South Africa v England: 1st Test day three

England should wrap this match up at some point on the fifth day barring something special – and something special is always possible in sport, that’s the point of it – so strong is England’s position.

At the end of day two there was a feeling that England were the side in the ascendancy but that was on the basis of how the game appeared rather than the raw figures of the score, and from there the game could have gone in any direction. But South Africa couldn’t have had a much worse day that they did, from the collapse in the morning which left them 89 behind to the injury to Steyn and dropped catches as England built a lead.

It could have been worse. Dean Elgar carrying his bat through the innings was the only thing that kept South Africa in the game. The deficit was substantial enough but not insurmountable. What lent a feeling of inevitability to proceedings was the injury to Dale Steyn early in England’s second innings. And here we need to be wary of straying into wise-after-the-event territory.   For South Africa lack an all rounder in this post Kallis/Pollock era, and like most teams in such a position, selected a four man attack to try to balance the side. For injury to take out the spearhead is desperately bad luck, provided of course that there wasn’t that risk going into the game, and that’s the question for the South African selectors rather than the four man attack in itself.  To put it another way, England had a four man attack for a number of years and it was rare that they lost a bowler, the same applies to the great Australian team of the first part of this century; in and of itself it’s not flawed selection, but it appears to be when injury strikes. Certainly Morkel did all he could to make up for the shortfall.

And of course balancing a side with only four bowlers becomes difficult, but you do need a keeper who can bat, hence asking De Villiers to do the job. He’s quite clearly a superb player, the question is how sustainable it is to ask your best batsman to do two jobs and whether that impacts on the primary role.  It’s exacerbated when said batsman has to come in at four rather than later, limiting the amount of rest. De Villiers does have a worse record as batsman when he has kept wicket, but it’s hardly a disastrous one to say the least. Yet it’s a huge ask of him, and perhaps his keeping in the second innings is an indication of that.  For while every keeper can and does drop catches, to come in to a Test match having not done it in a while, and to still have to do the primary role, is going to be exhausting, mentally more than physically, though that plays a part as well.  And then we have to consider the first two Tests are back to back.

For England Stuart Broad has been exceptional, but what has impressed has been the back up.  Moeen Ali was excellent, while Woakes was consistently unlucky and Finn cleaned up the tail expertly.

England’s batting too was purposeful. The third innings can so often be one where the side nominally in front can panic and throw away the advantage. After the loss of Cook, Compton set about building the platform, and he did that extremely well. By the time he was out, those following were able to start to increase the pressure on the reduced attack, circumstances that the likes of Root are ideal at exploiting.

England will doubtless look to accelerate in the morning, and wear the pitch a little more. It may not be the worst thing in the world for England to be bowled out, forcing South Africa to go for the win with time left in the game. The danger of batting on too long is an ever present with England in recent times. Tomorrow is not the time to do it again, for here is a chance to pick up an opening Test win away from home, and that’s not a common experience.


46 thoughts on “South Africa v England: 1st Test day three

  1. paulewart December 28, 2015 / 5:15 pm

    This is brilliant. Selvey at his bellicose, fraudulent best:

    MikeSelvey jno50 6h ago

    He wasn’t trumpeted as the enforcer. That was a media construct. What was said was that he has the best bouncer, and as such, if they need that mode of attack, he is the best man to do it.

    jno50 MikeSelvey 12m ago

    That was a media construct

    Eh? You quoted David Saker as saying exactly that.

    “We want him to be the enforcer in our team,” he said.


    • SimonH December 28, 2015 / 5:39 pm

      To flesh that quotation out a little:

      ““We want him to be the enforcer in our team. When Stuart bowls, you can tell there is a lot of vengeance and aggression behind it and there is no better bowler in the world than Stuart at bowling bouncers. He wants to attack and he is warrior-like. We like it when he’s aggressive. We want him to be like that”.

      Damn that media and their constructions…..

      Liked by 1 person

    • Mark December 28, 2015 / 5:49 pm

      Yes he was trumpeted as an enforcer. And seeing as the England dressing room leaked like a drain to their tame media chums Selvey should not try to re write history. The whole enforcer nonsense came from the horses mouth so to speak.

      Selveys long suffering and loyal readers may be too stupid to remember, but when you are kept in the dark a fed a diet of shite your are likely to turn into a mushroom.


