England v South Africa – 3rd Test Preview – Unlucky Breaks

England have won five Tests so far this summer and are looking to make it six, but will have to do so without their top scoring batter this summer. Jonny Bairstow slipped whilst walking to the tee at his local golf course and sustained an injury which requires him to undergo surgery and sees him unavailable for both this Test and the upcoming T20 World Cup.

It is a hammer blow for Brendon McCullum and the Test team. The success of Bazball has been built around Bairstow, who averaged 75.66 at a strike rate of 96.59 in Tests this summer. It was a freakishly excellent run of form which battered the opposition bowlers into submission and helped transform England from perennial losers into dominant winners.

The unenviable job of replacing Bairstow falls to fellow Yorkshireman, Harry Brook. He’s certainly in good form himself this year, scoring 967 runs in just eight Division 1 matches, but Test cricket is a big step up from the bowling he will have faced before. He has been heavily hyped in the lead up to today, which makes me fear that there is too much pressure on the young cricketer.

Brook is the only change to the England team from the previous match, with Ollie Robinson and Stuart Broad preferred over Potts and Overton whilst openers Alex Lees and Zak Crawley manage to exceed expectations by finishing the season. Averaging 25.00 and 18.26 over the six Tests, I feel that both players should be batting for their place in the winter tours. Whether that is actually the case with Crawley (First-class batting average: 29.42), who has a very strong supporter in England Director Of Cricket/Head Selector Rob Key, remains to be seen.

Another outcome of Bairstow’s injury has been the return of Alex Hales to the England fold. It had been heavily hinted that Rob Key wanted Hales in the white ball teams, saying in his first press conference in charge that the batter had ‘served his time’ away from the team, but Hales wasn’t included in the initial squad for the T20 World Cup. Things changed rapidly after the squad was announced, with news of Bairstow’s injury following almost immediately after. England suddenly had a need for an aggressive, experienced player in their middle order, and Hales was called up.

Hales’ inclusion is not without its controversies. He has a history of bad behaviour which includes his night out in Bristol which led to Ben Stokes facing affray charges and at least one failed recreational drug test. More recently, he was named in Azeem Rafiq’s testimony regarding allegations of racism within English cricket. Former captain Eoin Morgan seemed adamant that he should never play again, and one significant part of Ben Stokes’ public rehabilitation after Bristol appears to have been completely separating himself from the ‘bad influence’ of Hales.

However, sport is not a moral pursuit. No more so than politics or business, both of which cricket often resembles. The ECB clearly feels that the England team are more likely to win the T20 World Cup with Hales than without him, and that’s all that matters to them. Whether this damages the unity within the dressing room, and whether that has any effect on the performances on the field, remains to be seen.

If you have any comments about the match, banning cricketers playing golf, or anything else, please leave them below.


19 thoughts on “England v South Africa – 3rd Test Preview – Unlucky Breaks

  1. StaffordshireKnot Sep 8, 2022 / 1:24 pm

    Post-war England have won 5 Tests in a summer on quite a few occasions – but only once have they won more…….2004, when they beat NZ 3-0, and then Windies 4-0.

    Judging by the weather, unless the skippers agree to forfeit an innings, I do not think a sixth win will materialise.

    Just think – all those beautiful, rain-free days in July and August the went on the steaming pile of ordure that is The Hundred.



    • StaffordshireKnot Sep 12, 2022 / 1:17 pm

      Well, that puts me in my place.

      Still, who would have truly predicted that a test match could be played out in basically two days?

      SA first innings = 36.2 overs
      ENG first innings = 36.2 overs

      SA second innings = 56.2 overs
      ENG second innings = 22.3 overs

      That’s four innings in 150 overs.

      A win is a win, but we have to ask – were SA really bad, were ENG really good, or was there a demon in the pitch?

      ENG cracking on at 6-an-over, suggests a bit of all.


      • dlpthomas Sep 12, 2022 / 2:10 pm

        I guess it was a “bit of all” but I didn’t think the pitch had that many demons (though the numbers would suggest otherwise)


  2. Mark Sep 8, 2022 / 1:39 pm

    While the ECB can’t be held responsible for the vagaries of the English weather, they can be blamed for the fixture list. As we enter the second week of September to start the final test match of the summer the match has been delayed, and the forecast is off and on for tomorrow as well.

