South Africa vs England: 2nd Test day three

If there’s one thing the cricket media never seem to learn, it’s that writing off a team after one Test is always dangerous.  South Africa today fought back splendidly and for the first time this series were the unequivocal winners of a day’s play.  More than that, they showed why such dismissal was misguided in the first place, as the two big guns of the home team’s batting line up both made runs, which augurs well for the remainder of their series.

With only 212 runs scored in the day, it was clearly far more sedate than yesterday, indeed the day total barely exceeded what England scored in the morning session yesterday but that is hardly surprising given a match situation where South Africa can only play for the draw.  And they did so with grit, determination and no little skill, losing only De Villiers over the course of the day, and leaving themselves in a position where they really ought to save the match.

England had their chances, two further catches going down to add to the one last night, and had those been taken then the situation could have been very different.  The pitch is flat, to the point the groundsman has expressed his dissatisfaction with it.  It shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone, for while Stokes’ innings was certainly special, teams don’t score over 600 on a surface that is offering assistance to the bowlers.  That can happen first innings, what is more of an issue for this Test is that there are no signs of deterioration, meaning it was and is only scoreboard pressure that creates the peril, and it is to that South Africa have stood up well.

Could England have done much more?  Well, apart from holding their catches, they perhaps could have attacked more than they did, especially early on.  There were a couple of occasions where an outside edge flew through a vacant gap, but it couldn’t be said they got it entirely wrong without nit-picking a touch.

South Africa aren’t out of the woods yet, for England have controlled the run rate to an extent that a bad session in the morning could yet leave the hosts in difficulties, but all things being equal, this appears most likely a bore draw with exceptional levels of ennui for the last two days.

If that is the case, then although England are a long way ahead here, South Africa will be by far the happier.  The return to form of Hashim Amla shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, he is what he has been for a decade, a quality batsman who happened to be having a poor run. Having come out the other side of his rough spell, he is a serious danger to England for the last two Tests.

Likewise Faf du Plessis, a player almost born to play the rearguard knock, will benefit hugely from time in the middle, and all of a sudden the South African batting order doesn’t appear remotely as fragile as portrayed after Durban.  For England certainly didn’t bowl badly, they maintained their discipline throughout – Alex Hales’ startling appearance as a bowler was matched onky by the shock of seeing him only go for two runs in his three overs; presumably abject terror on the part of the batsmen at the idea of getting out to him played a role there.  The dropped catches cost them dear, but it would have been hard labour anyway.

In such circumstances, the pattern is that when the team batting second reaches the point they have saved the game, the pressure then transfers to the other side, for they are then the only ones who can lose – the third innings problem.  But given the slow scoring rate, it is unlikely that South Africa would reach parity before the end of tomorrow, should they bat that long.  The prospects of them being able to put England under much pressure appear slim, meaning that by mid way through tomorrow, the sides could well be going through the motions.

There were some interesting asides during the day; De Villiers rarely looked comfortable against Steven Finn for example.  The placid pitch meant it could never quite be said Finn roughed him up, but he was undoubtedly less certain in his play than he was against anyone else.  On the high veldt this may become more of an issue, though with the proviso that England may well have to face Steyn and possibly Philander in those conditions too.

Lest that sound overly pessimistic, it shouldn’t, for England could and perhaps should be in an even better position than they are, but dropped catches are a fact of cricketing life, and the old aphorism has it right.  But if South Africa do get away with a draw as seems most likely, then the sides will go into the third Test much more evenly matched than some anticipated.

For the third day running the sides were short of their supposedly compulsory 90 overs.  Day one saw 87 overs bowled, day two was 82 – but 84 in reality given the change of innings – and day three was again 87.  Thus far in the match 12 overs have been lost due to nothing other than the sides failing to bowl their overs quick enough.  Given there has also been an extra 90 minutes to allow them to catch up, and however boring it is to keep repeating the point, this is entirely unacceptable and treating the paying spectator with contempt.  To date there has been no sign of the match referee taking any kind of action.  90 overs in a day has become nothing more than aspiration rather than a requirement.

