... and Eng­land not that good, so sec­ond Test should be a lot closer

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

NAT­U­RALLY the in­cli­na­tion af­ter a 211run de­feat is to wal­low in the dol­drums of fa­tal­ism.

So­cial me­dia and even some for­mer play­ers were whispering af­ter the Lord’s match that South Africa would lose this se­ries against Eng­land 4-0. In truth, South Africa are not that bad, and in fact, nei­ther are Eng­land that good.

As for­mer Eng­land cap­tain Michael Vaughan men­tioned, had South Africa taken all their chances on day one, Eng­land wouldn’t have got­ten near their first in­nings to­tal of 458.

Com­ing into the se­ries, there were plenty of flaws in South Africa’s bat­ting and what was per­haps most alarm­ing about the Lord’s match was the man­ner in which they ca­pit­u­lated in the sec­ond in­nings. It only lasted 36.4 overs and 151 min­utes, and there was a real lack of fight or any kind of game plan with which to com­bat the Eng­land spin­ners.

There were so many flaws in that Proteas per­for­mance that it makes it hard to mea­sure how good Eng­land are.

In Alas­tair Cook, Joe Root and Ben Stokes, they have a trio of gen­uine world class play­ers. Moeen Ali has cer­tainly im­proved as an all­rounder, although so ten­ta­tive were the SA bats­men against his off-spin on Sun­day that it’s worth­while de­lay­ing el­e­vat­ing him into the ech­e­lons of top tweak­ers in the mod­ern game.

Stu­art Broad and James An­der­son re­main two dis­ci­plined new-ball bowlers and An­der­son is among the most skil­ful. But, de­spite those in­di­vid­ual tal­ents, to call this a great Eng­land side would be stretch­ing it - as is say­ing they’ll win the se­ries 4-0.

What they have is a very good team struc­ture. Those all-rounders, in­clud­ing wicket-keeper bats­man Jonny Bairstow, pro­vide a lot of depth and ver­sa­til­ity.

“The com­bi­na­tion we had (in the first Test) could play on a lot of wick­ets,” said Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss.

“We’re lucky that we have Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Ali who can bat five, six and seven. That al­lows us to have three other pace bowlers and an­other spin­ner.

“Some­where along the line, we could throw in some­one else in one of those po­si­tions, whether it is an­other bat­ter, an­other pace bowler if we need one. It just gives us plenty of op­tions.”

That is one of Eng­land’s main strengths, but it does not make them im­pos­si­ble to beat, and the South Africans need to un­der­stand that ahead of the sec­ond Test.

In Keaton Jen­nings, Gary Bal­lance, Liam Daw­son and Mark Wood, there are ar­eas South Africa need to ex­ploit bet­ter to in­crease the pres­sure on Eng­land’s star play­ers.

Too much went wrong at Lord’s and the mis­takes made there must be elim­i­nated. They will be em­pha­sis­ing that ad nau­seam in train­ing ses­sions over the next cou­ple of days.

While the re­turn of Faf du Plessis will lift spir­its, there’s also been plenty of up­heaval in the camp - for most of this tour, ac­tu­ally - and the tragedy that has be­fallen coach Rus­sell Domingo’s fam­ily will be felt by the play­ers too.

Some el­e­ments of that dire per­for­mance at Lord’s are, as Du Plessis said, eas­ily fix­able and they re­ally don’t have to look back too far to re­call the good times they’ve had in the Test for­mat. Be­fore Lord’s, the Proteas had won seven of 11, the sin­gle de­feat in the day/ night dead rub­ber in Ade­laide.

There are sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges that need to be ad­dressed and the re­ten­tion of Ai­den Markram, on what’s be­ing called a match-by-match ba­sis, sug­gests he may be in line for a start at some stage. South Africa des­per­ately need sta­bil­ity at the top of the or­der, and there may be a re­luc­tance to throw a 22-year-old into the firing line - some­what un­ex­pect­edly for him.

Heino Kuhn has earned his chance through good form back home over the last few sea­sons, and then in this coun­try for the SA A team, and should prob­a­bly be re­tained for the sec­ond Test.

There are a num­ber of op­tions that need con­sid­er­ing with the make-up of the at­tack in the ab­sence of the sus­pended Kag­iso Rabada.

Du Plessis hinted at em­ploy­ing four seam­ers - thus adding Chris Mor­ris and Duanne Olivier to the start­ing XI - at a venue that has al­ways been good for the fast bowlers. Shane Warne is the only spin­ner in the top 10 wicket-tak­ers at Trent Bridge.

Play­ing four quicks will ei­ther re­quire drop­ping a bats­men - likely to be The­u­nis de Bruyn - or spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj, but the lat­ter op­tion is un­likely as Du Plessis en­joys the con­trol the left-arm spin­ner pro­vides. SIL­VER­WARE HAUL: Le­bo­gang Manyama of Cape Town City won big at the PSL end of sea­son cer­e­mony as he cap­tured the Absa Premier­ship Top Goal Scorer, Play­ers’ Player of the Sea­son and Foot­baller of the Sea­son awards.

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