England vs South Africa: Fourth Test, Day Two

For a time during the afternoon, it looked as though at long last there might be a genuinely competitive Test match on the cards.  Sure, England had played well in the morning session, thanks to Jonny Bairstow’s masterclass in farming the strike with the tail, but with the tourists 141-3, and looking in reasonable shape to challenge the England total, the prospect of not knowing where the match was going after two days was a definite possibility.

That it didn’t happen was partly down to some excellent bowling – from James Anderson and Moeen Ali in particular – but also some woeful batting.  England received plenty of (justified) criticism for the way they rolled over at Trent Bridge, but with the series now likely to finish 3-1, South Africa have clearly demonstrated that however fragile England might wish to be, they can exceed it.

Both teams had faltered in the top order, and the difference in position wasn’t especially marked, but whereas England’s middle order had rescued the situation, first through Stokes, then through Bairstow, South Africa’s fell apart.  It doesn’t tell us that much about England, for the trio of Stokes, Bairstow and Moeen have rescued the team from calamity on a few occasions, but in this series at least, the same can’t be said about their opposite numbers.

Although England had lost a couple of early wickets, 312-9 in the context of the batting line ups didn’t look a bad score.  A rollicking last wicket stand with Bairstow turning a useful fifty into what appeared certain to be a remarkable century moved England into a position of likely dominance.  In itself that says a fair bit about these two sides.  There is some movement off the pitch and in the air, but this is a decent Test match wicket.  400, once the minimum expectation for the side batting first appears to be right at the top of the aspirations of these batting line ups.

Bairstow of course fell for 99, joining a substantial group who have managed to get themselves out in often peculiar circumstances in pursuit of that single extra run.  If ever there was an illustration needed that batting is done in the head, it is right there.  He was perhaps a trifle unlucky of course – not in the sense that it wasn’t out, but because it was a marginal call. In the world of DRS such calls are automatically considered “good” decisions as they are backed up by the technology, and perhaps the game is better for that.  But he may feel some chagrin for not getting that nebulous unwritten rule concerning the benefit of the doubt.  It’s the same for all.

If Bairstow had left England content at the change of innings, Anderson ensured that lunch was to be a happy place in the England dressing room, removing the obdurate Dean Elgar third ball to christen his newly named bowling end with a classical Anderson delivery, swinging into the left hander’s pads.

For the next couple of hours it was good Test cricket.  The loss of Amla to Toby Roland-Jones for the third time in succession cut short an innings where he looked in decent touch, an all too rare occurrence recently.  If he was fluent, Heino Kuhn was anything but.  Battling dreadful form and injury, he was eventually put out of his misery by Moeen Ali, but it should be said that if his team mates had batted with the same tenacity and determination as the under pressure opener, they might not be in the mess they are this evening.

Bavuma and Du Plessis then took over, not without alarms, but the match was fairly even.  And then it all fell apart.  Anderson removed both within three balls, and while they were decent enough deliveries, Bavuma’s decision to join his team mates this series in regarding the bat as an optional extra, and Du Plessis’ dreadful defensive shot that dragged the ball on to the stumps through the widest of gates was symptomatic of the difference between the teams – namely that brittle as England might be, they are tempered by comparison with their opponents.

With the exception of Elgar, every South African batsman this innings has got into double figures, yet none has made a fifty.  The tail did well, Maharaj, Rabada and Morkel being responsible for ensuring the 142 run deficit (with one wicket remaining) wasn’t even higher.  Yet De Kock was subdued, seemingly unsure how to play the deteriorating situation, and the procession of batsmen coming in and going out was of no surprise at all.

All of which means this match is following an identical pattern to the third Test (and similar to all the others this series).  England will have a huge lead, and with no rain to date the luxury of no time pressure whatever in setting a vast target – though doubtless some will be calling for them to push on and declare tomorrow night.

