africa, 12 from it.

“On the subject of AB’s name, I always think his parents missed a trick in not calling him Charles or Cornelius,” says Adam Roberts. “Then he would be ABC De Villiers.”

6.14pm BST

17th over: South Africa 144-5 (Behardien 12, Morris 7) Behardien pings Willey over extra cover for four, the first boundary by somebody not called de Villiers since the 11th over. He’s dropped next ball by Jordan at mid-off. It looked a sitter at first, but it was travelling and it burst through Jordan’s hands to hit him in the jaw.

“The thing about de Villiers,” says Ian Copestake, “is that he does not just give himself width but gets below the ball, hitting it from as low a position as possible so it can go high.”

6.10pm BST

16th over: South Africa 136-5 (Behardien 6, Morris 5) Tom Curran returns to the attack, mixing up his pace and length during an excellent over. He showed off all his toys in that over, which cost just six.

“I’m with you on Plunkett, Rob,” says Guy Hornsby. “There’s nothing so lovely as a late-career renaissance, a Bobby Womack of willow and leather. It’s easy to forget he made his debut in 2005 in Lahore. He was a fresh-faced 20, and I was barely in my fourth decade. It was a different time. He’s really gained the nous only a 15-year career gives you, so it’s glorious to see this twilight phase so richly rewarding.”

6.06pm BST

15th over: South Africa 130-5 (Behardien 4, Morris 1) South Africa need the new batsman Chris Morris to go ballistic if they are to reach a decent total.

6.04pm BST

Hoo hoo, what a shot from de Villiers! He walks across his stumps to lift Willey miles over fine leg for six. It’s gone out of the ground and into the river! After a difficult few weeks, it’s nice to see AB with a smile on his face.

Ach, he’s not smiling any longer – he has gone next ball. He sliced Willey high into the off side, with one hand coming off the bat, and Morgan took a calm catch. de Villiers goes for an entertaining 46 from 20 balls.

6.01pm BST

14th over: South Africa 120-4 (de Villiers 40, Behardien 1) The new batsman is poor old Farhaan Behardien, who has arguably played two match-losing innings on this tour already. de Villiers scrunches a drive between extra cover and mid off for four, and Plunkett ends with excellent figures of two for 36.

“Well, excuse me!” says Adam Spamhead. “I’m actually a pretty big deal in my postcode.”

5.57pm BST

The crafty Liam Plunkett strikes again. Miller tries to cut a slower short delivery that takes the top edge on its way through to Jos Buttler. Plunkett has become a gem of a white-ball bowler, a specialist in taking wickets in the middle overs.

5.55pm BST

13th over: South Africa 113-3 (de Villiers 34, Miller 8) de Villiers sweeps Dawson lazily for six to move to 33 from 14 balls. A single next ball takes him to 34 from 15. Dawson ends with figures of one for 38, a decent effort in the circumstances. He’s got something about him.

5.51pm BST

12th over: South Africa 100-3 (de Villiers 27, Miller 2) Jordan, who is faster than he looks, zips a good delivery past Miller’s attempted cut. A terrific over yields just four singles.

“AB de Villiers confirms that nominative determinism exists,” says Ian Copestake. “I imagine he would not have amounted to much had he had been called Alan Spamhead.”

5.48pm BST

11th over: South Africa 96-3 (de Villiers 25, Miller 0) That was the last ball of the over. Dawson has again done an impressive job.

5.46pm BST

Smuts falls to a filthy full toss from Dawson, somehow contriving to top-edge it to Plunkett at short fine leg. He played well, making 45 from 35 balls.

5.44pm BST

10th over: South Africa 84-2 (Smuts 34, de Villiers 24) Plunkett’s third over goes for 21! de Villiers hits consecutive boundaries off Plunkett to start the over and finishes it by lifting a six high over extra cover. He has 24 from 10 balls and might even have time to reach a century.

“I just had an idea to even out the bowler/batsman inequality these days,” says Romeo. “Along the lines of a limit to how many engines you can use in F1, tell the batsmen that if they damage (or break) their thick-edged but ultimately fragile bats they have to keep going with it or be relegated to Division Two with a massive points deduction and no Test matches.”

