Thinking Out Loud: 4th Test, Day Three

Test cricket can be a beautiful thing. A precious thing. A wonderful mixture of talent and pressure culminating in moments which are seared into our memories for life.

But it also unfortunately has days like today as well. The day began with England leading the series and dominating the game, and finished the same way. The bits inbetween, both batting and bowling, were thoroughly unexciting.

The day began with an early wicket, Vern Philander caught off a leading edge in the first over of the day, leading to some speculation that England might consider enforcing the follow-on. That possibility was quickly crushed by the partnership which followed between de Kock and Pretororius, which almost carried South Africa through to Lunch. A quick flurry of wickets from Stokes and Wood ended this spell of resistance and left South Africa with a 217 run deficit in their first innings total.

The less written about England’s batting performance, the better. They were in a position where the score essentially didn’t matter as they were basically giving the bowlers a rest, and they batted like it. Loose shots, scrambled thinking, and poor technique. Honestly, the scoreline quite possibly flatters them in this innings. The dismissals I found most disappointing were those from batsmen who should be fighting for their batting position. Crawley, Denly and Buttler haven’t scored enough runs in this series to cement their place in the side, and this was their last chance to do so. They scored 24, 8 and 8 respectively. Crawley and Denly will likely have until Rory Burns is fit again to press their case, but this feels like it was Buttler’s last chance saloon.

Root managed to hang around though, scoring yet another unconverted fifty mainly with the tail. England managed to post a score of 248, leaving South Africa needing to chase 466 runs to win.

Somerset’s Vernon Philander looks to have finished his Test career early, with a hamstring injury of some description. He left the field in just his second over, and didn’t return all day. Given that this left South Africa with four seamers and no spinners, it’s little surprise that the day finished about 8 overs short.

16 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud: 4th Test, Day Three

  1. man in a barrel Jan 26, 2020 / 6:37 pm

    It’s quite worrying. In a situation with little pressure, basically batting practise, England demonstrated yet again their ability to collapse after the foundations appeared firmly cemented. For all the optimism generated by a series of highish scores, this remains an extremely brittle batting line-up. I can understand Stokes wanting to change the tempo but surely Pope and Buttler could have tried harder to settle in before wafting the bat around like Jackson Pollock making a drip picture

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    • dArthez Jan 26, 2020 / 7:03 pm

      Jackson Pollock? Can South Africa have that one, to give a bit of oomph to the lineup after Graeme, Peter and Shaun Pollock?

      But seriously, there is no point in giving any weight to this collapse. England were too far ahead in the game for it to even potentially matter. Just as little weight should be given to easy runs (weak bowling attacks, batting on national highways), little weight should be given to a lack of runs in situations like this.

      In fact, the lack of runs should be welcome for England, in it that it makes it a lot easier to get rid of Buttler from the Test team. A ton would have been just as meaningless as a score of 8, now at least there will be no excuse that he made runs in South Africa …

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  2. man in a barrel Jan 26, 2020 / 7:41 pm

    When Clive Lloyd’s team or Steve Waugh’s team got into a commanding position, they didn’t collapse for 250 very often. Point about Buttler is well made but I think that Wood in particular would have liked more of a rest

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    • dArthez Jan 26, 2020 / 8:57 pm

      Sure it would have been good if Wood got a bit more rest (other than a night’s sleep). But if the situation is so dire that England can’t deal without him against this lineup, what would have happened if there was actual batting quality in the opposition lineup?

      As for Lloyd’s and Waugh’s teams not often collapsing in such situation, was Waugh not captain in the famous Kolkata Test of 2001? Such collapses happen, even to the best teams. We probably forget a lot of those instances, because they still won by a country mile (the odd exception notwithstanding).

      The target is massive. It is not like England come out tomorrow to defend 160 or so. Because then obviously battling with injuries is a real headache. 466? Not so much so.Root has 5 frontline bowling options available (Woakes, Curran, Broad, Wood, Stokes). Surely, England should be able to manage, even if one of these bowlers broke down Probably even if two bowlers broke down. You can also look at it as an opportunity for Root to showcase his ability to rotate the bowlers well, so that none of them come out with an injury due to being overbowled.

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        • dArthez Jan 26, 2020 / 9:04 pm

          Hey, I had predicted a loss by either an innings and 50 runs or 420 runs. If South Africa can make more than 50, I am positively surprised already …

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        • Marek Jan 26, 2020 / 10:06 pm

          …but the opposition does include the two bowlers who bowled a team out for less than 40 in the fourth innings six months ago though…:)

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      • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 8:10 am

        I only checked for batting totals in the third innings of 300 or less. Obviously, you can’t really call it a massive collapse if you score 350 in the third innings in most cases – and since the world record chase is a little over 400, scoring 350 in the third innings and then losing means that the first innings lead was not that massive.

