South Africa vs England: 3rd Test day two

In the world of Formula One racing it’s been said that in order to make the sport exciting, just add water.  And so it is with cricket, though adding water isn’t a great idea.  Instead, add a pitch that has some pace and bounce to it, where bowlers feel they are in with a chance, and good batsmen can play shots and score centuries if they play well.  Quite simply, it makes for better, more exciting cricket.  The trouble is, a surface like this tends to be exception rather than the norm, with a tendency towards slow, turgid pitches that can be nigh on guaranteed to last into a fifth day and thus make more money for grounds and boards.

It’s a quite astoundingly short sighted view, for endless slow pitches just make for boring cricket, as fast bowlers end up on their knees from the exertion of trying to extract something, while batsmen find playing shots difficult and merely accumulate.  The result is slow scoring, few wickets and a crowd who have either drifted off to sleep or haven’t bothered to turn up in the first place.

Of course, cricket needs to be played in all conditions, and home advantage should be just that.  And the domestic cricket played on the pitches the domestic structure creates informs the strengths of the home side.  Yet when Test cricket is in dire need of support from its boards – and the suspicion is they couldn’t care less about Test cricket because it doesn’t make them money – the refusal to comprehend what is right in front of them is part of the damage being done.  Of course, the disparity in incomes, both for players not from the Big Three countries, and their respective boards is the biggest factor in the current swathe of articles about the danger the game is in, but it’s not just that – or rather there’s a corollary point that’s related to it.

It all comes back to money and to power.  The crisis in Test cricket due to the land-grab by India, England and Australia has finally got the attention of at least some of the newspapers.  These are the papers who generally ignored the whole matter with the odd honourable exception who pointed out what the likely impact was.  Those terrible bloggers added their voices to the writers retaining their integrity and lambasted the others for their ignorance or lack of interest (or both in at least one case).  Perhaps we should be grateful they’ve noticed at all, certainly the British newspapers managed to pretend Death of a Gentleman didn’t exist.  And given the wider issue and the importance of it to a game we love, it is better late than never.  Just.  But if they have noticed the trouble Tests are in, they still haven’t joined up all the dots.  Chairman’s Pitches are part of the same equation; the players certainly don’t love them, on the few occasions they can be persuaded to venture a real opinion (the deliciously outspoken Moeen Ali apart ) the one thing they will loudly criticise are pitches that have nothing in them.

The ball is also part of that.  It really doesn’t matter whether the ball is a Duke, a Kookaburra or an SG, it just needs to last long enough to keep the bowlers in the game and not become a rag after 15 overs.  The pitch and the ball are clearly critical, and get those right and we at least have a sport that is worth watching.

The best, most exciting Test matches tend to be the ones that don’t go the distance.  In fact in some instances they are done and dusted in three days or even less, which is a disaster if that’s due to one-sidedness, thrilling if it’s a proper fight.  Nor is it about rapid scoring or wicket-taking per se, for a slow but tense passage of play can be the most exciting of all.  Test cricket might be considered the purist’s version of the sport, but the attractiveness of T20 stems partly from the fact there is plenty of action.  In Tests, cricket with uncertainty, whether with bat or ball, is very watchable cricket.  And very sellable cricket.  And very broadcastable cricket.  It’s not bloody complicated.

And so the groundsman at the Wanderers deserves immense credit; it’s not an exact science, and wickets can sometimes perform in a manner that leaves the ground staff tearing out their hair.  That’s a given, it can happen.  But the intent has to be there, as it is in Johannesburg and as it all too often isn’t in England.  And this is still trying to make use of home advantage, for a bouncy, pacy track is one where South Africa unquestionably fancy their chances of a win.  Not a thing wrong with that either, no matter how much certain hypocritical Australians might bleat about it.

And so this game has see-sawed, from South Africa throwing away a decent position on day one only to roar back with late runs, positively made, and then to leave England in trouble before Stokes and especially Root dragged England back into a position of parity.  We’re at the end of day two and we don’t know where this Test is going, except to say there will probably be a result.  This is perfect, this is Test cricket as it should be, where a cricket lover can’t take his or her eyes off the screen because something is going to happen.  You don’t know what, and you don’t know who – but something is.

The South African total of 313 is in that sweet spot where there is uncertainty as to whether it is a good one or not.  It’s one the home team will probably be fairly satisfied with, and has the notable record of being the highest Test total where no one has made a half century.  And when England were 22-2 and 91-4 they would have been ecstatic with it, and confident of a first innings lead of some size.  That this is now in question – and England really should reach parity at the least – is largely to do with one partnership that bounced along at seven an over.  Stokes of course was Stokes, a player who is lethally dangerous with the bat, and able to take a match away from the opposition in a session.  But Joe Root was the central figure, making his ninth Test century in a career that is rapidly flowering to be very special indeed.

Root has looked in form all series, making good contributions before getting out when set, to his clear frustration.  He’s now far enough into his career that we can start making proper judgements about him.  He’s had the poor run of form and come out the other side grinning – as he does a lot.  We may have someone truly special on our hands.  If he stays in any length of time on day three, South Africa are in trouble.  It’s quite striking how he seems to get to 30 without anyone noticing; he scores his runs at a fair lick without ever seeming to really attack; it’s his ability to find gaps for singles and twos that marks him out, for he doesn’t have an obviously rock solid technique defensively.  He can be caught on the crease, he can be lured into playing away from his body, and early on the slip cordon will be licking their lips.  But when he gets in, and when he gets going, he’s a joy to watch.

Alastair Cook was again caught down the legside cheaply.  It’s clearly an opposition tactic and a technical problem for him, where he is too far over to the offside and playing the ball outside the line of his body.  He has had a poor series with the bat to date.  Let’s be clear about this, batsmen can have poor series, they can be slightly out of sync with their movements and they can struggle somewhat.  You take the rough with the smooth and accept it happens.  With Cook it is what it always is, less about him having peaks and troughs, and more about his cheerleaders in the press refusing to ever acknowledge the chosen one has been anything other than magnificent.  Instead they will openly criticise other players who have done better across the series.  Some sympathy for Cook in this area is due, for this sacred cow approach is doing him a major disservice.  Acknowledging that a good player is having a rotten series doesn’t mean he’s not a good player.  It means he’s having a rotten series.  Try being honest and straightforward – it might be liberating.

A case in point resides with Compton, a player for whom there appears to be a queue formed in order to criticise him.  He made a slow start to his innings, and of course it suddenly because a topic for the usual suspects to mention it.  What is this?  Is playing yourself in suddenly unusual?  Isn’t this Test cricket, not a T20?  He got in, he got going, he scored runs – and then he got out.  He won’t be happy with the shot that led to his dismissal sure, but then the number of times a batsman is truly got out rather than bringing about his own downfall is rather few.  He’s done a mostly good job this series, and isn’t deserving of the scrutiny he’s receiving.

The hosts’ pace attack impressed too.  The absence of Steyn is giving the chance to some new, younger players.  Rabada looks a bowler of immense talent, and is a pleasure to watch, while Viljoen showed pace and hostility throughout, hurrying the England batsmen repeatedly.

Tomorrow is moving day.  It’s going to be fascinating.  Test cricket – it really can be good.

Day Three discussions below.



62 thoughts on “South Africa vs England: 3rd Test day two

  1. jasspass Jan 15, 2016 / 7:44 pm

    Great article,but I got a few complaints about the articles in this blog sir,the articles here are too nice n soft and lacking a bit of controversy which I am looking in every article on earth. Another suggestion is that I want articles on every cricket matches that happened on a particular day,not only pommie cricket but also all other nations should be covered


  2. Narelle Jan 15, 2016 / 8:57 pm

    There is an article in Cricinfo on England’s discards, now playing Big Bash, and why they should be considered for the T20 World Cup.
    It amazes me that English selectors should choose to ignore Lumb, Wright and Peiterson when they have been performing here for a few years. Even Carberry had a good game for scorchers but he too has been discarded.

    Nor can I understand why Kevin is so despised. He interacts with everyone on the field and supports his team mates with encouragement and his understanding of the game has come through in commentary, I’d much prefer to listen to Kevin that that boring Strauss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus Jan 15, 2016 / 9:36 pm

      Why England fans despise him? Well he was rude to some, others hated his flashness, and then you’ll have to ask the rest because I’ve not heard a decent bloody reason out of them.

      On the T20, the argument will be, and it’s persuasive, that the England T20 top 7 of Hales, Roy, Vince/Taylor, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler batting line-up doesn’t have any vacancies. I’d say there was a slot at 3, but others might not. That doesn’t include Billings, Bairstow and others….Moeen Ali as well.

      They won’t pick him, so it’s moot.

      As for Wright and Lumb, I don’t think there’s an opener slot. They are big on Roy at this stage, and he’s a gun fielder compared to those two (and that has to be factored in for KP as well).


    • Zephirine Jan 16, 2016 / 1:04 pm

      “Nor can I understand why Kevin is so despised.”

      1) The snobs didn’t like him because he’s South African and had a diamond earring and tattoos
      2) The England management didn’t like him because he didn’t want them to control every aspect of how he earned his living
      3) The commentators and journalists didn’t like him because he had a forward-looking and international outlook on the game and kept proving them wrong.

      Between them, these three groups persuaded a lot of other people that the thing to do with Kevin Pietersen was despise him. The fact that he can sometimes be an annoying person gave them some more ammunition.

      Result: our loss.


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 15, 2016 / 9:32 pm

      I’m a bit of a cop out on this one, escort.

      On the one hand, he’s served his time, he should be considered for the position as it is his right to do so, but the decision had to be for his cricketing authority to take.

      On the other, I can see the view of those who think he’s fatally tainted the sport and deserves no sympathy, and certainly no selection.

      I vaguely lean to the first one, but don’t have any problem with those who feel the second.

      The thing is, I don’t think Amir or Butt should be anywhere near the sport, and I think it’s due to Amir being 18 at the time. It’s not a firm, legal principle as it were, but more a woolly liberal ole compromise!

      And you?


      • escort Jan 15, 2016 / 10:27 pm

        I don’t think he should play. He crossed a line (no pun intended) and it’s a pretty big line for me.


  3. SimonH Jan 15, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    “Thirty-eight of the 44 players involved in the semi-finals of the World Cup had IPL experience. We should seek further opportunities to get our guys in there.” (Strauss last November).

    Today – no you can’t go because we’re playing 17 (17!) Tests in 2016 and need you:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rohan Jan 15, 2016 / 9:58 pm

    Glad to see you raising the Cook issue and also bringing up the unnecessary ‘bashing’ of Compton, TLG. I was glad to hear Boycott praising Compton on TMS earlier today and talking a great deal of sense about how Compton had played exactly the innings England needed in the first test. Boycott stated that Compton would have been his MOTM!

    Why do our press like to ‘pick on’ certain players? They really fixate on things, such as Rashid’s bowling speed and Compton’s scoring rate. Why can’t they focus on what these guys can do, rather than what they can’t do, or at least be a bit more balanced. Give us both bad and good……

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Jan 16, 2016 / 12:31 am

      There’s a strong case to be made for Compton being MoM in the first one. I’m fairly sure I said so at the time, though I really can’t be arsed to check. Boycott is fine, you may not agree, but it’s always an honest opinion what more can you ask for? No one is right all the time. And an honest view is in short supply in these troubled times.

      Liked by 2 people

    • paulewart Jan 16, 2016 / 8:19 am

      Because they are briefed to do so by interested parties and are (Boycott excepted) unable to think for themselves.


  5. man in a barrel Jan 15, 2016 / 11:21 pm

    Isn’t it about time someone gave “Jimmy” a massive fine for his gamesmanship and dissent to umpires? He was warned twice before the final warning, a fact admitted by the English politburo, and was mouthing off at Aleem Dar. If I were the match referee, I would suspend him for 5 matches,and forbid the ECB to pay him for those matches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance Jan 16, 2016 / 12:34 am

      As pointed out elsewhere, the line in the Cricinfo report that someone in the dressing room said that they were tired of the grumpy old man shtick is fascinating.

      A truth of getting older is that you become shocked that the young don’t appreciate the meme you’ve tried to create. They never do. I actually genuinely and truly have sympathy for Anderson if this is true. Realising you are away from the new core is unsettling. Distressing. And inevitable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Zephirine Jan 16, 2016 / 1:15 pm

        I don’t think Root will stand for Anderson’s so-called grumpiness. I’ve seen him have a dig at him during a post-match, all very light-hearted and jokey but the point was being made and Anderson looked a bit taken aback.

        Mind you, if I were in the dressing-room I might not be so keen on Root fooling around doing Bob Willis impressions either, so it cuts both ways, but at least Root is good-humoured on the field and treats the umpires with respect.


  6. Benny Jan 15, 2016 / 11:34 pm

    “A sport that is worth watching” You’ve hit the nail on the head


  7. thelegglance Jan 16, 2016 / 12:50 am

    Here’s a funny thing. I know absolutely the difference between they’re, their and there. And yet I find I wrote their when I meant there. I’m aghast. It’s embarrassing. And yet I know why it happened, because I edited a line that was going to say something else, and then didn’t spot the error as I read it in my head.

    And this means what? Well don’t berate the hack when you see this kind of thing. He or she knows the difference, they’ve done some editing and not spotted the change.