5.41pm BST

9th over: South Africa 63-2 (Smuts 33, de Villiers 5) de Villiers hits consecutive boundaries off Plunkett, a pull followed by a safe edge to third man.

“Dear Rob, I don’t know how soon is soon,” says Tim Sanders. “I wonder if he might miss out for the first test, but I think Hameed will play at some point this summer. Anyway, I’m very happy to be on a T20 OBO discussing the importance of leaving the ball properly.”

5.36pm BST

8th over: South Africa 60-2 (Smuts 32, de Villiers 3) The new batsman is the preposterous genius known as AB de Villiers. He drives his first ball sweetly for two. Plunkett has extremely good figures of 2-0-8-1.

5.34pm BST

A terrific bouncer from Plunkett hurries onto Mosehle, who tries to duck and ends up looping the ball just short of point. He also breaks his bat for the second time in the innings. He won’t be breaking any more because he falls later in the over, gloving a slower bouncer down the leg side to Buttler. Plunkett is bowling splendidly.

5.31pm BST

7th over: South Africa 55-1 (Smuts 31, Mosehle 13) This is turning into the runfest we expected. Smuts monsters Liam Dawson for a big six over midwicket, although the canny Dawson does well to avoid additional damage for the rest of the over.

“Hello Rob,” says Tim Sanders. “Reports from the England Lions game suggest that Hameed was out chasing a wide delivery, which was a surprise given how beautifully he has been leaving the ball. It suggests that he might be briefly bewildered by the ups and downs of being selected, stepping up splendidly to Test cricket and then getting injured. It might also be the challenge of playing one-day cricket alongside the first-class game. There’s every reason to believe that he’ll be back on track soon.”

5.27pm BST

6th over: South Africa 45-1 (Smuts 23, Mosehle 12) There are two sides to international cricket – and after a triumphant first over, Tom Curran’s second disappears for 15. Smuts smears the first ball into the stumps at the non-striker’s end and away for four, with the umpire Michael Gough jumping out the way in the comedy style. Then Mosehle clatters a majestic six over midwicket, breaking his bat in the process.

“I miss McCullum as a batsman and seem to be a tad in awe of him as cool-sounding commentator with great insight as he knows what is going to happen before it happens,” says Ian Copestake. “Imagine getting into a fight with the flipper. He’d definitely tell you what he was going to do to you before he did it.”

5.22pm BST

5th over: South Africa 30-1 (Smuts 18, Mosehle 2) Plunkett bowls an excellent first over, with a couple of strangled LBW shouts against Mosehle. England are on top at the moment, though there is a nagging sense that AB de Villiers is going to do something ridiculous later in the innings.

5.18pm BST

4th over: South Africa 27-1 (Smuts 16, Mosehle 1) Mangaliso Mosehle has been pushed up to No3. Curran almost gets a second when Smuts drags the ball just past his leg stump. That’s a fine first over in an England shirt – four runs and one wicket.

5.15pm BST

Tom Curran takes a wicket with his second ball in international cricket! Hendricks tried to whip a short ball across the line and dragged it down onto his stumps. He might have gone the ball before, when he top-edged a pull over short fine leg. That’s quite a start from Curran the elder, who sets off on a wild celebration. And why not.

5.14pm BST

3rd over: South Africa 23-0 (Smuts 15, Hendricks 4) A boundaryless over from Willey, which is a first and possibly a last for this game.

“I’m guessing Hameed’s suffering with his broken finger,” says Patrick O’Brien. “Only young and can take a while for a batsman to get back in nick with a seemingly innocuous injury. He’ll come good again. I say this with all the confidence of a resolute number 11 bat for a parks team!”

5.09pm BST

2nd over: South Africa 20-0 (Smuts 14, Hendricks 3) Chris Jordan assumes the position at the other end. England have omitted Mason Crane today, which is probably a smart move given the probability of humpty. Brendon McCullum, who is a lovely addition to the Sky commentary team, is already raving about how sweet bat on ball sounds today. Almost as good as this.

Jordan overdoes the attempt to keep bat away from ball, bowling three wides in the over. JJ Smuts takes advantage by pumping the ninth and final ball of the over down the ground for the first six.