It’s not entirely clear why it is that matches, in England at the very least, have become so one sided in recent years, and the old truth that correlation doesn’t equal causation should make anyone wary of the easy blaming of T20 cricket.  But it doesn’t make for good viewing and it isn’t healthy for Test cricket.  The very concept of a battle unfolding over five days is undermined when the outcome is pretty much clear after two, every time.  This has happened in Tests since they began, but it is now sufficiently consistently the case as to cause even more worry about the health of the game than was already the case.  All sport thrives on uncertainty, for without it there is little point watching.  The up and down results England have had in the last couple of years is indeed quite uncertain, that is true, but the matches themselves are anything but.

Barring something preposterous, England will win this match, and with it the series.  But the feeling that the next two (probably not three) days are merely playing out the inevitable (yet again) is both frustrating and fundamentally lowers interest.  It’s to be hoped it is a phase, as can happen in sport, for if not the problems are even greater than has been supposed up to now.

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54 thoughts on “England vs South Africa: Fourth Test, Day Two

  1. Mark August 5, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    The combination of the rise of 20/20, and the ICCs “financial doping ” of the big 3 has created the backdrop to the decline of test cricket. I don’t think I have seen such a brittle SA since they came back into world cricket. That’s not to say they were always a good side, but you knew they would always put up a fight. (Perhaps they still will)

    Doesn’t help when their best player is sitting on Twitter waving on the troops like Bonnie Prince Charie after he had run back to France. And that is on top of all the players missing through either injury, illness, or those who have given up with SA cricket.

    England have the perfect team for modern test cricket on pitches that move about a bit. They have a batting line up that goes all the way down, and a bowling attack that can get the ball seaming and swinging about. On Asian wickets that turn or pitches that are flat but fast (Australia) they struggle.

    As to the notion of a contest that seems to have gone west. Follow the money. All the way to the IPL.

    The good news is it looks like Root will get his first series win as captain. Proving that Cook was of no importance as a captain. TINA is dead, long live Root.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus August 5, 2017 / 8:22 pm

      Watching the athletics on BBC and wondering to myself “which sport is not at the crossroads now?” This is just about the only venue in the world that would sell out for the IAAF Championships, but just following some pretty serious characters on Twitter, you can’t trust any of this. The sport is about to lose its one true icon.

      Cricket has no idea what to do. It’s trashing its primary form of the game in favour of hit and giggle played on children’s boundaries to stoke the action higher. The West Indies are over at the same time as their T20 shindig, so the stars stay behind. Don’t start me off on football – the game may be in rude financial health at the top end, but down below it’s a scramble for the crumbs off the table – very big morsels for some, eff all for anyone else. A player goes for £200m and the media circus point to American salaries (while ignoring the efforts the US makes to make a sport competitive). I could do the US Sports – NFL is popular but a recipe for brain injury; baseball keeps questioning its relevance and like cricket wants to modernise; the NBA has superteams that has produced the same final for the last three years; the NHL slides further out of the public’s view. Golf misses Tiger, participation levels are down. Tennis needs new stars in the man’s game, and the women’s game seems strangely irrelevant when the dominant personality isn’t there.

      I love sport. I’ve never been more worried for it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mark August 5, 2017 / 8:43 pm

        Yes, we may be approaching “peak sport.” Near where I live the local rugby club has just gone bust, and the council is going to build houses on the land. By all accounts for some years they have struggled to attract youngsters. Rugby is a sport that seems to be on the up, yet there are still casualties.

        I don’t think 20/20 is even the same sport as test match cricket any more. The ECB is a governing body of 2 different sports. (I would still say 50/50 is nearer to test cricket.) I hear that some youngsters watch sport now by recording it, and then fast forwarding it quickly for the best bits. An entire match can be consumed in a bite size.

        As to football the juggernaut grinds on with the ludicrous transfer of a player who is more interested in winning…..player of the year award than the European cup. This is Narcissm on stilts. I like football, but I can’t help thinking I will not mind seeing it knocked of its perch when one day fans (sorry customers) say enough is enough. I will have a wry smile when All the riddiculous pundits who don’t pay to get into matches, and who parrot the mantra that it’s market forces as prices go up are faced with empty grounds, and falling wages.

