South Africa v England: 3rd Test, Day 2 – The New Pope

At the end of Day 1, this game was in the balance. 224-4 was a solid foundation, but one we England fans have seen the team collapse from several times in recent years. Instead, Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope both made impressive hundreds as England took charge of this game and potentially the series too.

The day began later than normal, after a rain shower delayed the start of play. The South Africans probably wish the rain lasted quite a bit longer though, as Stokes and Pope absolutely dominated the bowlers. The pitch seemed better to bat on than the previous day, as perhaps the rain had left the pitch a little quicker whilst still not generating any movement from the pace bowlers. Even so, it was a very impressive batting from the pair, and they made it all of the way past Lunch before Stokes eventually hit one in the air to point.

Stokes’ batting in the past year has been absolutely tremendous. Since the start of 2019, he is England’s top Test runscorer with 1060 at an average of 50.47. Not only that, he looks like a ‘proper’ Test batsman when he’s at the crease. Confident and assured, making smart decisions, and being able to play both a counter-attacking and dominating innings depending on the situation. His bowling is, at this point, basically a bonus. In this innings he passed 4000 Test runs, and you wouldn’t necessarily bet against him doubling that in his career.

If Stokes has had a great year in the Test team, the next batsman in has had an anus horribilis [sic]. Jos Buttler came in, scored one run and then chipped the ball tamely back to Maharaj for a simple caught and bowled. Since the start of 2019, Buttler has scored at an average of just 24.13, playing in 8 of those 12 Tests as a specialist batsman rather than wicketkeeper. This marks a huge drop off from his initial comeback in 2018, where he averaged 44.70 from 10 Tests. I have no idea what might have caused such a huge drop in form, but it’s increasingly difficult for him to justify his place in the side for the next series in Sri Lanka.

Fortunately for England, the tail weren’t as loose as Buttler with their batting. Helped by the tired bowling and older ball, not to mention Pope’s batting, Curran and Wood both added quickfire 40s which really crushed the hopes of a South African win. Wood’s innings in particular was a joy, with him being given out caught before being reprieved by Rabada being shown to have overstepped the bowling crease in the delivery.

What made this even more delightful for English fans and neutral observers is that Root declared on the fall of the wicket, before rescinding his declaration when the dismissal was reversed. As some have pointed out, this technically would be against the laws of the games which clearly state that: “A captain shall notify the opposing captain and the umpires of any decision to declare or to forfeit an innings.  Once notified, the decision cannot be changed.” Not for the first time in the past year, England have been fortunate with umpiring going in their favour.

Pope and Wood added another 31 runs before South Africa finally managed to dismiss Wood. On a day of milestones, perhaps the most important will end up being Ollie Pope’s 135*. His first Test century, this innings also pushes his career Test average to 51.85. This makes him the only English batsman with a Test average of over fifty since Ken Barrington’s last game in 1968. (Joe Root’s average fell below fifty in the West Indies last year, and sadly doesn’t look in danger of regaining that milestone on recent form) It’s obviously ridiculously early for such comparisons, but this innings by Pope was impressive for someone so young.

England’s spell in the field field did not start well. Stuart Broad and Sam Curran both failed to make any chances with the new ball, and it wasn’t until Dom Bess and Mark Wood came in that the South African batsmen seemed in any peril. Wood’s quick bowling caused real issues for the South African batsmen, causing edges and blows to the body, but Bess took the wickets. First a caught and bowled by Malan, followed by a bat and pad to short leg by Hamza.

The day ended a little early due to another shower, with South Africa still 439 runs behind on 60/2. It’s been a hugely impressive performance by the English batsmen, and now England have to hope that the rain stays away long enough to take the 18 remaining wickets they need.

As always, feel free to comment on the game or anything else below.


28 thoughts on “South Africa v England: 3rd Test, Day 2 – The New Pope

  1. Marek Jan 17, 2020 / 6:57 pm

    The declaration question suggests to me simply that the rules need to be changed–they simply haven’t caught up with the technology.

    It makes absolute sense to me that, if you make your decision to declare on the basis of something that is shown after the event to be incorrect, then you can change your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jan 17, 2020 / 6:59 pm

      Absolutely. It does bear saying that the definition I quoted is from the MCC’s Laws, which I’m not sure mention reviews and TV umpires. It’s possible that the ICC’s playing conditions has something regarding this kind of scenario.


      • Mark Jan 17, 2020 / 8:57 pm

        What is the view of you all on the banning of Rabada? I don’t have Sky anymore so haven’t seen the incident, but seen photos.

        Justified? Or is this over the top officialdom? Problem is he does have form … he is going to attract attention I guess.


        • thelegglance Jan 18, 2020 / 12:12 am

          Well, I get that he’s racked up points, I get that he needs to think about his behaviour. Was his celebration yesterday worthy of a demerit point? Not for me.


          • Tom Jan 18, 2020 / 8:22 am

            Agreed. I think the fine was fair enough (15% of his match fee) and yes, he had racked up points, but to have to miss a test match because of the celebration, I don’t think so. Yes, it was a bit silly but I saw nothing particularly nasty in it – there was no personal abuse or threat of violence, he just got in Root’s face and celebrated. I’ve seen much worse over the years.


          • Quebecer Jan 18, 2020 / 5:39 pm

            Yeah, that was a bit odd for me too. He was physically close to Root and, to my mind, in fast bowler doing his job mode. But he wasnt face to face with Joe, didnt say anything to him, didnt gesticulate to him. I dunno. There was nothing more than heat of battle as far as i could see. And now we have the last test worsened because of it? Im ok with genuine transgressions being duly dealt with, but this was a bit nanny state in my opinion


    • quebecer Jan 17, 2020 / 7:15 pm

      Actually, I’d be OK with it not being allowed to take back a declaration. The easy solution would be to wait the extra 30 seconds before doing it, after all, and if not, then so be it. The is test cricket, and who said life is fair? I like that these kinds of things to still exist in any sport.