  2. paulewart December 28, 2015 / 5:35 pm

    Haven’t been able to watch the match but it sounds as though England are playing well. Broad has really stepped up these last 12 months, he was always an odd bowler, streakily brilliant but never quite the full package.He does, however, have that rare gift, the ability to psyche top batsmen out through sheer force of personality. He seems to have added economy and consistency to the mix. Great to see Taylor and Compton doing so well too after the smear campaigns and general poor management/press (they are one and the same). Will be interesting to see how the SACB respond to ABDV”s request – one would hope they’ll learn what not to do from the ECB’s shabby treatment of KP’s similar request.

    Sounds like SA should be begging Graeme Smith to make good on his threat to return to Test Cricket pronto!


  3. Mark December 28, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    Having trashed and made snide remarks about South Africa for a number of years while they were clearly number 1 in the world it will be interesting if the English media now finally give them the credit they deserve. Of course this will only be so they can heap praise on their dearly beloved ECB eleven. Now they might win.

    The truth is SA are a shadow of their former selves. The loss of Smith, Kallis and now Steyn is taking its toll. England should not only finish the job here but have a great chance to win the second test as well.

    Compton’s two innings have been interesting, and I still don’t understand why England broke up the Cook/Compton opening partnership that was averaging better than anything that was to follow. Yes he is pedestrian, but that is ok in a team of middle and lower order dashers. What England have needed is a good solid start, and to force the opposition to rack up long periods in the field and overs on the clock. (Once again non cricket reasons took priority.) Broad has once again showed what a huge player he is for England. When he and Anderson hang up their boots England will struggle to find replacements. But by then the way things are going Test cricket will probably be akin to Penny Farthing racing.

    What should have been a great series a year or so ago looks sadly to be another one sided affair. Can any two test playing sides play well at the same time these days?


    • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 7:31 pm

      It occurred to me watching Compton bat in these two innings that he’s doing exactly what Trott would do – offer solidity to the batting line up and wear down the bowlers. He’s got 120 runs in this match and done all that could be asked of him.


      • escort December 28, 2015 / 7:39 pm

        Exactly. Why he has been criticized (by Swann in-particularly) just seems odd.


      • greyblazer December 28, 2015 / 7:56 pm

        I haven’t heard Swanns criticism of Compton, but Smith was really going for him on TV. I know Swann isn’t a favourite of this blog but he wasn’t on his own.


      • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 8:12 pm

        I listened to TMS most of yesterday as I traveled from north to south. Swann was continuous in his criticism of Compton’s scoring rate. It continued even though SA were batting for most of the day. He also spent a lot of time talking about how he went to the Star Wars premier at Leicester Square. (He “took” his big brother – said that repeatedly – why not just say you went together?), Also told us his mum, apparently, sold his Millennium Falcon when he was 7 for 50p at his school’s car boot sale and that he’s been scarred ever since. He’s a self-involved tool.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 8:16 pm

        I heard Swann patronise Simon Mann when he talked about keeping cover open when the ball is spinning in order to encourage the drive – he then caught himself doing it and apologised. But the implication was pretty clear that he was shocked Mann could actually understand the game.

        It was fairly unedifying.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 8:25 pm

        Yes – it was. And, if I remember correctly, he then tried used Mann’s lack of interest in Star Wars to put him back in his place. My club or no club seems to be Swann’s OM..

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus December 28, 2015 / 8:28 pm

          Swann wasn’t born when Star Wars was released. He was barely 4 when Return of the Jedi was in the cinemas.

          I smell bullshit.


      • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 8:41 pm

        Indeed – hence my use of “apparently”!


      • pktroll (@pktroll) December 28, 2015 / 10:14 pm

        At a Christmas day family do, my aunt and uncle couldn’t help mention that my youngest brother was frightened of Jabba the Hut! He was only 4 at the time. I can’t help thinking that Jabba is Giles Clarke!


      • paulewart December 29, 2015 / 6:52 am

        Precisely,though Trott was not without his critics, lest we forget.
        The issue is, of course, Cook.


  4. jomesy December 28, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    @GB I didn’t hear Smith have a go at Compton on TMS yesterday and generally enjoyed his comments. Perhaps it might be because Compton is from Durban?

    Quite separately, apparently but bear with me, on TMS this am Alison Mitchell mentioned that HIM had tweeted that his daughter, Rosie I think, had arrived. Smith said “yes KP texted me yesterday” … they both wished them all well etc etc and … it WAS nice but I was hoping AM might ask a question re: his absence. But, no, it’s clear that despite their being close (enough to share baby news) Smith knows which side of his bread he needs to butter to have a post-playing career with TMS.


