England vs. South Africa, 4th Test, Day 3

Today was the sort of day that many of us Test enthusiasts love, a day where bowlers had the sort of conditions that actually gave them the upper hand and where the batsmen had to fight for every single run. Yes today was a bit of a grind and I must admit that the Old Trafford surface hasn’t been great, but I would rather see a proper fight between bat and ball than 600 play 650 on a flat, bowlers graveyard of a pitch. The day ebbed and flowed, with South Africa battling to stay in the match and England trying to eek out enough runs to feel comfortable in defending on a deteriorating pitch. By the end of the day, England managed to emerge on top; however it was tough going, which Test cricket is absolutely meant to be.

England’s batting was a tale of the downright poor and one absolutely superb innings. I think it’s safe to say that England’s top order still has more holes than a watering can, with the top 3 all getting out to woeful shots and Malan, although 2 Test’s into his England career, looking nervous and out of place in the Test arena. It would be harsh to drop Malan after only 2 games, but sometimes a player just doesn’t look international class I’m afraid. As for the Top 3, I’m afraid it looks like game, set and match for Keaton Jennings. He came out with some credit from his performance in the 2nd innings of the Oval Test, but has looked woefully short of form all summer. This is absolutely not helped by the fact that his feet look stuck to the crease, his head position is too upright on connection with the ball, which means that he doesn’t seem in control of the ball when it hits the bat and of course he genuinely doesn’t seem to know where his off stump is at the moment in the face of good, patient bowling. I think his reaction to his dismissal said a 1,000 words, he realises that its now back to Durham to try and work on his technique and to score some big runs. The opener cab rank is starting to look extremely bare.

Westley and Cook also both got out in the same way, launching ill advised flashes outside the off stump in what were very bowler friendly conditions. Westley is still learning the international game and whilst I worry about his ability against deliveries pitching outside off stump, I’ve seen enough of him in the last couple of Tests to give him the benefit of the doubt. The same can’t be said for Cook. I’m afraid that Cook looks to be in terminal decline, unable to fathom out how to score big runs now international bowlers have truly found out his weaknesses. A number of us have pointed out that he is now 50 not out since he last scored a century against either Australia or South Africa and indeed having done a little bit of digging (Nonoxcol had the same idea) it now reads that Cook has an average below 30 against these teams going all the way back to 2012 (some 26 Test matches). These cold hard facts may be difficult to swallow for those that have chosen deify Cook, but it is a fact that Cook really has been a flat track bully over the past 5 years. I will again reiterate again that I’m not advocating that Cook should be dropped, far from it, we can’t find one opener let alone two at the moment, but the fact that Cook is still easily the best opener in England is more a terrible reflection on county cricket, than it is a reflection on how good Cook actually is at the moment. Oh and just to annoy the Cook straw men on Twitter that’s 5 in 98 now.

With the dismissal of Malan and with England 77-4, with only a lead of around 200 ahead, there seemed to still be life in this Test, as whilst the pitch was doing a fair bit, if South Africa could limit the chase to fewer than 275, they still had a chance. Root played very well before getting a ball that kept low. One may be nitpicking and argue that he should have got forward to it; however equally you don’t generally expect the pitch to have demons in it on Day 3. Stokes and Bairstow both came and went, with the former getting a good delivery, which he nicked off to slip and the latter looking uncharacteristically out of touch. So enter the hour and enter the man. I admit that I’ve been particularly harsh on Moeen in the past winter, as I could see all the talent in the world, but couldn’t see any growth in his game. He has proved to be excellent with the ball in this series with 20 wickets and an innings to come and today he showed his class with the bat. England were still in a little bit of strife when Moeen came in, but boy did he play this innings to perfection. He was positive rather than being reckless, something that hasn’t always been the case, didn’t allow the South African bowlers to settle into their line and lengths and then launched a perfect counter attack with the bowlers tiring. Moeen’s counter hitting was truly a sight to behold, though Elgar will be kicking himself for dropping him on 15; however this cameo has firmly turned the dial in England’s favour. I would be amazed if South Africa can muster a batting performance on this pitch to win it from here. It is also worth noting that Moeen’s tally of 20 wickets and over 200 runs is the first time that this has been achieved since a certain Freddie Flintoff achieved it in a rather special Ashes series. Now I’m not going to try and compare apples and pears, but if Moeen can keep this level of play up in the next couple of series and beyond, then England have another true all rounder.