Day Four comments can be made below


54 thoughts on “South Africa vs England: 2nd Test day three

  1. Mark Jan 4, 2016 / 5:49 pm

    Haven’t seen any of the cricket today,but is sounds a bit bland after yesterday. However you wouldn’t expect anything else when one team is fighting a rear guard effort. We have condemned the one sided nature of test match cricket lately where whoever wins day one wins the match so it’s good to see a bit of fight from a team who lost the first 2 days.

    Quite why England can’t bowl 90 overs in 6 and half hours when SA hardly ever hit it off the square is ridiculous. But the pitch being what it is would the extra overs have made the difference? I don’t think so. So the ICC will continue to believe that over rates don’t matter.

    Perhaps those people who want to see test cricket become 4 day cricket could explain how that will work on pitches like this? I guess they will claim that England would not have batted so long in the first innings. And if it ends in a boring draw best to get it over and done with after just four days instead of 5 days. I don’t think they realize what a huge change it will make to the game.

    For England to have any hope on a pitch like this you have to take your chances, however tough they are. That is what the great teams do. Englands drop yesterday was probably the big chance gone. SA need to just bat to tea tomorrow and it’s job done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Jan 4, 2016 / 7:08 pm

      No, the extra overs wouldn’t have made any difference, but my objection is that the spectators have paid for 90 overs and they aren’t getting it. The players don’t care, and nor do the authorities*

      *If the Test ends and Amla and Cook are both banned I’ll revise that view.


      • pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 4, 2016 / 7:15 pm

        That the match referees do nothing about it is the worst part of this. Both of those should be subject to a ban. It will speed things up straight away. It is even worse when England have bowled a substantial number of spin/slow bowling today.


      • d'Arthez Jan 4, 2016 / 7:34 pm

        To get an outright overrate ban, the overrate would have to plummet to about 12 with no extenuating circumstances (like a plethora of wickets, streakers on the field, no balls lost beyond the boundaries, etc.).

        Quite unlikely you have to revise that view.


      • escort Jan 4, 2016 / 7:49 pm

        Its always the same with over rates, lots of overs lost by all teams and nothing much done about it. It would be good to see an example being set but you just know that the respective boards will bring in the legal eagles and the spineless ICC will always back down.
        I have the feeling that because this has been going on for too long that it will never stop because no country will make a stand when they all fear that they have something to lose when gamesmanship is all they can resort too when trying to avoid defeat.
        Call it gamesmanship or human nature or cheating the fans, it’s unfortunately a fact of life for the game and it has been for a long time and is practiced by every team.


      • greyblazer Jan 4, 2016 / 8:03 pm

        Please keep highlighting the pathetic over rates. Its annoyed me for years and something really needs to be done.
        The way the extra half hour is used everyday almost as mandatory started it off. Fans pay a lot of money and invest a lot of time in going to tests and they are then almost always extended, and now in recent times they aren’t even getting the full 90 whilst using it.
        Occasionally days like yesterday happen and I don’t suppose anyone was in the slightest bit bothered (also SA spent so longing chasing the ball and setting fields) that 6 were lost, but this is an exception.

        I know its a pipe dream, but the only answer is hitting teams where it hurts. By fining them – runs.


      • Mark Jan 4, 2016 / 8:12 pm

        Leg glance I’m with you on the over rate issue 100%. The fans are being cheated. I just did not want to imply that it would have given England a much better chance of winning this game. But it is ludicrous that the ICC does nothing about it. One day the clowns who get paid to write about cricket in the media might pull their heads out of their freeloading arses and start making a campaign about it. Seeing as they like to claim they represent the REAL fan. Ho ho ho.

        Fines have been useless because the richest countries pay the cash. My solution is to hit the players in another area. Take their break times away. So at lunch time you see how many overs short of 30 they have bowled. Let’s say its 27 overs bowled. So 3 overs have been lost. So you deduct 5 mins per over = 15 minutes for Lunch time. They start the afternoon session at 1.25pm that gives them 2 hours 15 minutes to make up the missing overs.

        Let’s say they bowl 31 in the longer afternoon session. So they are still 2 short at 58 overs at tea. You deduct 10 minutes form the tea interval. They now have 2 hours and 10 minutes to bowl the remaining 32 overs. Plus the extra half hour. They players have 1 hour of rest time in the day’s play. 40 minutes at lunch and 20 minutes at tea. Take the time away from their breaks.

