The Proteas wilted in the first Test against England, slipping to a 211-run defeat at Lord’s. It was a dismal start to the four-match series. While South Africa has a reputation for starting slowly in series, they have some work to do to rectify the basic mistakes that put them under the cosh. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Woe betide the South African cricket team. The law of terrible tours is thus: everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And boy, did it go wrong for the Proteas at Lord’s last week.
Up against it after losing the toss and being asked to bowl first, they made a meal of England’s first innings, allowing them to recover from 76 for four to 458 all out. So-so bowling, including nine no-balls, combined with too many dropped catches and generally underwhelming fielding gave England more lives than a cat.
South Africa’s chance for redemption came and went in the second innings. Four batsmen managed 50s, but none managed to convert them into the kind of big effort required to stave off such a huge defeat. Although they managed to avoid the follow on, their total of 361 gave England plenty to play with.
There was one meagre session on Sunday where the bowlers managed to deliver the vintage session that everyone knows they are capable of. Seven wickets fell for just 43 runs as England slipped to 233 all out. Had Root not been dropped more than once, the target might have looked a little bit more imposing.
Even so, a target of 330 should not have been out of their reach considering the tricky situations they had managed to get themselves out of before. The batsmen, however, had other ideas and they managed just 119, not a single batsman managing more than 21.
Take nothing away from England. They were good when it mattered. Joe Root made South Africa pay for every single life they gave him and Moeen Ali delivered masterclass all-round effort. The pitch was unpredictable, but it was not so unpredictable that a team should be 119 all out on the fourth day.
For the Proteas, it’s back to the drawing board and there are precious few positives to take from this match.
Temba Bavuma, the man for a pickle
As noted by Stuart Hess recently, Temba Buvama’s stats paint an interesting picture. On first assessment, they might not look overly impressive, but dig a little deeper and it becomes quite apparent that when Bavuma does score runs, it’s when South Africa desperately needs them. On this occasion, he didn’t quite manage to dig South Africa out of a hole, but he sure as hell tried. Bavuma was the top scorer in both innings, in a Test that had utterly dismal returns for all the batsmen. Must be transformation’s fault.
Kagiso Rabada gets sweary
Perhaps the biggest news of the Test was that South Africa will definitely be without Kagiso Rabada in the next Test. Rabada was handed one “demerit point” – taking his total to four following another incident earlier this year – for telling Ben Stokes something most South Africans have been wanting to say to him since 2016. It starts with f and ends with off and was picked up on the stump mic. Contrary to popular belief, England did not complain about the incident – instead it was umpires and the match referees. Apparently it’s more important to clamp down on colourful language than do things like pick up on no-balls and make sure captains stick to overrates.
A total of 10 in the match. More than one of them could have been a wicket. It’s a problem that has plagued South Africa before. It disappeared in the last 12 months but cropped up again in the warm-up match prior to this Test. Bowling coach Charl Langeveldt gave the bowlers a stern talking-to, but the message clearly didn’t sink in.
Vernon Philander’s agony
There might be more bad news for South Africa. Hit on his bowling hand by James Anderson in the first innings, Vernon Philander was carted off for an X-Ray. There was no fracture, but there was swelling and after a bit of ice, he returned to bowl on the fourth day. But Philander rarely looked comfortable with his hand. As anyone who has ever copped a cricket ball on any limb will tell you, that pain doesn’t go away quickly. The medical staff have four days to work their magic. Dean Elgar said at the post-match presentation that Philander was “fit”, but when facing in the final innings, he was still taking his hand off the bat when facing and visibly grimacing.
But at least Faf du Plessis is back
It’s probably not a coincidence that the South Africans’ best session came as soon as Captain Fantastic stepped onto the hallowed turf at Lord’s. Du Plessis, who was on paternity leave for the first Test, is back with the side and even went for a little nets session at Lord’s over the weekend. He’ll be back to lead the side for the Test at Trent Bridge. He’s got his work cut out for him, but luckily, he’s just the man for a crisis. DM
England beat South Africa by 211 runs
England 458 all out: Joe Root 190 (234), Moeen Ali 87 (147); Morne Morkel 25.3-2-115-4, Vernon Philander 20-3-67-3
South Africa 361 all out: Dean Elgar 54 (118), Temba Bavuma 59 (130); Moeen Ali 20-7-59-4
England: 233 all out: Alistair Cook 69 (192), Keshav Maharaj 32.1-8-85-4
South Africa 119 all out: Temba Bavuma 21 (41), Moeen Ali 15-4-53-6
Photo: Temba Bavuma batting on Day 2 of the 2nd test match between New Zealand Black Caps and South Africa Proteas. International test match cricket. Basin Reserve, Wellington New Zealand. Friday 17 March 2017. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz