SA VS ENGLAND, SECOND TEST
Proteas their own worst enemies in defeat to England in Manchester
A series of bizarre on-field decisions by South Africa saw them comprehensively beaten by an innings and 85 runs in the second cricket Test against England. The series stands at 1-1, with the final set for 8 September.
South Africa suffered a humbling defeat by an innings and 85 runs on day three of the second Test match against England at Old Trafford in Manchester.
The three-match series is now locked at 1-1 with the final match set to start on 8 September at The Oval in London.
The writing was on the wall for the Proteas from the first ball on the first day. James Anderson, playing his 100th Test match at home, bowled a wide delivery down the leg side to Dean Elgar. The delivery itself was poor, but the prodigious movement — both in the air and off the seam — was telling on a day that captain Elgar had won the toss and decided to bat first.
The cloudy overhead conditions, as well as the fact that the Proteas had put England into bat in the first Test and skittled them for a paltry 165 in the first innings, made the decision to allow England to bowl first even more bizarre.
South Africa were immediately on the back foot and were bowled out for 151 in just 53.2 overs. Tailender Kagiso Rabada top scored with a valiant 36. Anderson and Stuart Broad were the main benefactors, claiming three wickets apiece.
“First-innings’ runs stabilise your game. If you score 300-plus, you’re giving yourself the best chance to compete and get a result in your favour. We got half of that. I didn’t think we batted particularly well — sure, the ball went around— but this is Test cricket and you need to deal with it,” said Elgar after the match.
When the Proteas’ exceptional fast bowlers eventually got their hands on the red leather on day one, they proved what could have been. Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje and Rabada dismissed top-order batters Alex Lees, Ollie Pope and Joe Root respectively to leave England reeling on 43 for three.
But conditions kept getting better for batting as the sun came out and the pitch hardened. England ended day one on 111 for the loss of three wickets.
South Africa’s peculiar on-field decisions continued on day two. Nortje dismissed overnight batters Jonny Bairstow (49) and Zak Crawley (38) to leave England on 147 for five, still trailing the Proteas’ first innings score by 18 runs. The loss of one more wicket meant that South Africa would be into England’s tail.
But the two Bens — Stokes and Foakes — were allowed to settle at the crease, with the Proteas opting to bowl the spin of Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer at them from both ends for large periods of the day.
Nortje had accounted for the wickets of Foakes in both innings and Stokes once at Lord’s, while Rabada had snatched Stokes’s wicket.
Foakes had one career century before this Test match — against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2018. Both batters clearly favoured facing spin over the express pace of Nortje and Rabada.
It was 173 runs later when Rabada eventually picked up the wicket of Stokes (103). The pair shared an incredible fifth-wicket stand, with England’s captain notching up his 12th Test match century and his first since being given the leadership reins.
Foakes brought up his second Test ton and ended the innings unbeaten on 113 as he shepherded the tail and helped England to a formidable 415 for nine before Stokes declared the innings late on day two.
South Africa faced a gargantuan battle to overcome the 264-run deficit to make England bat again. Despite the docile pitch, it was a battle too great for the often spirited, yet frail Proteas’ lineup.
Openers Sarel Erwee and Elgar did well to go into day three without the loss of any wickets and 23 runs on the scoreboard.
Ollie Robinson, who missed the first Test and was unlucky to pick up only one wicket in the first innings, cashed in on day three with four wickets. His line and length bowling the downfall of the Proteas.
After the openers fell to Robinson and Anderson, Keegan Petersen and dreadfully out-of-form Aiden Markram stepped to the crease with application and temperament required from the middle-order batters.
While Petersen fought off the attack with a strong defence, Markram was clean bowled for a six-ball duck by Broad. Half-way off the field, Markram was called back as the third-umpire adjudged Broad to have overstepped at the crease.
The relief would only be temporary, however, as Broad claimed Markram’s wicket again three overs later. This time, the batter attempted an elaborate cover drive to a good-length delivery outside his off stump. The ball caught the edge and was safely pouched by Crawley at second slip.
Rassie van der Dussen bravely strode out to the wicket next, despite having suffered a fractured finger when fielding. Petersen (42) and Van der Dussen (41) put up a courageous 87-run stand for the fourth wicket.
“I thought it was a courageous effort… He showed a lot of character and a lot of toughness. That’s what his character brings out when his back is against the wall, now he’s competing with a broken finger as well… I wish he had continued with his knock because I thought there was something special coming his way. I take my hat off to him,” said Elgar of Van Der Dussen’s innings.
But the pair were defensive in their approach, facing 261 balls in their stand. England were allowed to try several different approaches to dislodge them without facing any pressure and with no worry of time running out in the match.
An inspirational spell of hostile fast bowling by captain Stokes with the old ball on a flattening pitch undid both batters in the space of two overs.
The match was as good as done at that point as Robinson and Anderson wrapped up the tail. Anderson finished with three wickets in 15 overs, conceding only 30 runs to become only the fourth bowler to take 100 Test wickets against South Africa.
“I think a few tough decisions will be coming. With Rassie being ruled out now with the finger, we have to replace him — that’s a definite… We’ve got a few days before the next Test. We’ll go away and get our options and try and get our combinations. The bottom line is we need runs from the middle order and at the moment that is letting us down quite a bit,” Elgar said.
The composition of the Proteas side is sure to change in the final Test match with Van der Dussen ruled out and Markram in dire straits against the red ball. The option of going with four pace bowlers, which worked in the first Test, will also be given another look heading into the decider at The Oval in two weeks’ time.
“For now, Rassie’s position needs to be filled. Whether that’s the only spot, we’re not sure just yet,” said the skipper. DM