England vs South Africa: 3rd Test, day two – rampant

There’s a strange contradiction in being the Grumpy Old Men of the cricket blogging world. At the time England were being well beaten in India there appeared to be some kind of denial in many circles about the weaknesses of the team and the personnel. Excuses were made, post facto predictions were changed to meet the reality rather than how it had been seen in advance. Yet with really bad defeats (such as in the last Test) the press piled in, slating all and sundry for an abject display and questioning the very ability of the team to play the game.

Mild observations that sides are never as good or bad in defeat or victory as they seem to be never quite fit the zeitgeist, with kneejerk responses always a more fitting way to meet events. Yet with England today having an exceptional time of it, doubtless the same overreactions will apply, despite little of material fact changing.

England have played well here, but in a similar manner to how they have done so when succeeding over the last few years. Cook batted beautifully yesterday, and drew the sting from some fine bowling. He didn’t carry on for too long today, but can count himself unlucky to say the least to be on the rough end of a marginal lbw call. He deserved a hundred, but as has been pointed out, context free discussion of Root’s conversion problem can apply equally well to an unlucky Cook.

With his removal, Stokes and Bairstow went on the attack. Ah, now there’s a thing. It came off. Both players took some chances, played their shots and changed the context of the day, South Africa unable to contain them as the runs flowed at 5 an over. Outcome is all, for had that calculated risk not succeeded, it really isn’t hard to imagine the plethora of comment about being unable to play at a Test match tempo, preferably blaming current shibboleth, T20. The point there is that those critics aren’t wrong, but nor are they right just to point it out when it goes wrong. Responding to every move on the basis of whether it works or not is no way of assessing whether the strategy is a sound one, it’s a far deeper question than that.

That Stokes batted beautifully is not the point, it’s a matter of whether he (and the rest of the middle order) are given the latitude to fail as well as succeed playing this way. Forgetting the bad days just because today was a good one is as flawed as the other way around. England haven’t changed, nor has that middle order, it’s just that today they batted well in a similar style to when they did badly, and not just when failing spectacularly to save a match.

That’s not to downplay how good today was for a moment, for 353 always looked above par, even before what followed. There were decent contributions most of the way down, it was – as often – a surprise that Bairstow got out, while Moeen Ali took his controversial dismissal on review remarkably well. Toby Roland-Jones will think Test cricket is easy given he scored his runs at a healthy lick before having something of a party in his primary role.  He may or may not succeed as a Test cricketer, but not every player gets to have days like this.

Stokes certainly knows how to be the showman, and the three consecutive sixes that raced him through the nineties to a well deserved century were simply marvellous to watch. Some players simply make you smile or gasp when you watch them. It is those who make the game special, even if the less eye catching tend to be the ones who are more consistent.

South Africa, who had bowled so well on day one, were certainly hampered by the absence of Vernon Philander, off the field to much amusement due to tummy trouble, only for that to die away as it transpired he’d ended up in hospital for tests. His absence was keenly felt on a day where his bowling seemed ideal for the conditions.

If runs and wickets are the obvious measures of success, Joe Root had a good day as captain too. It wasn’t just that every bowling change he made seemed to work, it was also that he appeared to assert his authority as captain. The new ball was being wasted, a succession of pleasant, swinging deliveries from Anderson harmlessly passing outside the off stump. Good for the economy rate, not so much for taking wickets. It’s an observation that has been made before, and all too often considered heresy given it concerns England’s leading wicket taker. It’s curious how some, and only some players are considered beyond criticism. An observation may be right or wrong, but it doesn’t dismiss an entire terrific career either way. Still, Root’s response was to remove him from the attack after just three overs, something Anderson didn’t seem overjoyed about looking at his body language.

But here’s the thing: when he returned later in the innings he was right on the money; hostile, threatening the stumps and the edge, and every inch the bowler any England fan loves watching torment opponents with his skill. Captain and senior bowler could be an interesting dynamic to watch over the coming months, but it seemed here to get the best from him.