        It’s not a perfect solution, and no doubt there are problems, but I Ithink players will be very keen not to lose their rest breaks.


      • thelegglance Jan 4, 2016 / 8:20 pm

        Problem with that is that it encourages the batsmen to dawdle I suppose. It’s in their interests to shorten the bowlers’ breaks. I’m still of the view that a hefty run penalty given to the opposition would discourage it, a 10 run penalty per unbowled over would concentrate minds and make sure they didn’t go over. Perhaps. Anyway, in truth the current penalties should do it if it was enforced, the suspended sentence is usually a year, the problem is that it hardly ever is.


      • Mark Jan 4, 2016 / 8:44 pm

        The same argument you make against my solution can be made against your one. The batsman can slow it down so as to get runs reduced from the fielding team or added to their team.

        Also,is an extra couple of say 4 run penalties per over going to make much difference in most test matches?

        The trouble with fines is they have to be the same for all teams. But the likes of India and England can stand a much higher level of fine if they want to. The umpires should have the freedom to remove the 3 drinks intervals if they think the run rate is too slow. That’s another 15 minutes of extra time they could introduce.


      • thelegglance Jan 4, 2016 / 8:50 pm

        It would if done by session. I don’t think you can do that, it has to be over the day, however it’s done.


      • Rohan Jan 4, 2016 / 10:40 pm

        Am I being overly simplistic here, but just make them play till 90 overs are bowled each day. If that means they finish late some nights then so be it. The only problem I can see with that, is sometimes the spectator might be 30 minutes to an hour later leaving the ground, at the end of the day.

        I think banning the captains and actually doing it, would be highly effective. Did they not used to do this? Sure Ponting was banned once and then in subsequent matches used spinners to keep up with the over rate, when seamers would have been better suited to conditions!


      • thelegglance Jan 4, 2016 / 10:52 pm

        The thing stopping that is that the TV companies don’t like play running late as it messes up their schedules. In the old days play would carry on until the overs were bowled. The half hour additional limit was brought in to ensure play finished at a set time.

        That’s why they walk off with overs unbowled when light is still fine. And why not getting them in is a problem now.


  2. Rooto Jan 4, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    I had to follow the cricket on ball-by-ball text coverage today. It seems that the play was reflecting the ‘first day back at work/school’ nature of the day (in the northern hemisphere at least).
    This means I didn’t get to see any of Alex Hales’ slow-medium filth, which cricinfo memorably described as akin to ‘a seagull turd dropping onto the pitch’. Any gifs about?


  3. LordCanisLupus Jan 4, 2016 / 8:48 pm

    Once again, thanks a lot to TLG for the excellent summary of the day.

    I don’t feel as zealous about the over rates as some. My main beef is that with five or six overs left for play and perfect light they walk off the field. Like my antagonism at one hour Verdicts on days like yesterday, the TV companies factor in that added half hour and still have time for plenty of old bunny afterwards. Make them play (you factor in an extra hour if it rains….)

    I grew up with the 1980s West Indies teams. They didn’t get a shift on, as we all know.

    Meanwhile reading my three favourite journos, the shock that South Africa didn’t lay down and die as they told us they would is palpable. Some of it is downright insulting – e.g. calling DuPlessis on of their “litany of out of form blockers”. Don’t remember that journo applying the same moniker to our Iron Rod. I’m actually pleased for Faf. He’s remarkably under-rated by many – you don’t make a ton on debut like his one by being crap.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      Bunkers really is a man of letters.

      Unfortunately, those letters spell O-A-F.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LordCanisLupus Jan 4, 2016 / 9:00 pm
  5. metatone Jan 4, 2016 / 11:25 pm

    I’m sort of sad that my call early on the day was right, this looks more and more like a draw pitch. It’s a sign of improvement from England that they got the big total that a pitch like this requires, but if Steyn is fit for the next Test I suspect they’ll find it more of a challenge. (All the more so if Philander recovers too.)

    I didn’t get to watch any of the play – did any of our bowlers really make the batsmen uncomfortable at all?


    • SimonH Jan 4, 2016 / 11:39 pm

      Finn was the best seamer by a long way – ABDV in particular never looked settled against him. Nobody bowler really badly but there was just no movement off the seam and precious little swing or spin.