  5. man in a barrel December 28, 2015 / 8:38 pm

    Just asking but on day 2 ABDV was given not out to a “catch” at gully. Cricinfo was non committal, I think Andrew Miller, but eat my shorts thought it was a clear catch. It was not discussed on yesterday’s post. Any views? I think James was probably in drink when he posted.


    • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 8:40 pm

      Didn’t discuss it because it happened between turning the television off and getting into the car, so didn’t see it! Heard them talking about it, but was in no position to offer a view.


    • LordCanisLupus December 28, 2015 / 8:47 pm

      One of “those” MIAB. I wasn’t watching at the time, and not sure what the “soft decision” was, but if it was not out then there was no way they were going to overturn it.

      Joe Burns had a similar one in the test match in Melbourne.


    • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 8:51 pm

      On TMS (forgive me – long journey!) the “seen it live view” was, unanimously, it didn’t carry. This then changed throughout the day to:
      1. Hard to call but Stokes’ reaction made it hard for 3rd umpire to give out.
      2. It was out if you were SA, not out if ENG.
      3. Not out because it was AB (and, hey, ENG are in SA didn’t you know?).
      4. Out – bad decision.


      • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 8:55 pm

        I did hear Boycott start to talk about having a chat with the TV people about how to find a workable means of judging whether low catches carry or not, and the 2D nature of television making it difficult. It sounded very much like he was about to explain their thinking on it, but either he got distracted or interrupted (not laying blame, these things happen all the time) and didn’t explain further.

        A pity.


      • LordCanisLupus December 28, 2015 / 8:57 pm

        Just watched it on yesterday’s highlights.

        No intimation of a soft signal on the highlights, but England were low key in their appeal, and I’d guess, and Cricinfo confirms it, that the umpires indicated not out…

        Finn to de Villiers, no run, straightens off the pitch, gets a leading edge… but did it carry to gully? Stokes is not sure, so we will go to the TV replays. The soft signal is not out. He was plunging forward, seemed to celebrate initially but then expressed some doubt and that will probably save de Villiers, because the camera angles leave some wiggle room. Yep, Bruce Oxenford can’t be sure, it may have bounced up off the fingertips or a couple of blades grass, so it will stay not out

        It then becomes tough to overturn it. They’d given a soft signal of out, and I think he’d have gone.


      • Mark December 28, 2015 / 9:12 pm

        I was quite surprised on the verdict last night how they we saying Stokes should have been less honest, and claimed the catch. So much for the spirit of cricket.

        It was left to Trott to point out that with so many cameras about, you didn’t want as a player to get a reputation for cheating by claiming catches that were obviously not legal.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. man in a barrel December 28, 2015 / 8:59 pm

    Rather than hearing Boycott, never a great fielder, wouldn’t it be better to talk about it with a great close catcher such as Peter Walker?


    • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 9:00 pm

      He was talking about the technology and its limitations, not the fielding.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mark December 28, 2015 / 9:01 pm

    Swan has obviously gone to the Selvey charm school and centre for bullshit. Why both their employers continue with the pair of them is beyond me.

    The fact so much of the media keeps using this word ” odd” is a red flag right from the start. Selvey has already made a Pratt of himself today by trying to pretend the Broad enforcer stuff was a media creation. See above to prove that it came from the former England bowling coach.

    But the English cricket media have in recent years proved themselves unable to write anything original unless it is spoon fed to them by people in the dressing room. Where has all this odd stuff come from? Why are journalists repeating talking points?

    A leopard doesn’t change his spots.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus December 28, 2015 / 9:05 pm

      I read this today, and the following paragraphs could be assigned to our cricket media every bit as much as Aussie political journalists. Boldened parts are my emphasis.

      I then mentioned the ABC’s Sunday morning program, The Insiders. And I asked Leigh Sales if it was true that the insiders were, on that program, the journalists. She said: “That is right.” I said: “That’s remarkable.” She… well, she changed the subject. And let me add right away that Leigh Sales is one of the most intelligent journalists I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

      So this is my theme tonight: how did we get to the point where it seems entirely natural for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to describe political journalists appearing on its air as “the insiders?” Don’t you think that’s a little strange? I do. Promoting journalists as insiders in front of the outsiders, the viewers, the electorate…. this is a clue to what’s broken about political coverage in the U.S. and Australia. Here’s how I would summarize it: Things are out of alignment. Journalists are identifying with the wrong people. Therefore the kind of work they are doing is not as useful as we need it to be.