It was of course Toby Roland-Jones’ day. The merits of an old fashioned England seamer are often overlooked (yet curiously someone like Philander is lauded for showing exactly the same kinds of skills, albeit at a very high level), and here was someone who, after initial nerves, pitched it up, made the batsmen play and did a bit off the seam. Where he led, others followed, and at 61-7, and with the absence of Philander effectively 61-8, the only question, and surely not a serious one, was whether England would enforce the follow on.

Temba Bavuma has shown himself to be a batsman with good temperament before, and the task of extracting his side from the wreckage was one he seemed to relish. In company with Rabada he at least stopped the rot, a partnership of 53 not enough to change the direction of the match, but one at least to narrow the gap from catastrophic to merely disastrous.

It’s possible Philander will be fit to bat tomorrow, but it will take something truly remarkable to move this game away from what appears an inevitable England win. With some inclement weather around, saving the follow on has to be the first and only aim, but only two days have gone, it’s hard to see how it can delay England long enough to prevent victory.

All of which leads back to the beginning. England have had a great day, but just as the fourth day at Trent Bridge didn’t alter the known strengths in the team, nor does this cover up the multiple flaws. Today went well, and they should win this game. It hasn’t re-written the book.


55 thoughts on “England vs South Africa: 3rd Test, day two – rampant

  1. pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 28, 2017 / 7:59 pm

    Back from the game today. Must confess that I really enjoyed that period in which Roland-Jones with the bat and obviously Stokes took full toll on the lack of Philander and at various times took on and succeeded against Morris and Maharaj. The 3 sixes in a row from Stokes of the latter were pure theatre for me.

    I was wondering before the day as to whether or not England would perhaps push past 300 as the 171-4 at close of play yesterday looked decent given the circumstances. For TRJ it must have been a real boon to have the real slate grey skies and continued moisture, that was only exacerbated by the quite continued spots of rain that fell. I have to be honest and say I was surprised that the umpires had the players out for so long. It really was dark at times but I guess as a paying customer I am certainly not going to complain.

    I note that both Dmitri and Sean have made comments over the pricing for food. It is ridiculous. I ‘treated’ myself to a £4 sarnie as everything else would have stretched my financies for the rest of the day. Enjoying a proper beer now instead of that utter rubbish that costs £5+ and the £1 cup!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean B Jul 28, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      You should’ve pinged me a note as I was there too!


    • Ed Jul 29, 2017 / 5:55 am

      Couldn’t agree more. I was really impressed that the umpires kept play going through the rain as I think if they’d gone off at 2-3pm they’d almost certainly have stayed off.


  2. Mark Jul 28, 2017 / 8:03 pm

    Very good summary.

    “South Africa, who had bowled so well on day one, were certainly hampered by the absence of Vernon Philander”

    This is interesting because I got the feeling that Shawn Pollock, and Michael Holding didn’t think SA did bowl well yesterday. They felt they missed a trick and should have had England in much more trouble in those conditions. We were never going to know what a good score was until both sides had batted.

    And talking about Englands batting today, and Stokes counter attack the major point is that it was done after all the hard work yesterday by Cook. England tend to counter attack without putting in the hard yeards first. SA didn’t complete a full day yesterday because of the weather, but they did spend what time they did in the field as well as this morning. And with a bowler light England could counter attack.

    You make some good points about Roots captaincy, and taking Anderson off. It was the right decsion, and Roland Jones had the cricket day of his life. Root had to stand up to his premier bowler. It made me laugh the way they described it on Sky. Trying to claim it was to give Roland Jones a bowl before tea to get him into the game and ease his nerves. They didn’t mention that Anderson was not bowling well enough. As you say some players are above criticism. And as you also rightly say Jimmy reacted the best way, by coming back much stronger.