5.03pm BST

1st over: South Africa 8-0 (Smuts 8, Hendricks 0) JJ Smuts, who was out for a golden duck on Wednesday, watches David Willey’s first delivery swing past his off stump. He clouts the next ball through extra cover for the first boundary of the day. A flying stop from Morgan at backward point saves a second boundary, but then the usually impeccable Jordan is nutmegged at mid-off, with the ball racing away to the fence.

Great buzz at Taunton. Somerset could have sold the 12.5k tickets for this T20 international three times over. This is a real cricket town..

4.59pm BST

“Orlroight moi luvver!” screams Bumble in the Sky commentary box. There’s a cracking atmosphere at Taunton, with the expectation of a very high-scoring game. A score of 200 looks like a minimum rather than par.

4.57pm BST

“You started the preamble one day ago?” says Stuart Rarity. “That is keen!”

You have no idea how much I love my work, Stuart. No idea. Rare is the night I don’t dream about Aftab Habib’s Test career.

4.55pm BST

“Of the last two players Lancashire have provided to England, Haseeb Hameed has forgotten how to bat and Simon Kerrigan can’t even get in the team anymore,” says Phil Sawyer ahead of Liam Livingstone’s debut. “We’d be very grateful if England could please avoid breaking LL Cool Stone (don’t blame me for the nickname, blame the county live blog’s Will Macpherson). We have a lot of hopes pinned on this young lad.”

Yes, what the hell has happened to Hameed? I have never seen a young England batsman play better than he did in India, and now he can barely get into double figures.

4.36pm BST

Some pre-match reading: good news, bad news and sad news

Related: Ireland to seek talks over Lord’s Test after being granted full-member status

Related: Over and out: Henry Blofeld to retire from cricket commentary on BBC radio

Related: England hit by Lauren Winfield injury on eve of Women’s World Cup

4.35pm BST

England Roy, Billings, Bairstow, Morgan (c), Buttler (wk), Livinstone, Dawson, Willey, Jordan, Plunkett, Curran.

South Africa Smuts, Hendricks, de Villiers (c), Miller, Berhardien, Mosehle (wk), Morris, Phehlukwayo, Shamsi, Morkel, Paterson.

4.32pm BST

There are two debutants in the England side: the huge-hitting Liam Livingstone and Surrey’s Tom Curran. If you’re not excited about what Livingstone might achieve in the next few years, you should visit a doctor at your earliest convenience (or read up on him if it’s a case of simple ignorance rather than being dead inside).

4.33pm BST

Hello you. We both know awards are meaningless, until the day we win one. With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to tell you that, if England beat South Africa today, they will move up to No1 in the prestigious, world-famous ICC T20 rankings. If they lose, they will drop to third in the rankings that nobody cares about.

Going top of the T20 table for the first time since 2012 wouldn’t be much consolation for last week’s confusing, distressing Champions Trophy defeat to Pakistan, but it would be further evidence that England have become a formidable team in what we are contractually obliged to describe as white-ball cricket. And it would ensure a series win with a match to spare.

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Feb 15

Raymond van Barneveld: ‘I’m playing the best darts of my career … but keep losing’

No matter how well the great Dutchman plays, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson always seem to raise their game to beat him, and he knows his time at the top is limited

Raymond van Barneveld has an unusual problem. Since Moses wore short pants, sportsmen have been frustrated by poor performance – but Van Barneveld is being driven to distraction by arguably the best form of his career. The reason is simple: no matter how well he plays, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson tend to play even better.

Van Barneveld last won a major in 2014, when he was Premier League champion. Since then he has had some of the greatest victories of his career, including the famous win over Van Gerwen at the 2016 world championship, and his languid, elegant throw has rarely been more accurate than in the past few months. But he has nothing tangible to show for it.