    The ECB decided to play little test cricket in late July and early August as the country was bathed in a summer heatwave. I suppose the nature of the way these test matches are played is that three days may well be all that is required for a result. Especially as Bairstow is out injured. Don’t be surprised if England struggle to make 200. If you were to have asked me without knowing which England player is likely to trip over on a golf course by accident I would nominate Bairstow. Weird stuff just seems to happen. Can’t see how you can ban players from recreational stuff. You will just make their lives miserable and they have already been in bubbles for two years.

    Crawley gets yet another chance, and has been generously given the whole summer. Not quite sure how long that can continue when Rob Key was not so generous to Jason Roy. Key was probably right to change openers in the 20/20 version as Roy has been completely out of form. But Roy has a record of results
    that Crawley does not have a back up.

    As to Hales, who knows? Should the dressing room have a veto on a selection? Very dangerous road to go down. And can a player be given a life ban with no remorse for being a prat?


  3. EppenDorf Sep 8, 2022 / 2:29 pm

    Having read your recent excellent piece “Lies, Damn Lies, And High Performance Reviews”, I was surprised and disappointed by your paragraph on the return of Alex Hales to the T20 World Cup squad. Your re-analysis of the data presented in Straus’s High Performance Review, highlighting the improper use of data to reinforce pre-conceived ideals, has unexpectedly been replaced with inaccuracies and hearsay relating to Hales & Stokes.

    I’d like to see the evidence that supports your claim that Hales bad behaviour directly led to making Stokes have a street brawl. Stokes’s subsequently demonstrated that his “public rehabilitation” was purely about saving his cricketing career, even if that meant throwing his mate under the bus at the first opportunity. Not only did he express that Hales was the ‘bad influence’, with no evidence, his legal team also tried to shift the blame for his alleged victims injuries on to Hales in Court. Indeed, it seems to have been quickly forgotten that no criminal charges were ever brought against Hales, unlike Stokes, but in your eyes Hales is the main problem. A choice was made by the EBC that Stokes was more important to the England Team than Hales and so Stokes was welcomed back with open arms whilst Hales was made the scapegoat. I agree he let everyone down by taking a banned recreational drug, but he served his deserved 21-day ban and should have be allowed to get on with his career.

    Another good example of you accepting that hearsay is just as good as actual evidence, is using the allegations of racism by Azeem Rafiq to support your less than flattering views of Hales. I’ve no doubt that during Rafiq’s career he was unfortunately exposed to acts of racism, but the subsequent witch-hunt against anyone he accused was an absolute embarrassment. Unfortunately, this media-driven kangaroo court took every word from Rafiq as gospel despite presenting no scrap of evidence or allowing those accused to publicly defend themselves. The resultant cancel-culture was painful to watch, especially when Rafiq was himself exposed to be racist but with no consequences.

    After re-reading this to myself, it may seem to others that I am a Hales fanboy and he can do no wrong. For me it’s not about Hales at all, it’s me being frustrated by how easily an article can create controversy and negativity about an individual based on rumours, regardless if there is any actual truth behind them. This seems to me to be worse than the approach taken by the High Performance Review team, at least they only manipulated facts!


    • Rob Sep 8, 2022 / 4:55 pm

      I do not think one has any grounds to dispute the fairness of Danny’s third test preview (my guess Eng toss therefore Eng win?); if not I worry when someone inaccurately uses the word hearsay.

      The statistical element to cricket does tend to give the illusion of more certainty to the sport than is possible in real life; but there is a great degree of nuance in evidence even regarding the reporting of Hales’ return to the team.

      (So far as form in the T20 Leagues this year, my opinion was that while Hales’ was in form, Roy’s form was even better before the incident that led to the reported fine and furlough.

      We can all opine that Crawley might have been given too many chances; if not there is an accuracy to a degree to the argument about the preeminence of public school influence in County and English cricket that Crawley might be part beneficiary of. To evidence the influence – as some like Jarrod Kimber might allude to – of Zak Crawley’s father if not his wealth, if not the special influence that this bestows – is harder still. Yet we can hazard a guess that he will still be there for the Ashes next year – so if 2004 is the guide, here’s to hoping that 2023 will be 2005.