      • thelegglance Jan 17, 2020 / 8:03 pm

        I rather suspect that it has parallels with the World Cup final boundary rule – in that no one had ever really thought about it as in any way likely to happen, if they thought about it at all.

        Which makes the whole thing rather fun.


        • Quebecer Jan 17, 2020 / 8:41 pm



    • Northern Light Jan 17, 2020 / 8:48 pm

      Why did Root change his mind though? It’s not like it matters how many people were out. If he wanted another 50 runs, he could have just waited to see if the next batsman could hang around and help that happen. If not, then…er….not!
      In the grand scheme of things it’s probably not that big a deal, but why the umpires didn’t even query the retracted declaration puzzles me. Seems an obvious thing to wonder about……


      • thelegglance Jan 18, 2020 / 12:14 am

        It’s an interesting question isn’t it? No sure answers. In terms of time in the game, 30 minutes of mayhem and 60 runs might have a bigger effect that 30 minutes of the opposition blocking.
        Personally, I’d say it’s day 2. Extrapolating decisions at the end of day 5 is always a bit unfair. Agree, disagree, no problem. Can we work out the conclusion at this stage? Nah.


      • Marek Jan 18, 2020 / 12:27 pm

        Well, the way Wood was batting suggested that quite a few runs could be scored in quite a short time–so, let the fun, and the demoralisation of SA’s bowlers, continue.

        Let’s just say that the team’s confidence in Broad’s ability to do the same thing is, er, more limited.


  2. dArthez Jan 18, 2020 / 9:35 am

    The only questions now are how many wickets Bess will get this match, and whether South Africa lose by 300 runs or by an innings and 150 runs. Toss cricket is exciting huh?


  3. dArthez Jan 18, 2020 / 9:40 am

    Not sure what happened to my comment, but with the South African incompetence against an average spinner (hell, he does not even get picked by his county), even Laker’s record is not safe. That should be informative enough about the lack of quality in South Africa these days.


  4. dArthez Jan 18, 2020 / 9:42 am

    And how much more damning can it get than a nightwatchman lasting longer than ANY of the specialist batsmen? And I use the word ‘batsmen’ extremely loosely here.


  5. man in a barrel Jan 18, 2020 / 9:58 am

    What is going off out there? Dom Bess has 5 top order wickets in a Test match. Why was he not in India instead of Ansari and Dawson? He must be something really special, surely?


    • dArthez Jan 18, 2020 / 10:14 am

      England can pick the Queen and she’d still take a wicket here against this SA side..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marek Jan 18, 2020 / 12:29 pm

        …well, they’ve picked Prior and Pope in the last few years and they’re sniffing round Abbott, so they’re probably more likely to pick the Archbishop of Canterbury! But he’s probably around the same standard spinner as the Queen…


    • Marek Jan 18, 2020 / 12:33 pm

      ….well he was a 19-year-old who’d played about three f-c matches at the time, so I’ll give the selectors that one! (Although not the picking of Ansari, Dawson and–lest we forget–Batty over Leach…)

      I’m wondering who the last England spinner to take the first five wickets in the first inningsof a Test was. Strongly suspecting Hedley Verity or some such…!


      • Quebecer Jan 18, 2020 / 5:47 pm

        Derek underwood i rhink.


      • man in a barrel Jan 18, 2020 / 6:48 pm

        Laker, 1956. Possibly Greig at Port of Spain in 1973-4. Croft against the Aussies 1996 on that damp pitch? Possibly Underwood at Lords against Pakistan in 1974 when rain water got under the covers.

        Just doing this from memory. No doubt it will be Moeen Ali against Bangladesh sometime after the era of real cricket, ie pre-Cook


        • man in a barrel Jan 18, 2020 / 7:10 pm

          I think Underwood did it on the Lillee – Thomson tour 1974 – 5,at Adelaide (?), on a rain-affected pitch but it dried out before KD Walters could get himself out and he spanked a century in a session, the bastard


  6. Mark Jan 18, 2020 / 12:30 pm

    It would be an awful shame if the bad weather washed out enough of today’s play to then push the game in to day 5 for an England win. Thus once again making the 4 day Test maniacs look like money grabbing idiots.


  7. dlpthomas Jan 18, 2020 / 2:00 pm

    What happened to bowling at the top of off when tail-enders are in?


    • Darthez Jan 18, 2020 / 2:05 pm

      The tailenders are out. They are otherwise known as the top order


      • dlpthomas Jan 18, 2020 / 2:13 pm

        And I thought I was bitter and twisted. There is much to admire about Nortje as a cricketer.


        • Darthez Jan 18, 2020 / 3:36 pm

          Absolutely. He has done way more than could have been reasonably be expected with the bat. More than specialist toss loser faf. Faf who has struggled for runs for the last 2 or 3 years already.

          And the guy (nortje) is not close to say a shaun pollock with the bat. So he fights. Unlike several senior members in this team.

          He deserves way more support than he has been given. South Africa must be praying for rain on day 5. Even a washout on day 4 will result in a loss.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Quebecer Jan 18, 2020 / 5:50 pm

            Admirablw cricketer, for sure. Anyone with that attitude and the ability to bowl 90mph reasonably tightly would get in most teams. Good for him


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