Related: Michael van Gerwen blitzes Raymond van Barneveld to set up dream PDC final

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Jan 07

Deta Hedman determined to finally deliver women’s darts world title

Beaten three times in the BDO final at Lakeside in the deciding set, the 57-year-old Royal Mail worker clocks up 14-hour shifts to be able to find time for darts

Deta Hedman knows better than most about the challenges of elite semi-professional sport. Hedman spent this week working her usual 14-hour shifts for Royal Mail, finishing at 4am, so that she could take time off for the BDO World Championship at Lakeside in Frimley Green. In the next week she will do a bit of daylighting as one of the world’s best darts players and an analyst for Channel 4, who are showing the tournament for the first time.

Related: BDO world championship is a faltering relic that’s worth clinging on to | Sean Ingle

Related: Trina Gulliver takes 10th BDO world title with victory over Deta Hedman

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Dec 14

Michael van Gerwen ready for another tilt at PDC world darts championship

Dutchman won his one and only world title in 2014 but he sets off after another at Alexandra Palace on Saturday the overwhelming favourite in a season where he has 91% win percentage

Michael van Gerwen is arguably the most dominant sportsman in the world, yet he is not world champion of his own sport. That paradox dominates the buildup to the PDC World Championship, the festive jamboree that begins at Alexandra Palace on Thursday night. In the past 12 months the Dutchman has seen his own 2015 brilliance and raised it by winning a staggering 25 tournaments, including nine of the 10 that have been televised live. But it is three years since he won his only world title.

If these was any doubt how much the tournament means to him, it disappeared during his forlorn interview after he lost an epic third-round match to Raymond van Barneveld. Van Gerwen won 18 tournaments in 2015 but ended a staggering year on a crushing low. “I want to win this one,” he said. “I want to throw all the other titles in the bin for this one.” When he was asked: “What next for you?” a solemn Van Gerwen replied: “Not much.”

Related: Phil Taylor: ‘Players today are different. What are you on about? Snapchat?’ | Donald McRae

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Nov 11

Gary Anderson: ‘We’re a bunch of boys who have a laugh and play some good darts’

The world champion on mental strength, his love of Japan and waking up in a cold sweat after dreaming about the arrows

Hi Gary, thanks for chatting to us. Not a problem, Small Talk, not a problem.

You’re the star of House of Flying Arrows, Universal’s new darts documentary. Tell us a bit about it. I watched it today actually. It’s good: it shows what kind of people we are. We all come from working-class families and that’s what we are, a bunch of boys who have a laugh and play some good darts at times.

Related: Treble top! The film that captures the party power of darts

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May 19

Wayne Mardle: ‘Phil Taylor could not turn up at an event to be beaten’

The Sky Sports commentator on the Play-Offs, why darts players need coaches and his doomed love affair with KFC

Hi Wayne, how are you doing? I’m good, thank you Small Talk. How are you?

We’re fine, Wayne, and very excited about the Betway Premier League Play-Offs. Who’s going to win? I still think Michael van Gerwen is the one to beat, but I’m one of these people who loves a bit of fantasy – and I would love it if people were saying: “Wow, how did Phil Taylor come back to do that?” That would sum Phil Taylor up. If he wins, he should pick the trophy up and say to everyone, “Right, you said I was finished and you were wrong. See you later.”

Related: Adrian Lewis v Gary Anderson: PDC World Darts Championship final – in pictures

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Feb 04

Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen lead race for Premier League

The world champion and the world No1 will be the men to watch when the 2016 Premier League begins in Leeds on Thursday night

Who’s the best? Sports fans have been arguing about this since time immemorial. Sometimes it’s undeniable, as with tennis right now, but generally it’s a little more complicated. Each judge will give different importance to each piece of evidence: leagues, cups, world rankings, head-to-heads, even personal prejudice. The debate is particularly intriguing in darts, where Gary Anderson, the world champion, and Michael van Gerwen, the world No1, both have compelling claims to be regarded as the best in the world. Last month, for the first time, the PDC Player of the Year award was shared.

Anderson has won the last two World Championships, the tournament that defines careers and lives, and has gatecrashed what most thought would be the age of Van Gerwen. He is also the reigning champion of the Betway Premier League, which starts in Leeds on Thursday night. Van Gerwen is comfortably top of the Order of Merit, however, and won 18 tournaments in 2015 with a series of awesome performances.

Related: ‘It was just a slog,’ says Gary Anderson after retaining PDC world title

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