Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 12, 2022

The Final Over of the Day – England vs South Africa, Third Test, Day Four

Ball One – England’s bowlers will have to attack like England’s batters

So that didn’t take long.

England lost their last three wickets in the blinking of an eye to the less than peak Kagiso Rabada and the mightily impressive Marco Jansen to post a lead of 40 and, as I’m sure Ben Stokes underlined, an early chance to get in and amongst a fragile South African batting unit.

While the eye has been taken by Bazball’s impact on batting, its impact on bowling has been no less profound. Fuller lengths, straighter lines and more slips has buried ‘bowling dry’ in favour of ‘twenty wickets as soon as possible so we can get on with the chase’. An in-form attack will have to do their bit now.

Ball Two – Anyone for tennis’s review protocol?

In Ollie Robinson’s third over, Ben Stokes reviewed a ‘Not Out’ LBW that looked mighty close. The computer simulation (for that is what it is – the real stuff is the 0s and 1s of digital data) showed less than half the ball was in line with the leg stump when it pitched – however, some part of it (let’s say 25%) was.

I’ve long contested that, given the trust invested in the system, such a delivery should be considered as having pitched in line with the stumps and therefore eligible for the predictive element of the DRS protocol to be used. There isn’t any ‘forecasting’ of trajectory involved – the ball pitched with part of its spherical volume (represented as a two-dimensional circle) inside the line. So the data says.

In tennis, if the review system shows a millimetre of the ball (another sphere also illustrated as a two-dimensional circle) catching the line, the call is ‘In’. Cricket should adopt the same interpretation with regard to defining whether the ball has pitched in-line or not.

Ball Three – Lengths a little Fuller slakes thirst for wickets

It must be harder than it looks to replicate a successful formula, even for the two leading seamers in Test history.

After lunch, England came out and bowled a fuller length bringing both the stumps and the slips into the game as the ball wasn’t going over and had more time to swing before reaching the bat. It had been a curious innings to that point, because the bowlers knew the right length – the one they bowled to dismiss the same batters for 118 – but were consistently shorter, at least to the naked eye.

One wicket in 21 overs probably counts as a lull in Test cricket as it’s played in England these days, but the old double act of Anderson and Broad soon pressed the fast-forward button and three South Africans were sent back in the next six overs.

(Ab)normal service was resumed.

Ball Four – Strange, but true

True story.

I was walking round the ground when Stuart Broad rapped Dean Elgar on the pads. I heard the roar go up and stopped at a monitor (there is always a delay with the pictures coming through) to see the delivery.

Missing by miles I thought and didn’t wait for the inevitable review and overturn decision, but no further sound came. Puzzled, I paused at the next monitor and saw South Africa’s captain leaving the field and thought that I must have missed the review which must have been unexpectedly declined and rapidly so.

I hadn’t and, as the next monitor confirmed, I had been right – the ball was missing leg stump by a distance and Elgar had been wrong, refraining from a review that would have preserved his wicket.

It was a very bizarre couple of minutes.

Ball Five – Stokes fires up the swing

The last delivery of the afternoon was a spiteful inswinger from Ben Stokes that would have cleaned up better batters than Marco Jansen. Sure one can point to a gate through which the ball snaked to clatter into the leg stump, but that would be to ignore the succession of outswingers that Stokes had shown the South African all-rounder, one of which had taken the edge in the previous over and been spectacularly caught by Ollie Pope before the dreaded No Ball signal wound the scoreboard back.

All four England bowlers had found conventional swing in bright sunshine with an oldish ball. There are plenty of scientific papers that explain swing, conventional and reverse, as one would expect from a species that can land a satellite on a comet, but it remains a capricious servant, sometimes absent, sometimes uncontrollable and sometimes a weapon as effective as any medieval king’s champion. Like the Karma Chameleon, it comes and goes.

Ball Six – Ben’s is the word

We take the pressure, and we throw awayConventionality belongs to yesterdayThere is a chance that we can make it so farWe start believing now that we can be who we are

If you take over a losing side that looked fearful and tired and you bring the chaos and the chaos wins six out of seven (okay, not won six out of seven yet), I’d suggest BS has the right to call BS on the naysayers.

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