As for the South African bowlers, they can hold their heads up high. Morkel, Rabada and even Olivier, who looked a club bowler in the 2nd Test, bowled extremely well in conditions that suited them. They consistently made England’s batsmen play and miss and on another occasion could have easily wrapped up the England innings for under 150. The only bowler who will be slightly disappointed will be Maharaj, though whilst he looked dangerous bowling into the rough, especially against the left handers, he will be disappointed that he only took 1-92 in pretty helpful conditions, although he could do little whilst he was being smashed round the park by Moeen.

So onto Day 4 and barring a miracle or persistent rain, England should wrap up this game and the series 3-1 in the next day or so. Whether we have learnt anything more about the England line up however, is an extremely moot point.

Thoughts and comments on Day 4 below.


58 thoughts on “England vs. South Africa, 4th Test, Day 3

  1. alecpaton Aug 6, 2017 / 5:36 pm

    I think we’ve learnt that England’s more experienced middle order players have finally started to learn lessons that should have been drummed into them well before Trent Bridge.

    In the past 2 tests, Root, Stokes, Bairstow and Moeen have all ground out important runs in tricky conditions. Hopefully they can carry these lessons forward into the 2nd half of the test summer and beyond.

    Re Cook- I reckon he can still come again. Failing that, just tell every opposition that we’re forfeiting the 1st 3 wickets and ask Root plus a random middle order player to start the rebuilding operation from there.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mark Aug 6, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    This is the worst SA team I have seen. England have no number 2, no number 3, no number 5 of any expeirence. On top of that the number 1 hasn’t made a test century against SA or Australia for donkeys years. They also have a part time spinner as their number 1 spinner, and they are 2-1 up about to go 3-1 up.

    England’s top order are in a pickle now for the Ahes because if they bring in a new opener for the WI that could mean soft runs against a weaker attack lulling everyone into a false sense of security for the Ashes. If they are going to drop the number 2 they might as well go back to Hales. He can’t do any worse.

    England are winning with about 7 players. Perhaps they should replace the number 2 and 5 with more all rounders. (Snark)


    • Sean B Aug 6, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      I call in Ravi Bopara syndrome. 3 centuries vs WI, then hopelessly exposed in 2009 vs the Aussies


      • Mark Aug 6, 2017 / 7:16 pm

        Yes exactly…….. It’s a little unfair on the guys who have failed against a decent SA attack to be dropped when a much weaker bowling team arrives. And the SA bowling is by no means at full strength. What with injuries and illness.

        If you bring in new players now for WI and they score runs you have to take them down under?

        Stick or twist is the reality for England selectors now.

        Liked by 1 person

    • d'Arthez Aug 7, 2017 / 1:21 pm

      To be fair:

      SA debutant at #2 – Kuhn. Stephen Cook was dropped, despite doing better than Duminy, and having a tougher gig (opening). Debutant at #6 – de Bruyn (who had not even played 40 FC games in his life). Why? Because AB could not be bothered to show up. His last two Tests were as captain against England in 2016. Some real long term commitment to the job there, AB.

      Morris had all of 2 Tests experience. And all of 1 FC match since his last Test in the early part of 2016. Why? Because he needs to make money on the hit and giggle circuit. Olivier had all of one Test experience – and he really would not have been picked if Kyle Abbott had been available. But since county cricket pays better than international cricket for half the Test playing nations, ..,

      Obviously some batting problems are self-inflicted (Duminy). And obviously, quotas (in the domestic structure) may have impacted on the quality of batsmen on display as well. But that is for CSA to sort out.

      Other problems have been willingly inflicted by the ECB and BCCI (cutting the 2013 tour short from the stipulated FTP programme cost CSA about $30 million, a massive sum) – results are more important than the actual quality of cricket.

      It is like demanding 100 teams to compete in Formula 1, but getting nothing more than a go-kart, and being forced to figure out how to beat the McLarens, Ferraris and the Red Bulls. Yeah, fun.


  3. Milano Expat Aug 6, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    I listened to a bit on the radio each day and it has seemed pretty hard going for all the batsmen. Delighted for Moeen Ali to score some crucial runs, but from what I’ve read his bowling has been wonderful this series. Just wish I could access some highlights now and again.

