‘Makeshift’ Proteas at­tack make Eng­land work hard on Day One

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART HESS

Day 1 of 5: Eng­land 260/6 SOUTH AFRICA turned up here on Fri­day morn­ing ex­pect­ing to make just one change to the start­ing eleven, while adding a po­si­tional switch in the bat­ting too, with Temba Bavuma mov­ing from no.6 to no.4 in the or­der.

But be­fore play started – and al­ready known­ing they’d be with­out Chris Mor­ris – South Africa then lost the ser­vices of Ver­non Phi­lan­der. Although Faf du Plessis said he was at “90%” of full fit­ness on Thurs­day, which meant SA was go­ing to play an ex­tra seamer, by the time the South African cap­tain went to the toss, Phi­lan­der was out, and the tourists had to cob­ble to­gether a start­ing XI.

That team then in­cluded the seven front­line bats­men with Duanne Olivier com­ing in for Mor­ris, and The­u­nis de Bruyn start­ing in place of Phi­lan­der. Four bowlers – three seam­ers and the spin of Ke­shav Ma­haraj – plus some ‘fill-in’ overs from De Bruyn, Bavuma and pos­si­bly Dean El­gar (de­pend­ing on the state of his in­jured left in­dex finger) will have to take the 20 wick­ets needed to win this Test and draw the se­ries.

All of that con­sid­ered, South Africa’s bowlers did a ster­ling job. Morne Morkel con­tin­ues to op­er­ate with­out luck in this se­ries. It’s been a se­ries where Morkel has beaten the bat on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, bowled spells that have built pres­sure and gained wick­ets for team­mates, while he’s gen­er­ally taken on the role as leader of the at­tack.

In the ab­sence of Dale Steyn, it’s been Morkel’s mo­ment to shine, and if Lady Luck had smiled on him, the kinds of wicket hauls Steyn nor­mally reg­is­ters could have been his this se­ries.

So Morkel bowled a fine open­ing spell first up with the new ball, beat the out­side edge and gen­er­ally made life dif­fi­cult for Eng­land’s open­ers and then saw Olivier pick up the wicket of Keaton Jen­nings.

After lunch it was Kag­iso Rabada and Ma­haraj who put the squeeze on Eng­land, with Rabada pro­duc­ing his best bowl­ing of the se­ries and in one spell from the newly-named James An­der­son End he was des­per­ately un­for­tu­nate not to dis­miss the Eng­land cap­tain Joe Root.

He shifted the ball away from the right han­der but caused him the most trou­ble when he got it to dart back into Root – gen­er­at­ing some close ap­peals for lbw, in­clud­ing one the South Africans asked the TV of­fi­cial – Joel Wil­son – to as­sess, but the on-field de­ci­sion was up­held with the ball kiss­ing the top of the leg bail.

Morkel bowled the next spell at the End and should have had Root caught be­hind – Lady Luck not in his cor­ner – when he found a thick edge Quin­tes­sen­tial Quin­ton Duanne Olivier bailed De Kock out with his dis­missal of Joe Root – which meant De Kcok’s ear­lier er­ror, ‘only’ cost 12 runs when the wick­et­keeper failed to move his hands to his right after the Eng­land cap­tain had edged Morkel at the end of a fine over. De Kock’s kept well all se­ries and con­tin­ued do­ing so here – that miss of Root aside – tak­ing three very good catches, in­clud­ing a stun­ning one handed ef­fort div­ing to his to get rid of West­ley. That dis­missal was his 100th in Tests – his 93rd catch. Only Adam Gilchrist has got­ten to 100 dis­missals quicker, do­ing so in 22 Tests, while De Kock tied Mark Boucher, in achiev­ing the land­mark in his 23rd Test. Quote “As far as Ver­non Phi­lan­der is con­cerned, you have to start ask­ing ques­tions about the fit­ness of the man. He can’t seem to get through se­ries’s any­more. There’s no doubt­ing his skills, he’s a great bowler, but he lets him­self down with all these nig­gles, which makes it hard to build a team, it makes things very chal­leng­ing.” – Graeme Smith on Test Match Spe­cial but Quin­ton de Kock didn’t move – a less ath­letic move to his right re­quired than the spec­tac­u­lar catch he took to dis­miss Tom West­ley. A fu­ri­ous Morkel stomped the earth, another build- up of pres­sure from him bring­ing no re­ward. In­stead Olivier, hav­ing re­ceived some stern words from Du Plessis, in­duced a false stroke from Root, trap­ping him lbw for 52 – the 10th time in a row Root has scored at least 50 in an in­nings of a Test match.

All the while Ma­haraj wheeled away at the Statham End, giv­ing lit­tle away, and on the odd oc­ca­sion gen­er­at­ing chances through his crafty changes of pace and spin.

If South Africa could have had the wicket of Jonny Bairstow three overs later the whole first day could have be­longed to them. In­stead Wil­son, after be­ing asked to check if Dean El­gar had got his hands un­der­neath the ball when Bairstow edged Ma­haraj to him at slip, said the ball had bounced in front of the fielder. Ex- play­ers like Graeme Swann and Michael Ather­ton be­lieved the catch had been com­pleted cleanly but, the an­gles of the cam­eras be­ing what they are, were never in sup­port of the fielder.

Ben Stokes was start­ing to turn the day Eng­land’s way, with a tech­ni­cally pro­fi­cient half- cen­tury, un­til Rabada re­turned and ripped through his de­fences with a stun­ning yorker in the penul­ti­mate over of the day. Eng­land with Moeen Ali still to come and Bairstow on 34, will still feel they are ahead of the game, but South Africa will be pleased with their hard work in the face of some un­ex­pected ad­ver­sity vis­ited upon them at the start of the day. Con­di­tions Sur­pris­ingly sunny for Manch­ester. And the ground­staff de­serve praise for hav­ing the out­field in good con­di­tion for play after most of it had been un­der wa­ter the past few days. Tem­per­a­tures hov­ered around 20 de­grees yes­ter­day, and it is ex­pected to be a few de­grees cooler to­day. The pitch has been help­ful for the bowlers, of­fer­ing good bounce, while Rabada got it to swing dur­ing his ex­cel­lent spell from the James An­der­son End.

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