        I can’t wait for the day when one of these business (sorry clubs) like Man U or Man City Or Chelsea just announce they are packing up and moving to China lock stock and barrel. Oh how I will laugh. Because then I can say back to people like the ping pong man……..” Well it’s just market forces.”

        Like

          • Mark August 5, 2017 / 9:00 pm

            RIP Athletics 2017.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus August 5, 2017 / 9:10 pm

            Yet we cheered Mo last night while he runs under the coaching of a man who got caught doping, but we are told there is nothing to see here.

            It’s complicated. Cartoon villains are too convenient.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark August 5, 2017 / 9:17 pm

            Perhaps Lance Armstrong will be back on his penny farthing?

            Like

          • nonoxcol August 5, 2017 / 9:17 pm

            BBC Sport Twitter:

            “Gatlin silences his haters.”

            RIP BBC Sport as well.

            Glad you mentioned Farah first. Read so many journalists on Twitter appalled that Salazar was never even mentioned by the flag waving BBC yesterday. They haven’t covered themselves in glory this evening either: it somehow took Cram five minutes to even mention doping, and then he did so as if explaining to someone who “may have been away from the sport for a few years.”

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus August 5, 2017 / 9:34 pm

            Mindful this is a cricket blog, but yes I know we branch out to other things.

            I got into the sceptical sports journos views on certain individuals a few weeks ago. I think Sky and British Cycling push the envelope as far as they can, but I also think the media love to bring down people on pedestals – but these guys just really pile in on Froome. Their credibility suffers when they can’t make up their minds whether it is mechanical doping (motors) or proper druggie stuff.

            But as tough as they are on Froome and Sky, oh boy, they are five times that on Mo Farah. It led to some surreal TV last night, I understand. On one channel you have Cram and Foster going overboard, while on BBC2, Newsnight talks about the suspicions surrounding him. Bloody hell, wherever Mo goes, whoever he meets, drug accusations are not far away. His coach, another one of his coaches, the African training teams, the missed tests. It’s smelly. But we boo Gatlin.

            Note Bolt’s reaction tonight to Gatlin. Note how some of the Jamaican sprinters have been caught doping. Check how virtually everyone who has run sub 9.75 has doped, except one “outlier”. You never hear it. Seb Coe got what he deserved tonight. If he didn’t know, he had a prelude with the women’s 10000m.

            Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 10:22 am

            Read this from sports journo Ewan McKenna…

            What happened the idea of sport? Worse, what happened to the idea of human decency and of people who care about the greater good? What happened to promoting the dream of this in a world of so many other ills that we need just something that’s untainted? Of course there are good people but most cower, and the ones that don’t drown in a swamp of deception and dishonesty. There is a two-pronged approach to drain it but it’s depressingly unrealistic. Those upstairs only care about the cash of customers; those downstairs just want the glory of being seen as the best by a crowd that adores and worships them. Cut that and sport has to reset. It’s the only way.

            Like

          • Mark August 5, 2017 / 9:29 pm

            What’s quite bizare is they banned a entire country, Russia for doping crimes from attending this event, and now their blue ribbon event has been won by Gatlin.

            Perhaps they should just let them take what they want, and we will have 8 feet high freaks running against 6 feet wide midgets. Who knows in the crazy drug added world maybe they will stumble into a cure for cancer?

            Liked by 1 person

    • thelegglance August 5, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      The only thing I’d query there Mark is that the matches are just as one sided between the Big Three too.

      Like

      • Mark August 5, 2017 / 8:49 pm

        Yes you are so right. That is one of the biggest ironies. The 5 test bore fests between England vs India or ………drum roll…….India vs England …..are not worth a penny. Dire.

        One of the best test series was the one against New Zealand, but it was not 5 tests, and New Zealand lost players almost immediately after it ended.