    • amit Jan 5, 2016 / 6:38 am

      I really think the true progress for England would’ve been judged if both Steyn and Philander were playing and Morkel would be free to be the “enforcer” in short bursts. I think SA miss Philander a lot more for his accuracy and for the ability to make it move and trouble batsmen like Mcgrath used to. If they are both available for the third test and this one ends in a draw (as it seems), I think the next game will be a lot more competitive, given that the 3 key SA batsmen would’ve had some runs under their belt and some confidence would be back. They’ve lacked that spine in the last few games.

      It may seem unfair to call on one game, but Morris hasn’t yet looked test material and while Rabada looks like a real deal, he’s too young to be leading this transformation.
      For England, I just hope this is not a false dawn on the basis of a flattish pitch and poor bowling.
      I wonder if these same players would’ve gotten similar scores in India on pitches with turn or if the conditions were more suitable for swing.


  6. d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 11:15 am

    Can’t say I am unhappy with the likely result, but I am unhappy with the pitch. There seems to be too little in it.

    That being said, plenty of chances were dropped both by England and South Africa. I imagine that bowling 160 overs on the trot will not improve bowling performances either.


  7. ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 11:31 am

    What’s currently going on, is that Anderson was shooting his mouth off earlier, which prompted Aleem Dar to tell him to keep quiet, so now the whole England team (led by Cook at slip) are obnoxiously mock clapping, miming and waving their arms about in order to remain silent. God knows what point they’re trying to make. ‘We’re a bunch of twats’ is how it comes across.

    Liked by 3 people

    • paulewart Jan 5, 2016 / 11:40 am

      Dear oh dear. Looks like they haven’t really moved on from the Flower regime, after all. Team should be fined.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 11:38 am

    Amla and Du Plessis gone in consecutive overs and the game suddenly has a pulse.


    • d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 11:46 am

      Let’s see what the inexperienced lower order does.

      Mind you, only 5 (!) players in this playing eleven have played more than 10 Tests. AB and Amla account for 57% of all the caps (192 out of 336) between them.


    • SimonH Jan 5, 2016 / 12:04 pm

      Third longest innings played in SA in terms of balls received from Amla (although stats aren’t available for some earlier series including the ‘Timeless Test’).

      Only Atherton in Joburg and Kirsten’s 275 were longer. He just overtook Hussain’s 146 (or 143 – TM Selvey).


      • d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 12:12 pm

        You forgot to put the 1938 trademark for Selvey too. In the real world, that Test was played in 1939.

        Always difficult to judge, but the longest innings in that match seems to have lasted 460 minutes. Overrates were better in those days, but I am not sure if they were 50% better or so, to have a reasonable chance that Edrich or Gibb faced more balls.


  9. d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 11:59 am

    de Kock gone shortly afterwards. The new ball is talking.


    • ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 12:07 pm

      Very poor shot in the circumstances.


  10. d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 12:01 pm

    Anderson seems to get into persistent trouble for running on the pitch. This is certainly not the first time in the recent past that he has had this issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 12:13 pm

    Bavuma inside edges one down to fine leg for four off Stokes and if my lip reading skills are up to scratch, Stokes just said to him “You are absolutely shit”.


    • ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Umpires just having a word with Cook about Stokes language to Bavuma.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Jan 5, 2016 / 1:04 pm


        those are some of the funniest descriptions of pouting England cricketers I have read on here. May I suggest you have a go at “stand up” with a sort of Jack Dee delivery.

        ” so now the whole England team (led by Cook at slip) are obnoxiously mock clapping, miming and waving their arms about in order to remain silent. God knows what point they’re trying to make. ‘We’re a bunch of twats’ is how it comes across.”

        I think we may already have a contender for funniest post of the year, and we haven’t got through the first week of January.

        No doubt this will all be laughed off by the media as just “banter” it always is when England do it. Trouble is, the same media work themselves into a frenzy of moral indignation when other nations do anything the same hypocrical media do not approve of.

        Liked by 3 people

      • ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 2:08 pm

        Thanks very much Mark, I’m flattered.