    At 50/5 the follow on looked certain. Now it may not be. Either way I would bat again. There are 3 days left in this match and with SA a bowler down there is the chance to bowl them into the ground, for the final test match.


    • Ian Jul 28, 2017 / 9:55 pm

      Day 1 I only saw the first session but I felt the SA bowlers in that period were doing what Anderson did in his first spell today a lot, as described above.

      This meant they didn’t really put England in as much trouble as possible although I understand they improved after lunch.

      Fair play to Root for that bold move.


  3. jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 9:38 pm

    “Cook batted beautifully yesterday, and drew the sting from some fine bowling. He didn’t carry on for too long today, but can count himself unlucky to say the least to be on the rough end of a marginal lbw call. He deserved a hundred, but as has been pointed out, context free discussion of Root’s conversion problem can apply equally well to an unlucky Cook.”

    Cook played well yesterday – not “beautifully”. He’s never been beautiful.

    If you’re a bowler, he was out. As he was.

    He didn’t *deserve* a hundred. No one does – least of the golden child.

    Is this site trying to reposition itself?


    • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 9:40 pm

      No, it’s the writer calling it as he sees it. As it has always been. You’re free to disagree, I don’t claim superior insight.


      • jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 9:53 pm


        Why did he “deserve” a hundred?

        (I get why you think it’s a marginal lbw, you’re a batsman, I was a bowler).


  4. Sean B Jul 28, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    I was at the ground today and it was a great day to be part of the crowd. Stokes batted beautifully and fully deserved his ton (it was even sweeter when Faf went over the rope in front of me).

    Fair play to Roit as well, Jimmy was off his line in his first spell, so Root whipped him out of the attack and replaced him with TRJ. This was the sort of day TRJ comes into his own and me & a mate also reckoned he’d get at least 3 wickets this afternoon.

    Great day’s cricket, England played extremely well and a damn good write up too 😀


    • Mark Jul 28, 2017 / 10:32 pm

      How much was the food? Or did you take your own? You picked a good day to go. Looks like this was the pivotal day in the match.


      • Sean B Jul 29, 2017 / 10:21 am

        Food was ridiculous. £9 for a burger (without chips), £8 for popcorn etc. I went to Sainsbury’s instead and had a feast for a fiver!

        Yep we were lucky with the weather but it was a great day’s play!


  5. jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 9:53 pm


    Why did he “deserve” a hundred?

    (I get why you think it’s a marginal lbw, you’re a batsman, I was a bowler).


    • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 9:54 pm

      In the strictest sense of not getting one, clearly not. But it was about how well he batted in testing conditions. I accept totally he’s never beautiful, and didn’t mean it aesthetically. Put it this way, he’ll bat a lot less well and score a ton.

      Oh the lbw. Because it was guessing. And the trouble with Hawkeye is the perception that it’s ‘just clipping’. That isn’t what it means, it’s a probability matrix. What that shows is a low probability of hitting the stumps. It’s the commentators’ fault for repeating this misunderstanding.


      • jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 10:17 pm

        Clearly deserved a century.

        On the lbw we’ll have to disagree – it looked out to me even though it was round the wicket and Morkel is tall.

        I’ve not studied hawkeye, I don’t know what a probability matrix is and I don’t really care what the commentators say…umpire calls it.

        You, as a batsman, think not out. Me, bowler, out (but not plumb).

        Can you evidence that a batsmans opinion is better than a bowlers? I.e. Your view is better than hawkeye?


        • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 10:24 pm

          Ah, now you raise a valid point. Because pre-DRS, the umpire calls it and right or wrong we just go with it. I think my view gets coloured by the commentators saying Hawkeye supports the umpire’s decision, and it simply doesn’t. What it should really show is concentric circles around the probability of the ball path. But as far as you can imagine, what it’s really saying here by ‘clipping’ is that there is a partial chance the ball might have hit. It’s possible it clattered into leg stump, but the chances are small, and it’s possible it missed entirely and the chances are high.

