Ruth­less Eng­land dom­i­nate South Africa to take vic­tory in the firstw Test

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

MAN OF THE MO­MENT: Moeen Ali had South Africa’s bats­men in knots through­out the Test match and fin­ished with 10 wick­ets, six com­ing yes­ter­day as he guided his team to a con­vinc­ing vic­tory at Lord’s. Eng­land 458 and 233 South Africa 361 and 119

IS THE re­turn of Faf du Plessis enough of a balm for all of South Africa’s wounds? This has al­ready been a des­per­ately bad tour for the Proteas. There’ve been defeats in the One-Day and T20 se­ries’s to Eng­land, a pa­thetic set of per­for­mances in the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy and now this – what stand-in cap­tain Dean El­gar called a ca­pit­u­la­tion.

South Africa had man­aged against dif­fi­cult odds to ac­tu­ally drag them­selves back into the con­test yes­ter­day morn­ing thanks to some fine bowl­ing from Morne Morkel and Ke­shav Ma­haraj. Eng­land lost seven wick­ets for just 63 runs in the first ses­sion and El­gar ad­mit­ted that at lunch time the team felt they had a chance of claim­ing an un­likely win.

How­ever this was a first Test rid­dled with mis­takes by the Proteas. And while over the course of five days (or in this case four), one wouldn’t ex­pect every­thing to run per­fectly, the howlers South Africa com­mit­ted in this match were costly in the ex­treme. An­other one yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, proved to be an­other turn­ing point.

Ver­non Philander dropped Jonny Bairstow when he had five. Whether it was be­cause of con­cerns about his dam­aged hand or if ‘spi­der-cam’ had dis­tracted him, it was a bad miss. Bairstow took ad­van­tage and Eng­land stretched their lead be­yond what El­gar re­ferred to as the psy­cho­log­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant 300-run mark.

Of course given that pi­ti­ful sec­ond in­nings bat­ting per­for­mance, it didn’t mat­ter what the tar­get was. But Philander’s miss was il­lus­tra­tive of how costly South Africa’s er­rors were over the course of this match.

Joe Root was dropped twice and stumped off a no-ball, Ben Stokes was also bowled off noball – all of that hap­pened on the first day af­ter South Africa had re­duced Eng­land to 82/4 at lunch. On the sec­ond day there was the ter­ri­ble bowl­ing strat­egy adopted for Eng­land’s last two bats­men when Morkel just bowled bounc­ers with the field back and gave Stu­art Broad and James An­der­son free­bies.

With the bat South Africa saw four bats­men get past 50 in their first in­nings, but none of them turned it into a hun­dred. Then came Philander’s miss. The first three wick­ets in the sec­ond in­nings were gifts. The rest of the bat­ting or­der folded in the face of Moeen Ali’s spin. Eng­land didn’t have to do any­thing re­mark­able to win this game and that is go­ing to be galling for the Proteas.

Du Plessis had ar­rived back with the team yes­ter­day and im­me­di­ately set off for the nets with bat­ting coach Neil McKen­zie. He needs to find rhythm quickly for South Africa’s bat­ting has been in some trou­ble for the best part of a year. The likes of El­gar, Quin­ton de Kock and to a lesser ex­tent Temba Bavuma have masked those prob­lems with some su­perb per­for­mances in Ho­bart, Perth and Welling­ton, but the lack of con­sis­tency for a large part of the bat­ting unit is alarm­ing.

Cer­tainly JP Du­miny, a good team man by all ac­counts, has played his last Test. Yes­ter­day’s 14-minute stay at the crease made for painful view­ing.

He stared at his bat as Moeen cel­e­brated catch­ing him at square leg with the look of some­one who knows his time is up.

Drop­ping Du­miny is not the panacea to all of the Proteas’ prob­lems of course. This is team that needs to take a long hard look at it­self. It needs Du Plessis lead­er­ship, his com­po­sure and tough­ness. And it needs him to score runs.

The next few days are go­ing to be hugely im­por­tant.

Mean­while Rus­sell Domingo had to re­turn to South Africa af­ter his mother was put on life sup­port. She was in a car ac­ci­dent a few weeks ago.

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