        Lloyd’s West Indies were bowled out for something 200-ish after dominating in the first innings a few times (against Leeds 1976, Sydney 1982, Faisalabad 1980). Obviously, I don’t recall those Tests in great detail, and cricinfo only provides little information with regards to time left etc. So I can’t judge easily whether such totals were due to poor batting, the pitch, or lack of time. That is for people who recall (or maybe even have footage!) of these Tests to judge.

        Those 3 times of being bowled out after gaining a substantial first innings lead go with 6 declarations in the third innings (after the lead had crossed 300). Those declarations resulted in 3 wins, 2 draws and one loss (when India chased 402, despite conceding a lead of 131 on first innings). So Lloyd’s record seems to be a bit of a mixed bag in such situations.

        As for Waugh, bowled out for 261 against West Indies Port of Spain 1999, 182 against South Africa (Australia lost in Durban 2002, probably the last time SA achieved something of note there, South Africa chased down 334), 146 in Bridgetown (West Indies duly chased 300+), 196 against India in Adelaide 2003 (okay, that was not a massive first innings lead, but Australia still lost from a position of strength).

        That goes with 6 declarations after gaining a massive first innings lead, which resulted in 5 wins and one draw (when New Zealand nearly chased down the target of 284, but ran out of time at 274/6, Brisbane 2001).

        So, I would say, even Lloyd’s and Waugh’s sides suffered the occasional meltdown, and on some occasions even went on to lose the game (India chasing 402 against Lloyd and co., South Africa actually not losing in Durban 2002, West Indies chasing 300+ in Bridgetown against Australia).

        It just that we don’t recall such instances often, because those occurrences were rare, and hardly ever influenced the outcome(s) of the match.

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  3. dlpthomas Jan 27, 2020 / 1:03 pm

    The golden arm of Ben Stokes strikes again! It’s been a good effort by South Africa so far but if we can get one more wicket I fancy there will be a collapse.

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    • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 1:08 pm

      Good effort? Like the 5th partnership of note between actual batsmen all series.

      Would be surprised if SA can get to 270 from here.

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      • dlpthomas Jan 27, 2020 / 2:14 pm

        Your a hard man my friend. They were 2 for 181 – that’s not a bad start. You might be right about 270.

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        • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 2:39 pm

          181/2 was a good start. But with this lineup, a collapse is never far away.

          It might sound hard, but 267/8 (current score is already the 8th highest total for South Africa in the last 28 innings (since AB retired) – that includes first and second innings of the game, when batting usually is a bit easier.

          By the way 187/4, was the second highest score South Africa have achieved in nearly 2 years at the fall of the fourth wicket (behind 229/4 against Pakistan in the Cape Town Test last year). In fact 25/4 has been more common than 200/4 (!) for South Africa in this period. So yeah, sorry if I have little faith.

          If they get past 303 (which is possible from here, and not extremely unliekly) that would be the third highest total for South Africa in two years. With two higher totals (both 431) coming against Pakistan in Cape Town (after Pakistan had been bowled out for 177, in the second innings), and against India after South Africa had conceded 502/7d against India in the first Test there last year.

          In fact the two highest totals for South Africa this series (284 and 272) both came in Centurion.

          Liked by 1 person

          • dlpthomas Jan 27, 2020 / 3:02 pm

            “Would be surprised if SA can get to 270 from here”
            You and I should visit a casino one day.

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      • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 3:15 pm

        274 all out. Was not too far off. South Africa’s 7th highest total since AB retired (from 28 innings). Only 3 totals even topped 300, with one of those (303 against Pakistan at the Wanderers) just barely doing that.

        Since AB’s retirement, South Africa average an appalling 23.32 per wicket with the bat, and an atrocious 34.17 with the ball.

        Which are 4th worst (ahead of Bangladesh 22.99, Afghanistan 21.69 and Ireland, 19.56) in the batting department (miles and miles behind every semi-decent batting lineup), and second worst (only Zim’s bowling average of 37.78 is worse).

        South Africa did not even manage to score 300 once in the series. In 8 attempts.The last time England managed to achieve such a feat at home was in 1999 against New Zealand (minimum of 3 Tests). The other two instances were 1982, against Pakistan, and against West Indies in 1963. Even against the 1984 West Indies, England managed to get to 300 once. And forgive me if I rate that 1984 West Indies bowling attack a bit higher than what England brought to South Africa in 2020.

        This is the second home series in a row in which South Africa failed to even got to 300 once (they also failed against mighty Sri Lanka) in a single innings of the series. All the other instances in which South Africa failed to get to 300 even once in a series (minimum of 2 Tests) were in the 19th century.

        So, the only thing missing from such atrocious stats are the sub-50 totals that South Africa were regularly subjected to in the 19th century. But give it time, and we’ll get those as well.

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  4. dlpthomas Jan 27, 2020 / 1:10 pm

    van der Dussen batted really well and deserved a hundred. Cricket really is a cruel game sometimes.

    I hope root doesn’t over-bowl Wood.

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  5. dlpthomas Jan 27, 2020 / 2:10 pm

    A brute of a delivery by Broad to pick up Bavuma – life in the old dog yet.

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