Re­lent­less Eng­land put tir­ing Proteas to the sword

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

rip­ples in Eng­land’s dress­ing room but then Joe Root, all hus­tle and bus­tle and Moeen Ali all flow­ing el­e­gance charged their team ahead and by the time the rain stopped play, South Africa were put firmly back in its place.

One can only feel sym­pa­thy for the South African bowlers in this Test. When it looked like they could get Eng­land out for around 300 in the first in­nings, Faf du Plessis set the field back for Jonny Bairstow and the English scored 60 more runs.

Then they would have ex­pected the bats­men to put Eng­land’s bowlers un­der pres­sure, in­stead the tourists got tied down – bat­ting them­selves into sub­mis­sion as for­mer Eng­land spin­ner Graeme Swann put it – and it was in fact that the last four wick­ets – yup the bowlers – who en­sured a barely re­spectable to­tal was posted.

Morne Morkel then bowled an eight over spell first up from the James An­der­son End and got two wick­ets, start­ing the rip­ples in the Eng­land dress­ing-room.

The bowlers would have had ev­ery right to be miffed as their field­ers dropped five catches, Dean El­gar two easy ones, in­clud­ing Keaton Jen­nings, when Eng­land’s be­lea­guered left-hand opener had nought.

Morkel has the look of a man for whom this could be it, as far as his Test cricket is con­cerned.

He is one of a num­ber of play­ers whose in­ter­na­tional fu­tures will be in the in-box of the new coach to de­cide about. Morkel wants to hold talks with Cricket SA. On this form, they can’t af­ford to lose him.

Kag­iso Rabada has also bowled bet­ter in this Test match. He even­tu­ally dis­missed Jen­nings – and as a re­sult may have put the the opener’s in­ter­na­tional ca­reer on hold for a while – and then Toby Roland Jones, later – with Ke­shav Ma­haraj fi­nally hold­ing a catch – for 11.

Ma­haraj put in an­other marathon ef­fort from the Statham End bowl­ing 25 overs with a heav­ily strapped left ham­string his ac­cu­racy wan­ing as he tired in the fi­nal ses­sion. Duanne Olivier,

de­liv­ered the best spell of his short time as a Test player, knock­ing over Root and Ben Stokes around tea.

And hav­ing thrown them­selves into the fray, as they tired in the af­ter­noon, Moeen took ad­van­tage – he’d been dropped on 15 by El­gar at slip off Ma­haraj – and broke the bowlers’ spir­its, scor­ing 67 off 59 balls, de­posit­ing one six into his own dress­ing-room.

When the rain ended South Africa’s pain, Eng­land’s lead was 360 runs.

Morkel, Rabada, Ma­haraj and Olivier had bowled them­selves into the ground. They had briefly given their team hopes of a spe­cial turn­around, but the men­tal ex­er­tion and the phys­i­cal toil was even­tu­ally too much. Hope­fully the bats­men – in be­tween drop­ping catches – were pay­ing at­ten­tion. This match may be too far out of range to win, but they need to dis­play sim­i­lar fight­ing qual­i­ties. They may look back at this Test and this se­ries even, and say they never took ad­van­tage enough of Eng­land’s weak­nesses – three of their bats­men are rook­ies, two of whom look out of their depth at this level.

Eng­land have ex­posed Hashim Amla to the new ball, by get­ting rid of Heino Kuhn early, but the South Africans haven’t down that enough to Eng­land’s rook­ies to put the very classy Root un­der more pres­sure.

And of course South Africa’s bat­ting, which was just in­con­sis­tent for most of this year has looked a sham­bles in this match. Changes must and will be made, when the new coach comes along, but for now, there is a Test that must still be con­cluded here, and the bats­men need to show the same level of fight the bowlers did here on what was an­other very dif­fi­cult day for the Proteas.

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