          It definitely isn’t me saying I know better than Hawkeye, the obverse of that – it’s me saying Hawkeye is missold.


          • jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 10:40 pm

            And that’s fair enough! I saw it and I’d have raised my finger if asked.


          • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 10:42 pm

            Bloody bowlers give everything out! I’d be a mite annoyed if that was given. Way too much doubt.


      • Mark Jul 28, 2017 / 10:27 pm

        Hawkeye said the ball was clipping the bails. So according to the review system he is out. However, if the bails are being clipped there has to be a degree of doubt. The benefit of the doubt should go to the batsman.


        • jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 10:37 pm

          No. Hawkeye showed it was hitting the top of the stump AND the bails. It’s sky who have made this a bail issue not hawkeye.


          • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 10:40 pm

            If it’s hitting the bails it’s hitting the top of the stumps by definition. That’s still not how it works. If there was no DRS that decision would have been viewed as guessing.


          • Mark Jul 28, 2017 / 10:46 pm

            But if the umpire had decided there was doubt, and given it not out, it would not have been overturned on Hawkeye showing the ball was clipping the stumps.

            I’m not arguing that hawkeye was wrong, but there is doubt, ( particularly with a very tall bowler) and I thought the batsman deserved the benefit of doubt. It was a 50/50 call. On another day the umpire gives it not out.

            A batsman in his 80s on a tough pitch is unlucky to get out to that call. That’s all I’m saying.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jomesy Jul 28, 2017 / 10:56 pm

            “A batsman in his 80s on a tough pitch is unlucky to get out to that call. That’s all I’m saying.”


            Does he get *more* benefit of the doubt the longer he’s in on a “tough pitch” or does the bowler finally get him out after the batsman has had so many benefits he should walk.


          • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 11:03 pm

            If you’re going to give those out all the time, it’s going to be a very short game.


          • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 11:31 pm

            Yes I remember reading that. If only the ICC had published their research into its efficacy…


          • Mark Jul 28, 2017 / 11:15 pm

            To be honest, the way Cook was batting the only way they could get him out was on a marginal call. It’s not as if it was hitting half way up middle was it?

            There have not been many more critical of Cook than me over the years, but I thought he played well yesterday, and was unlucky that’s all.

            Perhaps we should get rid of umpires call, and just let Hawkeye decide. And if it’s skimming the stumps then everything is out. Seems a bit harsh to me.


  6. man in a barrel Jul 28, 2017 / 10:11 pm

    As a bona%you fide grumpy old sod, I wish we could all know what is going on with Philander. In all of his 4 over spells he had the English batsmen on toast. Yet how could he do it if he has been unable to keep any food down for 2 days? A fit Philander could surely run through England in about 10 overs


    • thelegglance Jul 28, 2017 / 10:49 pm

      It might be he’s performed above and beyond. If he plays tomorrow he must be badly drained.


  7. Rooto Jul 29, 2017 / 6:15 am

    TMS listener here. Did anyone else notice that, in response to Graeme Smith’s criticism of SA tactics, The Essayist dared to mention Day 4 At Headingley? Didn’t dare to mention who was captain though. He just put it down to poor tactics from the amorphous entity known as ‘England’.

    Re: last night’s Hawkeye discussion, I feel that it has fundamentally changed the interpretation of the Laws. It would be more honest to stop using the expression ‘Umpire’s Call’ – which leads to inconsistencies – and just call it ‘Doubt’. That’s what it is, isn’t it? A lower probability, with a decent proportion of the fan-shaped predicted path missing? Doubt always used to be ‘not out’, and as the technology evolves, the area of ‘Doubt’ will presumably shrink. I’ll stop, because I’m starting to sound like Selvey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Rooto Jul 29, 2017 / 6:26 am

      On the subject of The Essayist, I amused myself by putting ‘Ed Smith, writer’ into an anagram generator. My favourite results are ‘Emitted Whirrs’ for his radio output, and, for his writing ‘Desert him, writs!’