      In the legendary Yorkshire dressing room, even leaving aside the present problems, even Michael Vaughan talks cryptically about David Byas; Ray Illingworth, not known for his cordial relations with Devon Malcolm amongst others, talks of the rough behaviour of Johhny Wardle or Appleyard; with even the saintly Len Hutton in on it. Eppendorf presumably would say that this is hearsay, there is not a scrap of evidence etcetera..)

      I very much doubt there was any substantial degree of negativity or controversy in what Danny wrote. There is room for more than one opinion. A defence barrister would be required to point to Hales’ presence on the scene – to imply moral turpitude on Stokes’ part for this alone is unwarranted. Interesting ly per the film, Stokes refused the new Yorkshire supremo’s request for a selfy after the WC final – so even Stokes was upset about being barred from cricket as “punishment”.

      (And if it needs to be said one of my heroes was Clem Hill who managed to deposit his chairman of selectors through a window – they say things have improved).


    • Marek Sep 8, 2022 / 7:21 pm

      I think this is both an incredible overreaction and a misreading of the post, Eppendorf. And for someone who is so solicitous about adhering to the facts and not gossiping, it also has a pretty sloppy misrepresentation of some events and a rather hypocritical tendency to gossip and sling mud.

      The post only says that Hales’s selection was controversial–which it was: almost every media outlet that has covered it has said the same things. Technically the sentence you’re complaining about bears the meaning that you ascribe to it–it should read “THE night out” rather than “his”–but I suspect this is simply a very minor mistake of language rather than an attempt to blame Hales for Stokes’s behaviour. (I note that you don’t also accuse Danny of saying that Hales was responsible for Stokes failing a drugs test, which the sentence also seems to say!)

      As for the later sentence about Stokes’s rehabilitation–well, which part of the word “appears” or the use of inverted commas don’t you understand?! That’s just a reporting of things that were said at the time.

      As for the Rafiq allegations–yes, there’s no corroborating evidence as regards Hales, but Danny isn’t claiming there is: he’s just saying that it was controversial (true) because the incident was referred to in Rafiq’s testimony (true).

      Stokes’s rehabilitation was all about his career? For someone who doesn’t like slinging mud, you’ve got a fair handful of it there!–and it’s a completely factually unproveable allegation. (You also seem to ignore the rather basic fact that Stokes was acquitted: why there should have been ANY “rehabilitation” is an interesting question).

      Stokes tried to suggest that Hales was a bad influence on him? Where?–I don’t recall seeing that mentioned at all from that day to this. Stokes has seemed to me to have accepted all along that he was responsible for his own actions, even when he was arrested a few minutes after the fight (in stark contrast to Hales according to the evidence given by the police, who said that Hales had denied even being there–which Hales later admitted saying).

      Stokes’s legal team tried to shift the blame for the injuries? They argued that it would be unfair to convict their client given that there was video evidence of someone who was party to the fight but who hadn’t even been charged, which appeared to show that man kicking a prone man on the ground: that is, they were making the point that the injuries MIGHT have been cause by Hales’s kick rather than Stokes’s punch. As lawyers, I would have been amazed if they hadn’t followed up such an obvious line of argument–and they would probably have been negligent not to.

      A decision was made that Stokes was more important to the team than Hales after the Bristol incident? Again, wildly inaccurate speculation: the ECB were perfectly happy for both to be selected in the same team for over a year after they becamse eligible again.

      The media “took every word from Rafiq as gospel despite presenting no scrap of evidence or allowing those accused to publicly defend themselves”? That’s the interviews or stories they printed to allow all of the five named people to give their side of the story, including the one who used his own column to trumpet his innocence–and including the one who said that Rafiq had been correct in his allegations about him, the second who admitted some of the allegations and the third who admitted that he had made a racist comment to him? Did I not read the supporting evidence which was the statements by Rashid and Rana Naved, the admissions by the three players mentioned in the last sentence (or, for that matter, though it’s not “evidence”, the very clear insinuations in an interview by that well-known troublemaker Alex Lees that all was most definitely not hunky-dory in the Yorkshire dressing-room led by Gale and Ballance).

      Cancel-culture? Will that be the cancelled columnist who still has his newspaper column in the same paper, the player who still has a Yorkshire playing contract despite having been a central part of the events which caused the controversy, or the player who was supported by his county even after he admitted bullying a teammate?

