South Africa vs England: 1st Test, Day 3

Why is an England away Test performance like a Christmas cracker joke?

Because the grim inevitability of disappointment has become so deeply ingrained that it would be infinitely more surprising if they were even remotely good.

One of the hardest things about writing an England match report here is trying not to repeat what you or the other writers have written in past posts. Days like today make this task so much more difficult as England, not unlike an 80s rock band, wheeled out all of their greatest hits.

The day began with South Africa reeling on 72-4, so naturally England’s bowlers all bowled short so that there was virtually no chance of hitting the wickets. It was only when they started bowling full, just before Lunch, that England actually managed to dismiss any South African batsmen. Unfortunately for the tourists, that adjustment was too late and they were already 300 runs behind.

After Lunch, England just had to dismiss the tail in order to chase their high and still-increasing target. So, obviously, they bowled anywhere but at the stumps and let the tailenders add another 98 runs for the last three wickets. This will not be a surprise for anyone who has followed England recently, as they have the second-highest Test bowling average (behind Afghanistan) when bowling for the last three wickets this year.

The third stage of the archetypal England performance, after a feeble batting collapse and a toothless bowling display, is the hope. Against all experience and reason, we still think England can pull off a miraculous rearguard and somehow win the game. Burns and Sibley played well, and put together the highest England opening partnership since Cook and Jennings in 2016. Sibley gave his wicket away with some gentle catching practice to Maharaj, but that was the only wicket the visiting team lost all day. From an impossible target of 376, England now need ‘just’ 255 runs with nine wickets remaining.

It really is the hope that kills you.

Comments welcome below.


15 thoughts on “South Africa vs England: 1st Test, Day 3

    • Marek Dec 28, 2019 / 4:41 pm

      Or more, depending on which evidence you use!

      I’d rather have Trott over Bell any day at number 3. Call me a selectorial pedant, but I’ll take the man who averages eight runs higher there (or ten if you take away each of their highest scores) and scores a century more than twice as often!

      And, without specifying it as a home test, we’re proposing a third seamer with an away average of around 60 and strike rate of north of 100? Good luck with that one…and all so that we can exclude Finn, who has the fourth highest strike rate of an English bowler in the last 100 years. Or even Tim Bresnan, who I would have thought would be a better like-for-like player than Woakes without specifying where you’re playing.


      • jomesy Dec 29, 2019 / 12:34 pm

        I’d have Trott over pretty much everyone. First name on the sheet. Chris Woakes a close second. (There’s one joke in there).


    • Mark Dec 28, 2019 / 5:03 pm

      Well,it is only the team of the decade so there aren’t many surprises. We should be relieved that KP gets in with 84% of the vote. Progress of a sort I guess. Cook and Strauss as openers are not really surprising. Neither is Anderson and Broad or Swann.

      As for today, I did say yesterday that I wouldn’t rule out an England win. Mind you, I didn’t expect England to bowl so badly. (Remind me again why do we have all these back room staff?) Make no mistake though , if England lose this match it will be way worse than the defeat to NZ before Christmas. SA are a shadow of a team.

      Meanwhile a whole load of ECB gravy train riders have been given awards. Failing upwards is the ECB way.


      • Darthez Dec 29, 2019 / 1:19 pm

        Seconded. That is like picking Strauss over Hobbs for an all time England 11.


        • nonoxcol Dec 29, 2019 / 5:37 pm

          I have followed England since 81 (so a bit too late for Knott) and, depending on if and how you want to use Alec Stewart, or your preference for a specialist keeper over the runs, Prior would have a very good case for being in a post-81 England XI. Bairstow wouldn’t make my longlist.

          Not picking him for post-09 (no Stewart, no specialists with a decent run, part of statistically the best batting line up 1 to 7 we’ve had in my lifetime) is an utter farce.


  1. man in a barrel Dec 28, 2019 / 5:21 pm

    So New Zealand, who made England look like a bunch of 2nd raters a month ago, are really struggling in Australia. Roll on the Ashes! I remember when losing the Ashes was seen as a disaster. Since the days of Cookie, to lose humiliatingly in Australia is a confirmation that the right structure is in place


  2. man in a barrel Dec 28, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    No mind bleach is strong enough….

    “There is no doubt that BBC Sport readers want a spinner in their side – and that man is Swann. England’s most successful offie in history adds balance to the bowling attack and can do the impressions in the dressing room.”


    • Marek Dec 28, 2019 / 5:35 pm

      ..if only Mike Yarwood had bowled a bit of off-spin…


  3. LordCanisLupus Dec 28, 2019 / 6:05 pm

    Lickspittles have to lick, well, spittle:

    “He has demonstrated his passion for and commitment to the game, from his work at a grassroots level with Dunnington CC all the way up to the England teams and we’re incredibly grateful for all the work he has done.” – Tom Harrison.


    • Mark Dec 28, 2019 / 6:17 pm

      Tom Harrison has to negotiate a tv contract once every four years. And there is only really one broadcaster acceptable, who happen to be a “partner” with the governing body.

      Tell me why he receives the salary he gets? And don’t say it’s the going rate. Going rate for what?

      Custodians of a national sport my arse.


  4. Darthez Dec 29, 2019 / 1:17 pm

    Surprised that South Africa won. Haven’t followed cricket at all this week. But I figured there was a chance with walking wicket Johnny being picked. Obviously it also helps the host’s chances if you don’t pick a specialist wicketkeeper-batsman. Even more so if the guy playing has just one ton in, what 40 Tests? And that too when chasing 500 in the fourth innings in an obviously lost cause.

    I have said it before, but Archer batting at nine is at least one spot too high.

    Seriously are the ECB even trying to get the best team on the field?


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