      Liked by 2 people

      • d'Arthez Jul 29, 2017 / 7:44 am

        Weirdest Mirths is also worthy of consideration.

        And his girlfriend might be referred to as Ms. Rehired Twit.

        Liked by 1 person

    • BoredInAustria Jul 29, 2017 / 7:37 am

      I would agree that Hawkeye, with its faults, “did not give conclussive evidence” to revise the onfield decision. – I am imagining being captain and Jomesyis pleading for a review… scary!

      I saw this on Philander: “Vernon Philander has been admitted to hospital and is being treated for a probable viral infection. He will remain in hospital overnight on intravenous fluids for rehydration and will be reassessed in the morning to determine his participation in the current match.”

      And maybe, based on the evidence of the last 3 Tests, cricket IS like arm wrestling…


      • d'Arthez Jul 29, 2017 / 7:41 am

        I am wondering: if Abbott had been available, would Philander have played? The selectors maybe simply felt he had to play, since the drop off in quality between him and Olivier was too big.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Jul 29, 2017 / 9:37 am

      Good point about the element of doubt being diluted under the Hawkeye system.

      Umpires know their calls may be overruled if they get it wrong. So perhaps they think they can be more cavalier. That assumes of course the batting side still has some reviews left.


  8. Mark Jul 29, 2017 / 9:57 am

    To paraphrase Basil Faulty….

    “Perhaps it’s all a dream? (Bangs head on desk) No, we’re stuck with it.”

    Sky are doing a lunchtime Masterclass today with KP. Have Sky employed armed guards to keep some of the Sky team away from him? Stand by your Twitter feed. It might explode.


  9. Tom Jul 29, 2017 / 10:49 am


    First of my daft questions for this series. I only have access to cricinfo and TMS.

    Why was Broad chosen over Anderson at the start of the third morning?



    • pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 29, 2017 / 10:55 am

      Root should have reverted to Anderson quicker than he’s actually done. I thought it was excelent when Anderson was whipped off for TRJ yesterday after 3 or so really disappointing overs in his first spell. Something that Cook himself routinely failed to do in his tenure. Didn’t have a problem with Broad starting, but once he’d started bowling quite ordinarlly he should have been taken off more quickly.

      Re the Cook argument. I’d actually concur that the innings he played was worth more than the number that he finally got. 171-4 was easily better than par on the 1st day given than conditions.

      This morning SA have started well and it is only now that Anderson has picked up Morkel. It will be interesting to see if Philander is well enough to make a contribution.


      • d'Arthez Jul 29, 2017 / 11:09 am

        Yeah, I guess South Africa were a bit unlucky with the conditions they had to bat in yesterday. If weather conditions are similar later today, we might see how well England do in those.

        South Africa did not bowl well on either day (not helped by the issues with Philander, but then again, would he have played if Abbott was available? Team management must have known about this, since Philander left the field in the first session of Day 1).

        There is no other reason than conditions, as to why Morne Morkel has pretty much outbatted the entire top 5.


      • Tom Jul 29, 2017 / 11:10 am

        Thanks, PK, that definitely helps my perspective. I was a little concerned that Anderson might have an injury but that doesn’t seem to be the case.


    • Tom Jul 29, 2017 / 10:57 am

      PS. I posted that before Anderson took the 9th wicket, honest!


      • pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 29, 2017 / 11:10 am

        I too started posting before Anderson took the wicket, though it occurred as I was finishing up!


  10. BoredInAustria Jul 29, 2017 / 12:38 pm

    Andrew Samson – TMS: The last five-for on debut for England was Adil Rashid in Abu Dhabi a couple of years ago

    Not a good omen for TRJ


    • thebogfather Jul 29, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Ah, but TRJ plays for the ‘Middle-Saxons’ (copyright Selfey), has sufficient initials, thus must be from the right family and thus is not remotely ‘fragile’…

      Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Jul 29, 2017 / 12:51 pm

        Tobias Skelton Roland-Jones sounds like a character from Monte Carlo or Bust.