    On a side note, it was distressing to hear that Jonathan Agnes’s wife has contracted breast cancer. I already miss him on TMS, but family rightly comes first. I wish them both all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cricketjon Aug 6, 2017 / 9:04 pm

    A superb counter attacking innings by Moeen Ali today. To dance down the wicket and hit out of the rough like that takes guts particularly given the criticism it would attract if it failed. He is a real danger to the opposition in circumstances like these and I hope he can go and be equally disruptive for as long as possible tomorrow. I love seeing an international sportsman ( and a good one at that) act with dignity and modesty. It has nothing to do with his faith, all faiths have their good and bad, no this is a well brought up chap with sufficient modesty to improve.

    Can’t wait for tomorrow but although it will be brighter tomorrow it will be after 12 hours of solid rain. Hope we start on time!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. man in a barrel Aug 6, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    A real captain would have declared and had south África 5 down. Rain will probably let the game drift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean B Aug 6, 2017 / 9:17 pm

      That’s probably a bit harsh in my opinion. Sure the weather could be a factor, but why give SA a sniff when you’re 2-1 up?


      • Mark Aug 6, 2017 / 9:20 pm

        I think he is winding you up!


        • Sean B Aug 6, 2017 / 9:21 pm

          I thought MIAB has suddenly gone all Shane Warne on me!


          • Mark Aug 6, 2017 / 9:47 pm

            Shane would have declared on Friday.

            Liked by 1 person

          • LordCanisLupus Aug 6, 2017 / 9:54 pm

            He would have forfeited the second innings and said we don’t reckon you can make 130.


          • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 10:28 am

            You’ve got to lose to win you know.


          • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 10:33 am

            In this instance the old “but what if they’re 9 down” line just doesn’t apply. If they were 9 down when the match finished it would probably mean South Africa had won.


    • jomesy Aug 6, 2017 / 9:57 pm

      To be fair, I would have declared by now. There’s no way SA will score the runs/but they get the chance.


      • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 10:29 am

        But with around 180 overs to go (and let’s say 120 with weather around) there’s no advantage in declaring – you don’t get any extra overs at them.


  6. pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 6, 2017 / 9:57 pm

    Re Cook, my point of view has always been that he got so schooled by Ryan Harris and then Mitchell Johnson in the back to back Ashes series, that a relatively moderate issue became an open sore. He’d always had some issues against good quality pace, the Aussies in 2006/7 and 2009 as well as Asif/Amir in 2010 told everyone that you weren’t dealing with the most fluent or eye-catching player. However that is not as much the issue that his supposed obduracy wasn’t quite obdurate enough when up against high class bowling of the accuracy and flair that didn’t feed him his cut shot. Did anyone see any footage of his ODI games for Essex earlier this year?

    It was always the cut shot or clips off his legs that he dined out on. The very best international bowlers just don’t give him anywhere near as much.

    He did have some success here and there against the better attacks, his fine series in 2009/10 in SA and his much talked of series the next year in Aus might have quelled that,but the improved versions of those teams have consistently got the better of him as your stats have indicated, i.e. 29 or so in 26 tests since the 2012 home series v SA.

    I’m not quite sure Cook is finished. Overall he hasn’t had the worst series here given that the conditions have usually been pro seam bowling in the last 3 tests and his 88 at the Oval was a fine knock, no matter the adulation that others in the printed media have endowed on it.

    However his record since the mid 2013 period is simply for me, is more of a correction as to the type of player Cook is – i.e. a good/very good player and not a great.

    Liked by 2 people

    • oreston Aug 7, 2017 / 7:09 am

      Luckily for you, people are no longer burned at the stake for such outright heresy…
      Seriously, I think this is a very fair appraisal of the Cook situation. Of course he shouldn’t be dropped (England have enough problems filling one opener slot, let alone two) but why pretend that he’s something he’s not? After 143 tests the stats don’t lie. 30 hundreds in 259 innings, but only 5 in the last 98. Yes he has a good over all record, and still a decent average, but since 2013 he has significantly underperformed – both compared to what went before and by the standards of any supposedly World class player. This hardly makes him a Bradman no matter how determinedly his career landmarks are spun without setting them in proper context. His decline started when he was what? 28 yrs. old? So it’s hardly attributable to decrepitude or (now that he’s free of it) to the pressure of captaincy.
      I suppose the answer to, “why pretend he’s something that he’s not?” is that is that reversing a narrative such as the one which has been built so vehemently around him over the last few years would be akin to trying to turn around an ocean liner. When so many journalists and other cricket establishment figues have been so heavily invested in the Cookie Cult they can’t very well suddenly do an about face and say, “Actually, do you know what? This bloke’s still a fairly decent player but he might be a little bit overrated now.”
      Also, with all the wider questions about the quality of present day test cricket, I think it suits some agendas to pretend that there’s an all-time batting great in the current England team so as to reinforce the ludicrous notion that the 2010s are as strong an era as any there has been. Apparently even Alastair believes that.


    • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 10:31 am

      Good to see you the other night by the way Phil.

      Cook is a very odd opener. His vulnerabilities to pace are obvious, but he’s a genuinely fine player of spin. Not sure I’ve ever seen that combination in an opener before, not a successful one at least.


      • pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 7, 2017 / 11:23 am

        Yep a good evening all told and I mentioned to Sean that I spent Saturday suffering from the night before!

        I looked up Marcus Trescothick’s record as the perception was that he’d done relatively well v spin and weaker v high quality pace. He had his successes in Asia and failures against Australia and Jason Gillespie in particular although his success wasn’t in the same league as Cook in Asia, though arguably he played versus better bowlers in his era compared with Cook (thinking of Saqlain, peak Murali, peak Kumble and Harbhajan).

        Tres had his successes v South Africa and had a decent 2005 Ashes series although he never scored a ton (and never would) v Australia. However that was clearly Australia at their peak in 2 series (2001 and 2002/3). Cook played in 2006/7 (nothing to see hear) and averaged mid 20s again in his early years but also had 3 other series 2009, 2013 & 2013/14 where he averaged mid 20s too.


  7. Miami Dad's Six Aug 7, 2017 / 6:35 am

    Olivier looks the business to me. A very solid start to his international career, and his first class figures back them up. I’d have been tempted to toss him the new ball over Rabada yesterday.


  8. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Aug 7, 2017 / 7:47 am

    The 2nd compelling day of cricket in this Test, which makes South Africa’s 1st innings all the more galling. There are between 90 and 120 overs left in this game (veering towards the lower end) so an immediate declaration is probably the right day to go. At worst, T20 style cricket for an hour. Very negative to bat on in normal style imo unless a 2-1 series win is the overarching priority.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2017 / 7:58 am

      The only way you declare now is if you think it’s going to rain for a day and a half.

      Every other team in the world 2-1 up in a series would bat out until the opposition has no chance. If this were the Ashes we wouldn’t be contemplating a declaration. By thinking we should do it now means we think these series aren’t as important.


      • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 9:30 am

        I agree. England are winning 2-1 in the last test match of the series. Surely you just bat as long as you can and give them nothing.

        The time for debate about declarations was the last test match when the series was level at 1-1 and you are in a position to win the match and get into the lead. I thought England batted on too long for a lead of 490 odd then but in the end it didn’t matter because SA were bowled out well inside the time.


      • d'Arthez Aug 7, 2017 / 11:33 am

        This series is not important, certainly not on sporting grounds. At least not to the ECB. If it was, the ECB would not have blatantly rigged the game in its favour in its dealing over the last 4-5 years.

        If South Africa lose (and they will), endless tri-series between England, Australia and India are one step closer. Through their excellence in the past decade, South Africa merely delayed the inevitable. Corruption wins, congrats ECB.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. man in a barrel Aug 7, 2017 / 8:37 am

    The highest score that S África have made all series was 361 at Lords. Does anyone really think they can get close on this dog of a pitch?


    • nonoxcol Aug 7, 2017 / 9:13 am

      No. Bitterly disappointed in them for the last two series, and pretty much aligned with d’Arthez in terms of what it says about the future of Test cricket outside the “Big 3”.

      This is the first time since 1998 when I’ve thought Gerhardus Liebenberg would have a good chance of getting in their side. And if that isn’t a litmus test for worrying, possibly terminal decline, I don’t know what is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • northernlight71 Aug 7, 2017 / 5:23 pm

        I always wanted Gehardus to play more for SA, if only to hear his name spoken in a South African accent by the commentators. It just sounds like they’re having a particularly long sneeze.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2017 / 9:38 am

      No. But why give them the chance? Why should we be so accommodating? Tomorrow’s forecast looks ropey, but imagine declaring now and them being 280 for 4 tonight. Only takes Elgar to dig in and Amla to get going.


    • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 11:54 am

      It’s all very odd. If he doesn’t want to play fine, but to sit on Twitter watching the game and making comments when he says he has other things to do seems weird.He also seems to be using it to push commercial interests. A sort of non playing captain who is still getting endorsements for his connections to the SA cricket team.