      Still, given the complexity of cricket journalism, something we could never hope to understand how it works, I think I should stand back from this. Don’t you think?

      Liked by 1 person

    • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 9:10 pm

      Mark – can you send a link to selveys nonsense? I looked but couldn’t find.


      • Mark December 28, 2015 / 9:23 pm

        If you read Paulewart at the top,of this page. His is the firt post, and it quotes from Selvey. Then read Simon H quote in the next post when he shows the full context of the quote from Saker.


      • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 9:29 pm

        Thanks Mark – I did read but couldn’t find it anywhere. Don’t worry – sure I will soon


      • jomesy December 29, 2015 / 9:34 am

        Thanks paul


  8. SimonH December 28, 2015 / 9:10 pm

    Couldn’t face reading Selvey so thought I’d have a look at Newman.

    Smoke-without-fire allegations about SA ball-tampering get four paragraphs. Elgar carrying his bat (the first time for his country in nearly two decades) gets half a sentence (the other half is about his dropping a catch).


    Liked by 1 person

    • jomesy December 28, 2015 / 9:17 pm

      There’s enough in selveys articles to suggest ball tampering.

      We also got:

      “The last time England were in Durban Cook made a century”

      “He appeared to have matters under control against the pace of Morkel, Steyn and Kyle Abbott only to misjudge the line from Piedt, round the wicket, and be given out lbw.”

      “Cook’s centuries in Asia and UAE show his capacity to play spin and to play so much down the wrong line was out of character.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus December 28, 2015 / 9:20 pm

        Bunkers in the Indy is less fortright…

        That the umpires thought fit to change the ball after 26 overs when it had just started reverse swinging compounded their woes. The officials were unhappy with its state after it hit an advertising hoarding.

        Also on the two openers:

        The off-spinner Dane Piedt had Alastair Cook lbw to a pretty unthreatening straight ball and struck again when Alex Hales foolhardily lofted him to long on. If it was daft, it was a pity for Hales because he had shown what he can bring. His first boundary as a Test batsman was a six.

        Where missing a straight one is less serious than smacking a ball down long off’s throat.


      • thelegglance December 28, 2015 / 9:30 pm

        On Cook, it is mildly surprising that he got out like that to the spinner, he’s unquestionably a quality player of spin. But it happens. The bit about Hales getting out in a “foolhardy” way was no different to how it was discussed on the radio as I drove back home. Once again, the outcome was what was criticised rather than anything else – in other words, had it cleared the fielder they’d have said “great shot”. You simply cannot do that, it’s grossly hypocritical.

        As for the ball change, the umpires followed the normal procedure for changing a cricket ball that has been damaged or gone out of shape – they did not follow the procedure for when they suspect ball tampering.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mark December 28, 2015 / 9:47 pm

        God it’s vomit inducing the way he has to protect his hero. It’s pathetic.

        Who gives a f*** if he scored a century in Durban last time? It’s irrelevent to this match. Cook has not contributed much to Englamds recent victories. His best scores against Australia were in the defeats.

        The lengths he goes to defend one player when he fails is unprecedented.

        Liked by 2 people

      • SimonH December 28, 2015 / 11:06 pm

        Still avoiding Selvey but a stroll through the comments reveals such pearls as:

        1) England are going to win the series “comfortably”.
        2) England are going to win not just this series but the next two as well.
        3) SA are going to go the way of the WI.
        4) England are the only team in world cricket in the moment “on the ascendancy”.
        5) Steyn owes his success to Morkel who’s the better cricketer.


      • Arron Wright December 28, 2015 / 11:19 pm

        Can I just confirm that SimonH has not made any of those five comments up. I saw them all earlier.

        I don’t think (obvious eccentric-cum-troll) EnglishDollop is responsible for any of them either. He’s not clever or satirical enough. Such is the way of England fans on the Guardian BTL these days. Our old friend Clive also copped some ad hom nastiness from a completely unfamiliar poster yesterday. I particularly liked the line: “I can’t believe the people on the county blog put up with your bullshit.”

        Liked by 1 person

    • Escort December 28, 2015 / 10:16 pm

      Does anybody know if what Newman claims is true? He stated that changing the ball like that was effectively an official warning for tampering.
      There could be trouble ahead if he is correct I guess


      • thelegglance December 29, 2015 / 10:03 am

        When asked, the officials said that the ball was hit into the stands, landed on a step and the impact took a chunk out of the ball, necessitating a change. Still, much better to write an article accusing South Africa of cheating eh?


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