        Money now trumps competition on the field. What’s the point if you are SA or New Zealand? You might ask well go and play IPL. How much are the tickets for the WI?

        Like

  2. d'Arthez August 5, 2017 / 8:31 pm

    “It’s not entirely clear why it is that matches, in England at the very least, have become so one sided in recent years, and the old truth that correlation doesn’t equal causation should make anyone wary of the easy blaming of T20 cricket. But it doesn’t make for good viewing and it isn’t healthy for Test cricket.”

    Actually, it is exactly what the BCCI, CA, and ECB need in order to clear the schedule for endless series among themselves. The financial doping is just one example. Starve South Africa of funding (remember, they were not even included in the Test fund for the Big 3 power grab in the original proposal, so Giles Clarke and his ilk did not even bother to not be blatant about it!). The fact that the ECB refuse to actually deal with the Kolpak issue is telling: they prefer to buy the opposition out, so that they get better results, and better (/ cheaper) players in the process. That that is paid for by moneys collected through international cricket makes it all the more galling.

    After Sri Lanka will be humiliated by India in the next few Tests (both in Sri Lanka as well as India), India – Sri Lanka series will be a thing of the past. Same will happen with the other teams; Pakistan will be reduced to occasionally provide a game whenever two of the other teams are “competing” with each other (say as a warmup tour to India). South Africa will fall away, same with New Zealand. Bangladesh might rise, but only if their economy makes them interesting. Ireland and Afghanistan will be stillborn as Test playing nations. Test cricket as we know it will be dead. In fact it is already dead.

    As for bad viewing? I am pretty sure the Indian / Australian / English broadcasters don’t really mind, provided the people buy the subscriptions – and they will if the “home” team is remotely competent, which they are guaranteed to be, because the home boards have done everything in their power to destroy cricket in about 100 nations. And they have succeeded, both at the top as well as the bottom (just see how many divisions of the WCL have been scrapped in the past few years alone).

    As stated in the other thread, AB de Villiers makes more from playing 3 IPL games than he does for a year worth of international cricket. So, as harsh as I have been on him, the commercial logic at least is on his side. As it has been on the side of West Indian “mercenaries” for the past decade or so. For a guy like Stokes, the IPL doubles his income. For a guy like Narine, the IPL IS his income.

    But that begs the question: how can the game be run so incompetently, and no one in the MSM (at least in England) can be bothered to connect the dots? Oh, right, that is part of the organized corruption in the game: silence the journalists and the commentators. Certainly the BCCI is not alone in this ….

    Like

    • Mark August 5, 2017 / 8:58 pm

      It’s called managing decline. They are gutting and filletting a dying product. As you say as long as home crowds and tv rights can be earned for the big 3 then it will muddle along. And they can drain a bit more blood out of this stone yet. Fancy dress, and a few drinks and some old timers keep it rolling on.

      But all the time players techniques will be changing for 20/20. Eventually test cricket will be cut loose as a financial entity. It may still be played. A bit like croquet.

      Like

  3. LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 10:23 am

    Don’t want to hear a commentator moan about players and personal milestones after the “let Jimmy get five” fest this morning.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. d'Arthez August 6, 2017 / 10:50 am

    Cook just brought up his half century – 50 innings without a ton against South Africa or Australia.

    Like

  5. LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 10:55 am

    Ha Ha Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 11:10 am

      SHUT UP, SHUT UP……

      TINA, TINA, TINA, TINA, TINA.

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 11:13 am

        No. Not allowed to mention it. 88 now appears to be the key number for some.

        Yes. That’s a straw man. Just like the original comment.

        Just to be clear to some of the easily led muppets out there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sean B August 6, 2017 / 12:20 pm

          One half of the chuckle brothers at it again:

          Like

          • Sean B August 6, 2017 / 12:31 pm

            It’s a pity that the other chuckle brother is cocking about in Florida, otherwise it’d have been well funny bantz…

            Liked by 1 person

          • nonoxcol August 6, 2017 / 1:37 pm

            Think he might be a bit less smug if he knew that Cook has averaged a mediocre 38.79 for slightly more than a third of his Test career (i.e. those 98 innings), and the most recent third at that. No nice round number three figure obsessions there.

            Or the he averages 29.41 against Aus, and 28.25 against SA over the same period. Or the fact that he exceeds his career average only against NZ, Pakistan and WI, probably because – surprise surprise – they account for four of his five irrelevant round-number centuries and both of his 150s (the only other country he’s managed a century against is India in India).

            Still, there’s a nice cash-in series coming up, so get ready for more jeering once the stat is outdated.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Sean B August 6, 2017 / 1:40 pm

            Ha, stop stealing my stats for tonight’s write up 🙂

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 1:54 pm

            He has made three scores of over 150 in England. That surprised me. Actually it is three scores of over 133. One was the behemoth against India (294), one was his brilliant knock at Lord’s in 2015 (162) and the other was 160 v West Indies at Durham in 2009. He has a decent 44 average at home, but it isn’t peppered with massive scores.

            KP had 6 scores of over 150 at home and 10 over 133.

            But he’s not an opener….

            Trescothick, in a much smaller sample size, has 4 scores over 150 (2 were against Bangladesh). But there’s a 219 against South Africa in there.

            To be fair, Struass had just the one, but I’m not hearing people comparing their records.

            Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 2:07 pm

            How many centuries do you think Cook will make in the upcoming Ashes?

            Like

          • Mark August 6, 2017 / 2:38 pm

            I don’t know how many centuries he will get, but I bet the media will turn the whole tour into the Cook redemption tour if England start winning. If they get stuffed it will all be on Root.

            Like

          • man in a barrel August 6, 2017 / 2:55 pm

            The twenty innings moving average seems to me to be a pretty fair indicator

            Like

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 2:35 pm

      Whatever was on that page…..it doesn’t exist anymore!

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 2:42 pm

        Perfectly reasonable tweet from Nick on Hameed’s travails. That he can’t be picked yet.

        Not sure why it’s deleted. I am just upset that many went too far with a young talent.

        Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 3:18 pm

            The cricket press went for Hameed overnight. It was a great story. But some cautioned (Selfey to a degree) about some concerns.

            I hope he regains form. No-one has nailed that vacancy.

            Like

          • nonoxcol August 6, 2017 / 3:29 pm

            Scyld Berry!

            #Sangakkara

            Like

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Everytime he tweets SA then go backwards. Perhaps he should go fishing.

      Like

  6. Mark August 6, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    Oh won’t you nae come back again……Bonnie Prince Charlie!

    Like

  7. man in a barrel August 6, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    I saw Nasser trying to say this was a great advert for Test cricket… He didn’t say that the result of each match has been clear after the first innings. No suspense, surprises, heroic rear-guard actions. Just 2 poor teams. The shocking Old Trafford pitch does not help. It looked like a 5th day track to me. I had stuff to do, otherwise I might have tried to exocet the TV

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 3:27 pm

      But Nasser has already said in the last test matches that these are the sort of pitches we have to have now. The days of 649 plays 587 is not acceptable in modern test match cricket. Young people are not interested.

      To be fair I agree with him to an extent. Bland feather beds is not the way to go. However, the amount of movement in all of these pitches is a bit more than you might want. Pitches taking spin from day one at Lords was a bit odd.

      I would love to know if these pitches have been ordered up by Strauss. We will never know the truth. But they seem to be what England want for home matches. The 3-2 Ashes in 2015 England won 3 test matches on pitches moving around. The two flat pitches in London and England got beaten quite convincingly.

      SAs batting was woeful yesterday, whatever the pitch conditions. If they had put a bit of fight into it they might of got close to Englamds score.

      Like

    • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) August 6, 2017 / 3:46 pm

      Yes, that was a poor bit of propaganda from Nasser. He was basically saying that Test cricket is in great shape because a) there not high scoring boredraws and b) the crowd are having a great time today.

