ENGLAND VS SOUTH AFRICA, DAY THREE
Proteas blaze England’s ‘Bazball’ thanks to fiery Nortje
South Africa dismantled England by an innings and 12 runs at Lord’s to take a 1-0 lead into the three-match series. The Proteas thrashed the hosts in three days, as the English suffered their first defeat of their ‘Bazball’ era.
In Test cricket, South Africa are more than the sum of their parts, with every member of the team putting their hands up at different pivotal moments. On day three, which turned out to be the final day of the first Test at Lord’s, it was the turn of Anrich Nortje.
Fiery fast bowler Nortje – playing in his first Test match in almost a year – initiated England’s collapse on day three with a raging spell of quality pace bowling, ripping through the centre of the English batting lineup.
The excessive pace troubled England’s premium batters, who at the best of times, struggled to lay any willow on Nortje’s thunderbolts. At the worst of times, they managed to feather the leather.
England’s star batter this season and leader of their “Bazball” approach, Jonny Bairstow (18), was Nortje’s first victim of the day. In the first innings, Nortje cleaned up Bairstow with a 153km/h rocket.
In the second, with England in a precarious position, Bairstow seemingly still had his first innings dismissal in mind. Bairstow’s feet were cemented to the crease as he threw his hands at a good length delivery and caught a thin edge through to wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne – a combination that would become familiar.
In his next over, Nortje then zipped through the set batter, Alex Lees (35) with another perfect-length delivery that Lees did well to get any bat to, as Verreynne took another simple catch.
England wicketkeeper/batter Ben Foakes (0) then strode in to face the heat. Two balls later, Nortje chucked one a bit wider, which Foakes chased at and once again only managed an edge that was pouched by Verreynne.
A supreme spell by the quick bowler wrestled the ascendancy from England as he took three wickets in the space of ten balls without conceding any runs. It was a match and – possibly – a series-defining 20 minutes.
South Africa resumed day three on 289 for seven, with a 124-run lead after England posted a paltry 165 in their first innings. Brave batting by Nortje (28*), despite being peppered by short-pitched, aggressive bowling, saw South Africa extend their overnight score to 326 before eventually being bowled out.
“Our batting was pretty solid, especially our middle to late order. They really came out and played the situation to a tee. That’s the kind of awareness I’m trying to create with the guys. They need to identify those moments and play the game as they see it,” said skipper Dean Elgar after play.
Stuart Broad took an excellent diving catch to dismiss Kagiso Rabada (3) off the bowling of Matthew Potts. Broad then got into the act himself by removing Marco Jansen for a career-high 48, caught at slip by Zak Crawley.
Broad then removed last-man Lungi Ngidi for a duck as the tailender edged the ball to Bairstow at slip, attempting an expansive drive. Broad finished with figures of three wickets for 71 runs in 19.1 overs.
England came out to bat, trailing South Africa by 161 runs. The opening batters of Lees and Crawley did about well enough to see out the opening spells of Rabada and Ngidi, though Lees was lucky to survive a dropped catch by Keegan Petersen at slip.
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Captain Elgar then surprisingly brought on Keshav Maharaj in the eighth over, with a few overs to go before lunch. Maharaj had not bowled at all in the first innings.
The move bore fruit immediately as Maharaj trapped Crawley (13) leg-before-wicket in just his third delivery. A few overs later, Maharaj did the same to first-innings hero Ollie Pope (5), although this time it needed the assistance of the Decision Review System.
Maharaj took his side to lunch with an impressive two wickets for six runs in three overs, in his first spell of the match.
From 38 for two at lunch, Ngidi quickly made it 57 for three with his first wicket of the match. The wicket could not have been more important, however, as he caught England’s star batter, Joe Root prodding at a delivery away from his body, as he only managed to find the outside edge. Aiden Markram did the rest at second slip.
After the Nortje show, England were reeling at 86 for six. Captain Ben Stokes and Broad tried to wrestle the match into their favour, using their popular aggressive batting approach.
It worked for a while as Broad struck a quickfire 35 off 29 deliveries, containing five fours and one closed-eyes slash for six off Nortje.
However, Rabada put a halt to their ambitions with a clever slower ball to deceive the free-swinging Broad, who mistimed his stroke and popped an easy catch to Elgar at mid-off.
Jansen then clean-bowled Potts (1) in the next over to leave England over the precipice at 146 for eight, still trailing the Proteas by 15 runs.
Stokes (35) tried to “Bazball” his side into a lead, but his attempted slog off Rabada was superbly caught by Mahraj in the deep.
“It was disappointing to lose but South Africa were just better than us. But I don’t want to look too much into it,” said Stokes.
Rabada finished with two wickets for 27 in his eight overs, to go with the five wickets he took in the first innings.
Jansen cleaned up the last batter James Anderson (1) to wrap up the tail and take his second wicket of the innings, as South Africa secured victory at the home of cricket.
“It was a great win. I didn’t wake up this morning thinking I’ll be doing a presser before five o’clock,” said Elgar.
“It’s a pretty special squad performance, we haven’t left a stone unturned and hopefully we don’t go into a comfort zone now. I know what complacency can do in international sports.”
The Proteas take on England in the second Test match of the series in Manchester, starting on 25 August. DM