      In fairness to him the ludicrous schedule the governing bodies have created for all forms of cricket means players will have to rest. Joe Root and Ben Stokes will not be able to go on playing all 3 forms of the game without either injury or fatigue.

      Also,when the money has been carved in such a way by the ICC the players from the non big 3 will have to earn where they can. SA, NZ, WI players will be at odds with their governing body. This only helps the big 3 become more dominate. I leave it to others to argue if this is the master plan. So called financial doping.


  10. man in a barrel Aug 7, 2017 / 11:14 am

    Yesterday at 6 pm the Met Office gave about 80% chance of rain all day in Manchester and almost the same level of probability for similar rainfall on Tuesday. Now, I see that the Met Office is showing zero chance of rain today. That was the context for me suggesting that Root should declare. But now I see that there is rain at Old Trafford and Root has decided that 380 is enough.


    • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 11:16 am

      To be honest, if it pisses down for two days it’s not even worth worrying about, it’s just going to be a draw. England are the ones 2-1 up.


  11. REDRUM106 Aug 7, 2017 / 12:13 pm

    Have to put in a good word for Old Trafford. Haven’t been to a test match in over 10 years, mainly due to the exhorbitant pricing structure of my local ground Edgbaston. Yesterday paid £25 for a seat 3 rows from the front of the A stand with a perfect side on view. That together with the cheap and easy access to the ground via Metrolink makes it a real value for money day. OK the ground has lost a lot of it’s character with the redevelopment, changing the square round etc and the cost of food and drink in the ground is ridiculous (isn’t it everywhere and if you take your own stuff that doesn’t matter) but Lancs CC do seem to have made an effort to make going to a Test match affordable for the average fan.
    Also have to agree with Sean’s verdict – this was a proper day of test cricket, and all the better for that.


    • d'Arthez Aug 7, 2017 / 12:36 pm

      Pity it was utterly irrelevant, barring a massive England collapse.


    • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 2:48 pm

      £25 is good value for a test match ticket I would say. I paid more than that for tickets at a champions trophy group stage match. And you are right the cost everywhere of food and drink is a rip off. Try cinema prices. I just wish they would improve the quality if they are going to rob us blind.

      I guess the small crowd today on the forth day show why prices are not so high oooop North. It is a Monday I guess. As for OT I agree they have made an effort to improve things. They were forced to do so because of losing test matches to newer venues.

      As always with these things finance and planning restrictions are major issues. Ive got to be honest from an aesthetic point of view I don’t like what they have done. The old pavilion was a great feature, and now it’s almost covered up. The Point looks like a large porta cabin dropped in by Crane. But I guess that was the best option for the money so you have to go with it.


  12. thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 12:44 pm

    Interesting comment from Graeme Smith on TMS. Asked a nasty question as to which of the three England captain resignations he enjoyed the most, he went through Hussain and Vaughan, but then said after a slight hesitation that Strauss’s was “the most rewarding shall we say”.

    The tone of voice suggested he isn’t a fan. At all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 1:54 pm

      Twitter storm in 54321…….


  13. Sean B Aug 7, 2017 / 12:53 pm

    Yep, remember when he tweeted that ‘head boy’ had been caught out, after c*ntgate…


  14. thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 2:23 pm

    When are we expecting our first set of worried comments on broadcast/social media that South Africa might win this?

    About 200 runs before anyone should get worried is around the usual window.


  15. Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    Shawn Pollock got that wicket. He was just saying what a good average Amla had against off spin.

    Curse of the commentator. I reckon those 2 needed to put about another 75- 100 before it was a real problem for England.


    • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 3:32 pm

      The last 100 is the hard bit. Wouldn’t have tilted South Africa’s way till they got to about 280-3 or so. Even then one wicket brings a couple. The fans would be fretting more than the players, that’s for sure.

      At the moment the field is up. When it gets close it goes more defensive. Can’t remember which Test it was where Australia needed about 300 and had got to 140-0 or 1 and then fell apart. The pressure gets bigger when you start thinking you might actually get there.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 3:32 pm

    Oh f… it’s Simon Hughes and The Kia Oval advert.

    Couldn’t they get a Surrey face to front this advert? But then he is the 39 th most I portant person in cricket.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 3:35 pm

    Would captain Cook have had a second slip in for a spinner in this situation? I’m not sure he would.


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2017 / 5:33 pm

      Moeen has had a sensational series. Great. But here we go again. He’s done very little away from home. Especially with the ball.

      But hey. Media’s got to go over the top. I mean Hameed made a half century.


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