    I am appalled. I will go and hang from the neck until I am dead. Or until I remember to re-read in future. On balance that’s my preference.


    • Narelle Jan 16, 2016 / 6:05 am

      Please don’t do that. Your words with a spelling or homonym error is worth twice that of most/some of the “journalists” that type to their own agenda. Same applies for the Lord too.

      You both make too much sense….lol


  8. SimonH Jan 16, 2016 / 9:09 am

    Two wickets in the first half hour. Match still very much in the balance.

    Reports say the ground is sold out for today. (Crowd for day one was just under 9000 – not seen a figure for day two). “Nobody wants to watch Test cricket except England and Australia”….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 9:13 am

      People will want to watch competitive test cricket. Which won’t be around for too much longer if things continue the way they are

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 10:46 am

        I was there for Days 2 and 3 in 2005. Day 2 was a Friday, it was miserable and damp, and we didn’t see a lot of play. The ground was half empty. Went on the Saturday and it was as full as it is today. How odd. I wonder why. Why would the ground be well attended on Saturday and not so much on Thursday and Friday?


  9. SimonH Jan 16, 2016 / 10:06 am

    Five-for for Rabada. Worth remembering he’s only 20. England Test players before they were 21:


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 12:27 pm

      Broad took this test match by the throat, grabbed it hard, and has done all in his power to win it.

      It’s going to take a Headingley Day 4 of epic proportions to fuck this up.


      • Arron Wright Jan 16, 2016 / 12:33 pm

        Looking forward to being cast out and burned at the stake for finding all this more ominously depressing than wildly thrilling.

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 12:42 pm

          It’s not turning over Smith, Peterson, Amla, Kallis, Prince, DeVilliers is it?

          Sri Lanka have lost their gun players, and there’s a long road to find anyone to replace them

          South Africa will, if the rumours are true, have Amla and a falling-apart Steyn remaining. Morkel proved he’s a great number 2 bowler, not a leader.

          Pakistan will be losing Hafeez, Younis and Misbah soon. Azhar and Shafiq look promising, but where next?

          West Indies have never replaced, or got anyone in the same solar system as Lara (except Mr Loverman when he can be arsed, and Shiv’s now gone)

          New Zealand have Kane, but do you really fear any of the others?

          England could well be number one with a batting line-up as frail as it is because they have a top, top pace attack.


      • SimonH Jan 16, 2016 / 12:50 pm

        “a falling-apart Steyn remaining”.

        What I’ve heard and read doesn’t seem at all encouraging there – he’s had the injury for nearly a year and they still don’t have a diagnosis of what’s causing it. That’s not a good combination for a 32 year old fast bowler.

        Liked by 1 person

      • rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 1:23 pm

        Agree with Arron. It’s sad to see SA in decline like this after being a top side for a few years now. Can only see other sides going this way in the next few years. Sri Lanka have lost Sanga and Mahela not to mention Murali over the last few years and what is left doesn’t look too flash. Pakistan are going to find the same problem once time catches up with Younus and Misbah with no real depth to their batting. NZ do have bowlers to compete and Kane is the best batsman, imo, in world cricket but they will inevitably struggle long term. WI are a shambles and haven’t got much time left as a test team. Bangladesh are improving but a long way off a proper test side. So it looks as though it will be England, Australia and India battling it out….who could have foreseen that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Arron Wright Jan 16, 2016 / 4:28 pm


        I’m glad someone can work out why I put the word “ominously” in there. Thanks.


        • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 4:36 pm

          Sadly, the bigger picture doesn’t matter. The ominous decline of world powers isn’t good for the future, but hey, rejoice.

          England, when they put it together, can be formidable. They can be an irresistible team to watch. But too much has happened for unalloyed joy. The signs are really not good.


      • paulewart Jan 16, 2016 / 5:15 pm

        Me too. The goons at The Guardian are already suggesting that this attack is better than that of 2005 and making absurd claims for the new team. I worry that I may not be able to fall in love with England Cricket Team again. On the plus side, Bayliss and Farbrace seem like good eggs and Root and Stokes are great, positive young cricketers even if the latter is clearly a bit of a bell.


  10. Ian Jan 16, 2016 / 12:33 pm

    Incredible catching by James Taylor. Was certain that was going for four


  11. Sherwick Jan 16, 2016 / 1:37 pm

    Broad does it again! This is becoming a bit of a habit!


  12. Ian Jan 16, 2016 / 1:43 pm

    Anderson looking a dick with his send off of Viljoen.


