In the buildup to this much-awaited test series between England and South Africa, a war of words and ideologies ensued between the captains of both teams. Dean Elgar was dismissive in his response to England’s new “bazball” approach towards test cricket, while Ben Stokes hit back saying the opposition has been “doing a lot of talking” about them.
In the end, Dean Elgar looks to have been proven right, at least for the time being, as his side took a comprehensive victory against England by an innings and 12 runs. The match was done and dusted in just under three days even though most of the first day’s play was washed out. England lasted only 496 balls (82 overs) in their two innings and only 171.5 overs were bowled in the test match.
On a gloomy first day at the home of cricket, South Africa won a crucial toss and Elgar decided to put England in the firing line straight away. The Proteas’ pace-quartet consisting of Rabada, Nortje, Ngidi and Jansen made full use of the overcast conditions and looked unplayable. England were reduced to 116/6 in just 32 overs and were only saved by the intervention of rain, which ensured no more play was possible on the first day.
Even a sunny second morning did not alter the hosts’ fortunes as they were bundled out for just 165 in their 1st innings. South Africa’s response was led by newcomer Sarel Erewee, who scored a crucial 73. Vital contributions from Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj lower down the order propelled the visitors to 326, taking a handsome 161-run lead.
As has been the case throughout the summer, England were expected to fight back from their 1st innings deficit. But the English batsmen did not deliver on this occasion as a fired-up Henrich Nortje blew away England’s batting line-up. The hosts were dismissed for 149 in the 2nd innings, losing by an innings and 12 runs. After an exhilarating test match, here are some of the takeaways from the game.
South Africa have a world-class pace-quartet on their hands
It was nearly four years ago when South Africa tried to field a quartet of fast bowlers comprising of Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Rabada against India. But it proved to be short-lived as the group did not play a test match together again. Four years later, the Proteas seem to have found another quartet of fast bowlers who are as skilful and lethal as their predecessors.
Dean Elgar challenged England ahead of the game to play their aggressive brand of cricket against his bowling-attack. And the bowlers did not let their captain down as they produced a scintilating performance to blow England away twice in the game.
This pace quartet has everything. The young, 6’8” tall left-arm quick Marco Jansen can swing the ball both ways at good pace and has the ability to extract steep bounce even on docile surfaces. Lungi Ngidi is the least quickest of the four and focusses on providing control while the other three attack from the other end.
Anrich Nortje is comfortably the quickest in the bowling group and has terrorized opposition batting line-ups already in his brief test career. In Kagiso Rabada, the Proteas have one of the best fast bowlers in modern-day cricket and is on course to become South Africa’s greatest. He is simply the complete package. He can bowl fast, is equally lethal with the new and the old ball and has a good bumper.
While their predecessors lasted just one test match, this quartet has age on their side and can hopefully last longer.
Stokes-McCullum era hits first roadblock
After four successive test victories against New Zealand and India, England have lost their first test under Ben Stokes. The worrying thing is that the loss was in a manner that resembled some of the embarrassments they endured under the previous regime.
The openers were once again disappointing. It has now been 14 innings since Crawley hit a half-century and surely it’s time for a change at the top. He poked one to 2nd slip in the 1st innings and was given out lbw playing across the line to Maharaj in the second. Lees’ tendency to drive away from the body was exposed by Rabada.
This match was further evidence that when Root and Bairstow fall cheaply, England don’t put enough runs on the board. Stokes’ form is also a cause for concern as apart from one innings, he has had a poor summer with the bat. The bowling lacked penetration with three medium-pacers in the side. England’s short-ball ploy against the tail must be looked at as well as it has cost them in the one-off test against India and in this game as well.
While the loss will hurt England, it should not be panick stations just yet. They had to lose a game eventually and this loss will serve as a reality check for the hosts. If the toss had gone their way, the result might not have been the same. South Africa were simply the better side over the three days and deserved the win. English fans will hope this loss is just a minor bump on the road.