England’s selection problems by John Wozniak
‘South Africa must show fight’ – they were the words of former England Skipper Nasser Hussein, in wake of the first test between England and South Africa at Lord’s. Faf du Plessis, the captain of South Africa must have heard Hussein’s words of wisdom.
Patience! How often has that word been used in the context of Test Match Cricket? South Africa set England a target of 474 runs, an ambitious score for any Test side, however, a respectable score should have been made with two days in which to bat. South Africa picked up three wickets in 18 overs, the South African attack were only too obliging to demonstrate their pace and persistence to take wickets.
Forget England’s first innings, the stats and averages for a moment. The most frustrating thing about the 2nd Test defeat was England’s reluctance to remain patient, the tail-enders gave away wickets so cheaply. The second innings was an opportunity for England to apply themselves and put a decent display. On another day the vastly experience Alistair Cook may have forged a sustainable partnership with his skipper, Joe Root. That wasn’t the case.
Sections of the media are calling for replacements for Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance, their contributions at Trent Bridge were shocking. Ballance may well have played his last Test game for England.
This is absolutely terrible. Far too much talent in the team to play like this. @MichaelVaughan
The output from England’s post-match analysis may force one or two players to swallow a bitter pill, facing up to the reality that they are not in the kind of form required to play at Test level. The selectors have a real task on their hands. It’s not just about who should be selected for the third Test at The Oval. England faces a huge challenge at the end of the year when the travel to Australia for the Ashes.
England’s inconsistency in Test Cricket is a cause for concern, it’s now eight defeats from 13. Take nothing away from South Africa, they showed fight, can England do the same in the 3rd test?
South Africa Bounce Back by Marco Conradie
A good leader is one of the most valuable assets that one can have in any sport, and Faf du Plessis provided a case in point as he guided the Proteas to a crushing 340 run victory over England at Trent Bridge. After having missed the first Test at Lord’s due to the birth of his first child, the South African captain provided the steel, leadership and guidance that the visitors so sorely lacked in an uninspiring opening loss that immediately put them on the back foot. Although he played an important role with the bat in the second innings, Du Plessis’ presence alone already contributed to turning the tentative unit that fell to pieces against Joe Root’s charges into the confident side that turned the table in a virtual mirror-image of the first Test.
South Africa’s solid, if unspectacular, first-innings score of 335 ended up providing a good platform from which the Proteas could turn the screws on their hosts after having limited England to a mere 205 in reply. However, the fatal damage was done in a measured second-innings, as Hashim Amla personified the South African approach with a typically silky cool, calm and collected knock of 87 in which unnecessary risks were avoided and each ball was played on its own merit. Ably assisted by opener Dean Elgar’s 80 and captain Du Plessis’ 63, Amla played a huge role in setting up an aggressive finish to force the English into having to chase a world-record fourth innings total of 474 to win. Amla will have been kicking himself for a rare error that saw him missing out on a richly deserved three-figured score, but it will still be recognized as one of his most important knocks. It was always going to be an exercise in damage limitation and batting for time in order to try and perhaps save the test for England, but this effort came well short after a very good bowling display saw them dismissed for a paltry 133 – And having only faced 96.1 overs throughout the test.
Du Plessis used his bowling attack very effectively, getting the most out of Vernon Philander’s almost video game-like consistency of line and length, Morne Morkel’s awkward bounce and Chris Morris’ variation and raw pace. Spinner, Keshav Maharaj was among the wickets once more, while keeping things tight as the fast bowlers came charging in. The fact that the bowling unit caused England so much trouble despite the fact that the suspended Kagiso Rabada’s deputy, Duanne Olivier, failed to really make an impact on the game is promising for the Proteas, and hints that the attack will only get stronger as the tour progresses. Philander deserves special praise – Not only was he his usual excellent self on the bowling front with match figures of 5-72, but he also scored valuable runs in both innings – 54 and 42, respectively – To ensure that the English bowlers weren’t able to run through the lower-order as quickly and cheaply as they would have liked.
All in all, it’s a super response by South Africa which ensures that England have to play for the win in the next test rather than being conservative and consolidating a lead through potentially drawing the coming matches. It’s also an immense confidence boost, while the nature of the English media will ramp up the pressure on the home side. The third Test promises to be a fascinating battle.
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