    • Escort Jan 16, 2016 / 2:16 pm

      I didn’t look good did it. A huge overreaction considering it was the opposition no 10.


  13. AB Jan 16, 2016 / 2:27 pm

    Sky sports commentators are repeating the usual nonsense about a right arm over the wicket bowler “angling the ball across the left hand batsman”.

    Its just complete gibberish. I would really expect better of ex-international players.


  14. LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 2:37 pm

    You know that look. The one the South African players have at the moment.

    We saw it two years ago.


    • rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      Problem is for South Africa is it doesn’t look they have the FC players to make wholesale changes to the side. Injuries to Steyn and Philander have caused issues to bowling but batting wise this is about the best they can put out. If De Villiers retires at the end of the series then they really will be struggling.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 2:54 pm

        I refuse to believe they don’t have a better opening batsman than Van Zyl. The Saffers I follow on Twitter are banging on about Jimmy Cook’s son not getting a chance. Age is against him, but beggars can’t be choosers.


      • Alec Jan 16, 2016 / 3:37 pm

        He’s 33. That makes him 2 years younger than Chris Rogers when a desperate Australia turned to him. He could fill the void until 2019 or so.


      • Tregaskis Jan 16, 2016 / 5:23 pm

        LCL, I’ve raised the candidacy of Stephen Cook over the last several weeks. His recent first-class record is pretty impressive, and, of course, he is the son of an absolute legend. While age may be a factor, I get the impression that there are some politics involved. Does anyone have better knowledge on this?


  15. rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 3:00 pm

    I remember Van Zyl scoring a ton I think at 6 against WI last year and then has been brought into opening. I am not sure whether he opens for his FC team but he doesn’t look like an opener. You can see why a return for smith was mooted with the options available.


  16. AB Jan 16, 2016 / 3:23 pm

    Did Compton just get talked out?

    Liked by 2 people

    • SimonH Jan 16, 2016 / 3:57 pm

      Who are going to ‘the five men who made the difference’?

      Him, obviously. Anyone else do anything?


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 4:16 pm

        Scyld’s been in the spam folder…

        “We suppose that probably for this reason KB’s knowledge of upright orientation was found to be more robust against neuronal damage than knowledge of other orientations ”

        Or maybe that’s FICJAM.


    • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 4:14 pm

      Love it that the pic is in soft focus. How very apt….

      “Something’s gotten hold of my heart…..!”


    • Escort Jan 16, 2016 / 4:32 pm

      And what exactly does he think the “great man” has contributed to this series so far? I guess he can take some of the credit for the terrible over rate but he hasn’t done much with the bat has he?


  17. Sherwick Jan 16, 2016 / 4:04 pm

    No red inker for Cook, which of course he’s not remotely worried about…


  18. Escort Jan 16, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    Good result for England. I think I have to agree with what was said on commentary that these teams are going in opposite directions.


  19. rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 4:24 pm

    England, man for man, have probably the best side in world cricket and one that can play in all conditions. This should be no surprise for the country that spends most money on its national side though


    • Ian Jan 16, 2016 / 4:28 pm

      Good in many positions but not man for man. Not sure I would fancy England in an away Ashes if that was played now.


      • rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 4:35 pm

        That’s fair. Oz in home conditions always the biggest challenge for me but they do have most bases covered at the moment.


      • LordCanisLupus Jan 16, 2016 / 4:39 pm

        They (England) are going to be playing a five test series in India this year (reportedly – we’ll probably have that confirmed in November!). I have a feeling India will put on the same pitches they did for South Africa. That will test our mettle.

        England have played well. No doubt. Done what they needed and done it well. Inspirationally at times. This is for their true fans.


      • Escort Jan 16, 2016 / 4:39 pm

        I think they will still struggle against Pakistan away as well

        Liked by 1 person

  20. greyblazer Jan 16, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    England would lose an Australian ashes played now.
    Does this win however mean they may have more confidence on bouncy wickets? This has been an Achilles heel and they will be faced with them down under.


  21. Zephirine Jan 16, 2016 / 4:39 pm

    That was fun. I love it when Stuey B goes off on one.

    Cook says he doesn’t try to manage Stokes, just lets him play his natural game. Gower says Stokes’s recent success is down to Farbrace who made him feel loved and enabled him to be confident that he could take risks and not be blamed if he failed. The irony of such comments will not be lost on our readers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • rpoultz Jan 16, 2016 / 4:42 pm

      Hahahahahaha. That is gold. There has been a few of these comments recently from the Sky comms without realising the irony.

      Liked by 1 person

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