Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 19, 2022

The Final Over of the Day – England vs South Africa, First Test, Day Two

Ball One – The tale of the tail

How tenable is it for England to be six down and have number eight slogging at one end and the set batsman playing a shot a ball at the other? The issue is that in Test cricket, fast bowlers are up around the 90mph mark and spinners rip the ball – exactly the kind of bowling that tailenders dislike. Playing four number 11s loads the dice against you.

If the last recognised batsman is required to change his game with a number eight (or even a number nine) at the other end, it suggests that there’s some compromise required on bowling selection.

Voices will always be raised that you must pick your best four bowlers, but playing with six wickets is seldom a recipe for success. Whether England can find an Ashley Giles figure who can do a job at eight and deliver ten to fifteen overs a day is another question, but it’s probably worth looking. You can slog with ten and jack at the crease. Sam Curran and Liam Livingstone might be looking on with interest.

Ball Two – Lines and lengths?

The scorecard tells us that South Africa, led by the splendid Kagiso Rabada, snared six England wickets bowled or LBW – a hint, one might think, of the line and length that would be most rewarding for seamers to adopt. But, in 12 overs before lunch (ten delivered by the most experienced pace bowlers in the history of the game), the ball frequently went either side of the stumps and/or over the top – too often for my liking anyway.

Stuart Broad got it up and straight more often than Jimmy Anderson and went for more runs as a consequence, but the 40 year-old’s lunchtime figures of 6-2-5-0 flattered him. His best balls were the ones that were on or about the top of off stump but far too few were, passing harmlessly by for a dot in the scorebook.

Glenn McGrath, the best bowler I’ve seen dealing with Lord’s topological uniqueness, was notorious for sitting on the top of off (though he did much more than that of course). It remains a mystery to me why so few bowlers have adopted his method in the 15 years since the great man retired. Stats show that he, Anderson and Broad have all taken about a third of their wickets bowled or LBW, but memory suggests McGrath was at the stumps more often.

With magnificent irony, soon after the break, Anderson notched Dean Elgar’s wicket bowled with a ball that would not, until its entanglement with bat, thigh pad and arm, have hit the stumps.

Ball Three – South Africa as smart with the bat as they were with the ball

The combination of attacking fields and a pitch flattening out under a warm, if not searing, afternoon sun meant that South Africa enjoyed much better conditions in which to bat than England and they made the most of it. Such is the advantage of winning the toss and making the right decision.

The smartness didn’t end there. With only the freakish dismissal of the captain as a setback, the visitors played with an old-fashioned approach to shot selection – bad balls were hit, good balls defended and singles taken as offered. The 100 was still raised in the 26th over – not quite the full Bazball rate, but not far off. Both teams were playing in their captain’s image offering a good crowd on a train strike day a fascinating battle to observe.

Ball Four -England need to fight back – and soon

At tea, South Africa have comfortably won all three sessions of the match possible so far, yet England are far from out of it if they have a good couple on hours in the evening sun.

What is more of a concern for the series is that the visitors appear to have better players in better touch, a strange set of affairs for a team playing its first Test of the summer against a team playing its fifth – crazy scheduling (both for the county championship and for the players under contract) as ever is the culprit.

England have looked scratchy with bat and ball (possibly excluding Ollie Pope, but not this morning) and South African have looked smooth, Rabada running in on rails, Anrich Nortje very sharp, Sarel Erwee solid and Aiden Markram timing the ball like a dream from the first ball he faced.

Ball Five – Jack Leach gets one to stick in the pitch and take the edge

In the second over after tea, Leach’s first ball turns and takes the edge of Markram’s tentative bat and Ben Foakes tidies up behind the stumps. The break did Markram no good, but credit Stokes for keeping his spinner on when he had seam options on hand.

Somewhere a ghostly but familiar cackle is heard and, in an Australian accent, “If it seams, it spins” is announced with glee.

Not long after, another lost voice, this time with a Yorkshire accent, would have appreciated Ben Stokes fearsome bouncer directed at Erwee’s chin which the opener, hitherto largely untroubled, gloved, flinching to the keeper. Stokes had done his Ian Botham trick again, and made something happen.

Ball Six – England lose the plot

131-5 in the last 150 minutes of the day – so, even? No chance. This was also South Africa’s session as England produced some of the most brainless cricket I can recall – and competition is fierce in that category.

Marco Jansen (seven fifties in 40 first class innings and in at six in this order) and Keshav Maharaj (two centuries and 18 fifties to his name) were treated like bunnies, the seventh wicket pair adding 72 at almost a run a ball against a bouncer attack and a field that looked like the product of Mike Reid shouting “Runaround Now!” That was the second highest partnership of the match so far, only exceeded their team’s opening stand. Credit to these two bowlers who bat, but life was made very easy for them.

England’s players looked exhausted, physically and mentally, despite the fact that they had weeks to prepare for this match and had delivered only 72 overs or so as the mayhem ensued. Eventually, Maharaj did swipe a short ball to midwicket, but the damage was done with power to add tomorrow.

This match is far from over, but Dean Elgar’s men, without ever having to do much beyond what might be expected, lead by 124 and look like a much more skilled outfit. Of course, England have dipped into the Bazball bag and climbed out of holes deeper than this, but one feels a reversion to the mean is on its way.

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Responses

  1. I’m surprised to see that the Graun closed the match reports for comments very early.

    • It’ll be due to the number of moderators they have available.


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