      Rafiq was racist without consequences? The consequences have been exactly the same as most of the other players who have had their racist or homophobic comments screenshotted for all to see: a referral to the CDC (who will almost certainly, since he’s admitted it, find him guilty and punish him). I do note, though, that there were at least two England players who appear to have made equally offewnsive comments and got away without as much as a slap on the wrist–now THAT’S lack of consequences!

      I’m not entirely sure that it’s Danny who needs to write a bit more accurately here…:-)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. dlpthomas Sep 10, 2022 / 6:25 pm

    It’s been an entertaining days play but some of the batting has been ordinary.


    • pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 11, 2022 / 8:48 am

      Ordinary is being very generous! I thought it truly sucked. I can’t say that I was surprised though. Helpful conditions after a lot of rain and two distinctly dodgy batting lineups. What was worse is that Root got drawn in to the frenetic nature and Stokes reverted to slogging as per his earlier summer tests in contrast to his finely worked to last test. If South Africa can wrap up the last three wickets and set England 175, we may have a very intriguing end to this game.


      • dlpthomas Sep 11, 2022 / 11:05 am

        I’m known for my generosity. The words I originally used were much less kind. After his batting in the last game it was frustrating (that’s me being generous again) to see Strokes out slogging yet again. Still, as you say, it could be a good finish.


        • pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 11, 2022 / 11:18 am

          And only four runs added with the innings wrapped up. Game most definitely on.


          • dlpthomas Sep 11, 2022 / 5:12 pm

            130 to win. Will they try and win it tonight?


          • pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 11, 2022 / 6:21 pm

            They are certainly trying to win tonight. I think the fading light will win the battle.


    • Marek Sep 11, 2022 / 11:21 am

      One thing they desperately need is for their bowlers to bat a bit better–which was one of the better points of the Flower era. Of course the batters often also need to bat better–and it’s really looking increasingly as if they need two new openers, not one–but in a weak batting team you need to get as much as humanly possible out of the tail. England at the moment are too often looking as if they have neither the technique nor the desire to do that–which are both, in different ways, coaching issues. It’s one of the 1%ers that mark the difference between solidly mid-table teams and world-beating ones.

      And it’s odd because none of them are really hopeless batters.


  5. dlpthomas Sep 11, 2022 / 5:28 pm

    A dropped catch of the first ball of the innings and then some terrible running / grounding by Lees. An eventful start


  6. pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 15, 2022 / 1:42 pm

    Just a quick comment from me. I wondered about the positives from players apart from those established and I think the following from this summer. In no particular order. So I won’t include the likes of Root, Anderson, Broad and Bairstow although you could argue the latter brought his batting to a different level before his injury.

    1. Ollie Pope. An average of 38 might not seem spectacular but must be seen as more than respectable since there hardly seemed to be a no.3 worth mentioning since Jonathan Trott retired.

    2. Ben Foakes. His first opportunity as no.1 wicket-keeper and he cements generally tidy glovework with a ton against SA. We know that he can play spin very well, and he was perhaps fortunate that he was up against a two-pronged spin attack at Old Trafford, but it was a fine innings nonetheless.

    3. We knew Ollie Robinson was good when fit, but we didn’t know if he was going to either be fit or trusted. He was very astutely brought back.


  7. Marek Sep 17, 2022 / 12:12 pm

    No Royal London Cup final day would be complete without a quick reference to those arrogant, greedy arseholes at Sky who are quite happy for us to watch every single RLC match on county live streams when they’ve got something to televise that they think is more important…except the final because it’s the one game out of 77 that they want to show, because there’s no other cricket on.


  8. Marek Sep 19, 2022 / 9:32 pm

    “Their objections over playing in Multan for the second Test, where the ground is 30 minutes from the hotel, were met with a simple “well, we played in England in a pandemic””. Classic! Good to see that the ECB are as much in contact with Mother Reality as ever….

    …a thought also prompted by the news that Somerset apparently have been told that Jack Leach is unavailable for the rest of the season, having bowled all of 45 overs between the end of July and the end of November.


    • pktroll (@pktroll) Sep 20, 2022 / 10:57 am

      Nuts as per usual re player availability. Zak Crawley unavailable for Ken but Foakes and Pope able to play for Surrey. Where is the consistency nay commmon sense?


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