        They were doing it in their own perceived good humour but I thought it was pretty disrespectful to the umpires.
        It was quite childish I thought.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Zephirine Jan 5, 2016 / 3:25 pm

        Childish is a word that frequently springs to mind with England cricketers. Sometimes that’s childish in a good way, as in the instinctive uninhibited play of Stokes. Often not, though, as in sulking, swearing, pushing, dropping jelly-babies, disrespecting umpires etc.

        But of course, as we know, only one person who played for England has ever been a spoiled brat, it’s all just a bit of fun and the current captain is an ideal Englishman in every possible respect.

        Liked by 1 person

    • SimonH Jan 5, 2016 / 12:33 pm

      Not “there’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night”?


      • ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 12:36 pm

        Stokes doesn’t strike me as the literary type. I might be wrong.


      • thelegglance Jan 5, 2016 / 1:37 pm

        You’re not. He’s not quite a Herschelle Gibbs but he’s in that area.


    • MM Jan 5, 2016 / 8:51 pm

      I remember Marlon Samuels giving a rather dignified salute to Stokes and the media lost their collective sh*t.

      Still, it’s just bantz. All dealt with. Move along. Nothing to see here coz it’s Team Waitrose. Pfsssst.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 5, 2016 / 9:00 pm

        This made me chuckle….

        Jimmy Anderson was warned for running on the pitch and told to cut out the verbals by umpire Aleem Dar which briefly and bizarrely resulted in England communicating in sign language and Alastair Cook shushing his players.

        Makes Cooky sound like the peacemaker. Not what I saw….


  12. Mark Jan 5, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    In other news Australia have pulled out of the under 19 World Cup because of security issues. The ICC have asked Ireland to take their place. How nice for Ireland to be asked. (Snark)

    The ICC better get some other nations lined up because I can’t see Australia being the only one to pull out. 1 of the big 3 have acted, will the other 2 follow them?


  13. SimonH Jan 5, 2016 / 1:10 pm

    Nice fifty from Bavuma to halt the mini-collapse. SR of 96 which isn’t bad for an out-of-form blocker.


    • amit Jan 5, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      This guy Bevuma has some spunk. I generally like what I see in him so far. I haven’t checked his records so far, but it would seem that he has the ability to handle the fast bowlers. Spin may be a different challenge on slightly bouncy pitches with his height but initial views are positive. Does this mean end of the road for JP Duminy in tests?
      For the next game, I would like to see Van Zyl being replaced by Rossouw. Van Zyl hasn’t convinced in any inning so far. Now if only Steyn and Philander report fit and last the entire game…


  14. thelegglance Jan 5, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    South Africa have a chance to put England under pressure here, they are now the only side who can win. Obviously you wouldn’t have read that in the mainstream press, but plenty of people on here pointed to that possibility a day ago.


    • Mark Jan 5, 2016 / 1:54 pm

      I expect much huffing and puffing form the clown car media in their copy tonight. As you say, England will have to bat a couple of sessions under a little pressure tomorrow. Shouldn’t be a problem on this pitch, but when you have been in the field for two days funny things happen.


    • SimonH Jan 5, 2016 / 2:04 pm

      Remember Abu Dhabi?

      England were about 40 ahead with 2 wickets left at the start of day five.


    • d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 2:10 pm

      Well, Adelaide 2006 is too much to ask.


  15. d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 3:06 pm

    Is there any real need for Root to bowl as many overs as he has done? Since it is rather pointless, and there are concerns about his back, would it not make more sense to try the likes of Hales, or even Compton or Taylor?

    The last thing England need is a an injury to Root.


  16. Mark Jan 5, 2016 / 3:08 pm

    600 up for SA. They are only 20 odd behind now. I would have Cook and Hales out there hoping about tonight if I was them.


    • d'Arthez Jan 5, 2016 / 3:16 pm

      They’re probably waiting on the Bavuma ton. So England need to keep the other batsman on strike.


  17. ArushaTZ Jan 5, 2016 / 3:24 pm

    Bavuma to his century!

    A great moment for South African cricket and a beautiful innings to watch.


  18. Sherwick Jan 5, 2016 / 3:28 pm

    Well done Bairstow, for his father and grandfather, and well done Bavuma, for his country.


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