  11. LordCanisLupus Jul 29, 2017 / 12:49 pm

    5 in 96.

    An excellent delivery. But we are now in “if it gets Cook out, it would get anyone out” territory. I wonder if we’d have seen such sympathy if that had undressed Keaton Jennings in the same way. Actually, I don’t wonder.

    Liked by 2 people

    • BoredInAustria Jul 29, 2017 / 12:59 pm

      TMS – Cook’s now been dismissed by Morne Morkel 11 times in Test cricket.

      Liked by 1 person

      • pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 29, 2017 / 5:16 pm

        With yesterday’s knock Cook brought up his 100th score of 50+ but not 100. Probably not the landmark that he wanted to bring up and I’m a little surprised that no-one in the mainstream media had picked up on that.

        Ian Bell as a matter of fact sits on 99 fc 50s and he was probably one of the most notorious if not THE most notorious for not converting. On that note, I really can’t help thinking that if Bell had been in better form in the last season and a half, not even great but reasonable form, he might well have got a recall.


        • oreston Jul 29, 2017 / 5:35 pm

          A comparison of I.R. Bell and D.I. Gower’s career records is (slightly) interesting. They played practically the same number of Tests (Bell 118 vs Gower 117) and Gower finished with only a marginally better average (42.69 vs 44.25). However, when you look at their records for 100s/50s, Bell is clearly ahead on 22/46 vs Gower on 18/39.

          Saying that Bell had a better conversion rate than one of the other most naturally talented but, at times, hugely frustrating English middle order batsmen of recent decades might be damning with faint praise (and of course he didn’t face peak Windies or the other fearsome bowling attacks of Gower’s day) but I still the comparison helps to put I.R.B’s contribution into perspective.

          Yes, if he were in better form he should certainly have been recalled – although whether he actually would’ve been is another matter entirely.


          • pktroll (@pktroll) Jul 29, 2017 / 6:18 pm

            I always have said with Bell that if you took away his runs versus Bangladesh when they barely deserved first class status then his record looks a lot more ordinary for the era. As I think I may have mentioned before to Dmitri, it was doing a good search to find Bell + Bangladesh distortion that made me find HDWLIA.

            What I noted about Gower is that he had a very poor record v Windies at home, but averaged 40 away against them and that actually meant something considering their attack.


        • LordCanisLupus Jul 29, 2017 / 5:37 pm

          Jarrod Kimber put up a tweet with the 11 openers Cook has had since Strauss. I’ll do my own #Cookmaths, and say since the 1st Ashes test in 2013, Cook has just one more century than the revolving door at the other end. 1 for Root at Lord’s, 1 each for Robson and Lyth in the early season test at Leeds, and 1 for Jennings on debut.

          It’s just a stat!

          Liked by 1 person

          • oreston Jul 29, 2017 / 6:05 pm

            Has it really been 11 openers at the other end in the five years since Strauss jacked it in? Jeez… I’m having trouble even naming them all. Has there ever been another situation like this in the history of the England team? Or, for that matter, any test team?


          • LordCanisLupus Jul 29, 2017 / 6:31 pm

            Compton, Root, Carberry, Robson, Trott, Lyth, Moeen, Hales, Duckett, Hameed,Jennings.

            Cook outscored Compton 5 test tons to two.

            Since the appointment of Root as opener in 2013, it is 5 tons to 4.

            Liked by 1 person

  12. BoredInAustria Jul 29, 2017 / 3:56 pm

    Well, taking the positives out of the problems on cricinfo, I hit this article in cricbuzz.


    Highlights the problems of cricket in SA (I did not grow up in the leafy suburbs of the Cape, and though things in our end of the Cape was clearly a lot better than in Langa, a few things feel familiar). Good luck to him, and may the 50 today help in his journey.


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