Saturdays are often the day for doing things, whether going out, doing the shopping, or spending time with family and friends. But sometimes they are days where the sporting content on offer makes some plan to spend the day in front of the telly soaking it all in. With cricket spread across the day, it left time to take in the rugby Premiership Cup Final, and the FA Cup final. If there was one thing all three had in common it was that they were undeniably exciting.
Of course this being a cricket blog, the others are peripheral, although the chances of the cricket getting too much attention in the Sunday papers probably aren’t great given events elsewhere. But a warm up for the Champions Trophy it may be, it was still a fine game in its own right.
England have consistently scored heavily when batting first over the last couple of years, one painful collapse against Australia aside, and they go about their business in a similar manner each time. The batting order is unquestionably a powerful one, even if the opening pair are probably not quite functioning perfectly as a partnership. But there’s a happy knack of someone getting in and making a decisive score – Morgan in the first match, Stokes here. Whether Stokes should have even been playing is a matter of some controversy. He said after the game that he’s fine when batting and fielding, but gets pain when bowling. It is something of a puzzle why he would be risked, and certainly why he would be asked to bowl at all. As it was he managed only three overs. With England playing up to seven bowlers including him it does seem a curious risk to take with their talisman so close to a tournament England have set their stall out to win.
That aside, Stokes was magnificent with the bat after an extraordinarily rocky start, three edges and two dropped catches in his first three balls. The batting support came all the way down, Buttler producing some extraordinary shots in the closing overs, and Moeen once more quietly scoring rapidly. He may dislike life at number seven (he was talking about Tests in fairness), but he does it well.
South Africa were fairly shambolic in the first half, the fielding was abysmal, the catching worse. Yet they showed more than enough to suggest they are capable of beating anyone, and a tournament is all about what happens on the day. These warm ups mean little in terms of the trophy itself. Rabada is a real handful, and his dismissal of Roy was something we see all too rarely these days – a batsman beaten for sheer pace.
330 is a decent score, if not impregnable these days, and it’s certainly true that the visitors had the best of the conditions. The cloud of the morning dispersed and it couldn’t have been better for batting. But South Africa still should have won. De Kock batted beautifully, De Villiers did what he does so well, and with Miller and Morris hitting cleanly and with some distance, to lose a match where only seven runs were needed off the final over, and with five wickets in hand was remarkable. Mark Wood unquestionably bowled superbly, and despite figures of 0-48 from his ten, had a reasonable claim on the man of the match award. Such is the lot of the bowlers at the end, whose figures take a pounding even when they have they have done something impressive.
And so England take the series. They got out of gaol a bit with this one. And it was a good game to boot. But then so was the FA Cup Final and so was the Premiership Cup final. At least one of those will get acres of coverage. Pity. The cricket was good today.
One last thing. Elsewhere Kumar Sangakkara turned his fifth successive first class century into a double. Those who have seen him play know just how special a cricketer he is. Those that havent, time is running out. Go and watch him if you can.