      Michael Holding’s concerns deserved more than mere Sky cheerleading really.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jomesy August 6, 2017 / 6:32 pm

        And Gower had another awkward “shit, what do I do” moment as Holding criticised the rise of 20/20. Atherton was sensible and succinct as usual but Gower just looked lost at the honesty. I like what Sky have done with test match coverage but the contract really needs to go elsewhere and soon.

        Like

  8. Mark August 6, 2017 / 3:40 pm

    I know this is a cricket site and the boss likes to keep on topic, but for light entertainment….

    Arsenal win charity shield 4-1 on penalties.

    Yes,despite all the millions they pay modern footballers Chelsea’s multi millionaires can not manage more than just 1 successful penalty.

    Stand by for an army of pundits to explain how difficult it is for a multi millionaire player who does nothing else for a living but kick a football can’t manage to er…..kick a football a few yards into an 18 foot wide goal. And there is no point practicing because you can’t recreate the atmosphere.

    No point golfers doing putting practice or tennis players doing second serves……

    It’s going to be a long 10 months. But it’s the greatest league in the world……..

    Like

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 3:47 pm

      So Chelsea sent their goalkeeper to take one of the penalties. (We care for the fans, kiss the badge) He missed. So did their new £60 million striker.

      The Premiership is the new Gerald Ratner.

      Like

  9. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) August 6, 2017 / 3:44 pm

    One thing for sure. Any selectors or punters looking for new batting candidates for the Windies series had better cast their eyes from Div 1 of the CC today…

    Like

  10. thelegglance August 6, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    ‘I love it when you have an aggressive man coming down the order who is capable of playing such shots. We used to have Andy Caddick playing in that position back in the day, now we have Moeen Ali.’

    Graeme Swann.

    Like

    • Mark August 6, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      Ha ha ha ha ha ha

      What a pillock!

      And Test cricket tickets are £20……….

      Like

      • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 4:47 pm

        What if I said that I’m reading his book at the moment? It’s not that bad so far. He hasn’t been picked for international cricket yet, though.

        Like

        • Mark August 6, 2017 / 5:13 pm

          Well he wasn’t picked until he was in his late 20s was he?

          Like

  11. Mark August 6, 2017 / 5:19 pm

    Bet 365 adds are starting to piss me off.

    Let’s get a multi millionaire actor to talk about betting responsibly.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus August 6, 2017 / 6:00 pm

      Weld’s largest betting company.

      It’s massive money, pure and simple.

      Read a lot of thought provoking stuff by Ewan MacKenna today. A sample:

      We can talk about the banking sector, major pharmaceuticals, tobacco and politics, but on a consistent, worldwide level has any other industry knowingly taken us for such an expensive and make-believe ride? At best, the sports industry is certainly up there, even rivaling religion for having the gall to ask us to blindly accept miracles as just that. What is supposed to be a carefree escape from the problems of the real world is now contributing to those problems and those within and over these sports know it but mask it. But is anyone surprised? Does anyone even care? After all, the liar only lies to others but the visionary lies to himself.

      Winning may well be everything to athletes but more dangerous are those behind them from sponsors to owners to governing bodies as, for them, profit is everything. In terms of selling a show, doping makes that easier as athletes across sports go stronger, faster, higher and that moves tickets. Meanwhile exposing how they do it would smear mud when a clear name moves commercial rights. It’s merely a game of creating and promoting fictional heroes and cashing in on it. Look at it this way, great sports journalism was once about celebrating what we presumed to be the truth whereas now it’s about destroying the myth you’re being sold.

      I recommend his blog. He doesn’t post anything these days.

      https://ewanmackenna.wordpress.com/

      Like

      • Mark August 6, 2017 / 7:27 pm

        Thanks for that, interesting stuff.

        The last taboo of drugs in sport is top flight Football. They tell us it’s not there, and the drugs wouldn’t help footballers anyway. Hmmmm.

        Couldn’t happen here! Wherever there is big money there are always people trying to get an angle. Business, politics, sport is no different.

        Like

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